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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Rhineland Pattern

This pack was probably the culmination of a mixture of designs from 19th century Germany which emerged as one of Dondorf's more popular house patterns by around 1900

Dondorf: “Rhineland Pattern”

...a Dondorf House pattern.

This pack was probably the culmination of a mixture of designs from 19th century Germany which emerged as one of Dondorf's more popular house patterns by around 1900. The four Kings each have white wavy hair and beards, giving rise to the nickname “Jewish Pattern”. Its popularity was increased by its being widely used and copied by Austrian, Belgian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese and other manufacturers, some of whom created new variants. Some versions have scenic Aces (historical or geographical) which vary from pack to pack; others have plain Aces. The pattern continued to be produced after the takeover by V.A.S.S. in 1933.

Whist No.122 'Rhineland Pattern' manufactured by Dondorf GmbH, c. 1910 Whist No.122 'Rhineland Pattern' manufactured by Dondorf GmbH, c.1910

Above: Whist No.122 manufactured by Dondorf GmbH, c. 1910, sometimes referred to as “Jewish Pattern” because of the Rabbinical look of the bearded Kings. This example of the “Rhineland Pattern” has plain Aces.

'Rhineland Pattern' with special aces for Java manufactured by Dondorf GmbH, c.1910

Above: this slightly earlier example of the “Rhineland Pattern” with no indices has special Aces for Java showing scenes are of Dutch history (click to see up-side-down). Images courtesy Rex Pitts.

  • Rhineland Pattern by KZWP, 1980s

    Rhineland pattern printed by KZWP, c.1986 Rhineland pattern printed by KZWP, c.1986

    Above: Rhineland pattern with English indices printed by KZWP, c.1986. The ace of hearts has a different font for the indices, and has four indices while the other cards all have two. Housed in an unmarked silk-lined bridge box with no indication of a brand name. Image courtesy Matt Probert.