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Published December 21, 2013 Updated July 04, 2023

German Saxon Pattern

The German Saxon Pattern or “Schwerdter Karte”.

1832 Germany A.S.S. Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik History Patterns and Suit Types Saxon Pattern Add to Collection

The designs for the Saxon pattern probably originated in the 18th century, making it one of the older German-suited patterns. The Saxony coat-of-arms appears on the daus of acorns (under a lion's head) and on the daus of leaves. The pack is usually described on the daus of acorns as “Schwerdter Karte” or “Schwerter Karte” referring to the crossed swords on the coats-of-arms. The four kings are seated on thrones, each one having two suit symbols. The upper and lower knaves are all civilian figures, and the unter of bells has a bird perched on his wrist. In earlier versions six of the knaves wear hats with upturned brims, but in later versions the costumes have changed style and the unter of bells and the ober of leaves have top hats. The daus of bells shows a loving couple about to be discovered by a third person and the number cards have small decorative vignettes at the bottom.

The pack usually has 32 cards and was used principally for the game of Piquet in the early 19th century. It is known in single-figure and double-ended versions.

Earlier designs

These cards are a reproduction of an original from 1832 and feature the knaves wearing hats with upturned brims rather than top hats. Also the tunics are simpler in style than later versions and there is no ground beneath the courts' feet.

The German Saxon Pattern or Schwerter-Karte by VEB Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik

Above: cards from the Saxon pattern by VEB Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, c.1986, reproducing an original design from 1832.

Later designs

The German Saxon Pattern or Schwerdter Karte

Above: "Superfeine Schwerdter Karte" single-ended Saxon pattern, WW1 tax stamp on 2H, manufactured by Vereinigte Stralsunder Fabriken, c.1920. Some of the vignettes on the numeral cards are variations from the tradition and also the court figures are shown standing on grassy ground. Note the top hats which have replaced the softer headwear.

Double-ended Version

In the double-ended versions, although more convenient, many charming features of the designs are lost.

The German Saxon Pattern or Schwerdter Karte

Above: cards from the double-ended Saxon pattern by Vereinigte Altenburger und Stralsunder Spielkarten-Fabriken A.G., 1932. 32 cards in box with advertising for Săchsische Autophil G.M.B.H. Crimmitschau.

Lattmann double-ended Saxon pattern with advertising for Eckstein Cigaretten
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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


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