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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.

Leipzig Exhibition Skat, 1897

“Leipziger Skat-Karte” depicting scenes from the Leipzig Industry and Trade Exhibition designed by Arthur Lewin, 1897.

“Leipziger Skat-Karte” was issued to honour the 400th anniversary of the Leipzig Industry and Trade Exhibition, and was printed by Schneider & Co., Altenburg, in 1897. The 32-card set was designed by Arthur Lewin (1860-1923) as a souvenir for visitors, featuring coats of arms on the four deuces and historical personages on the court cards, along with scenes from the trade fair on the numeral cards. In this edition all cards have handwritten inscriptions printed along the bottom which help to identify the scenes.

“Leipzig Exhibition Skat” by Schneider & Co., Altenburg, 1897

Above: the Deuce of hearts shows the coat-of-arms of Landgraves of Thuringia. The tax stamp reads “DEUTSCHES REICH DREISSIG PF” and was used in Imperial Germany from 1879 to 1918 more  The Deuce of bells shows the coat-of-arms of Leipzig.

“Leipzig Exhibition Skat” by Schneider & Co., Altenburg, 1897

Above: the king of hearts depicts a medieval emperor (kaiser). The ober of hearts depicts von Brühl. The unter of hearts shows a student. The king of bells depicts Kaiser Karl V (1519-1556). The ober of bells depicts a musician and the unter of bells shows the night watchman (Nachtwächter).

“Leipzig Exhibition Skat” by Schneider & Co., Altenburg, 1897

Above: the deuce of acorns shows the coat of arms of the Wettins as dukes and kings of Saxony. The deuce of leaves shows the coat of arms of the Margraviate of Meissen (Markgrafschaft Meißen).

“Leipzig Exhibition Skat” by Schneider & Co., Altenburg, 1897

Above: not all inscriptions are legible. The king of acorns depicts Duke Albrecht of Saxony (Herzog Albrecht von Sachsen). The king of leaves depicts Margrave Dietrich von Landsberg (Markgraf Dietrich von Landsberg). The ober of leaves is a police officer of c.1840-50.

“Leipzig Exhibition Skat” by Schneider & Co., Altenburg, 1897

Above: the numeral cards contain vignettes showing scenes from the trade exhibition. All images courtesy Rod Starling.

ink drawing signed by Arthur Lewin dated 1895

Arthur Lewin, who designed these cards, was born on 4th May 1860 in Schoenbrunn near Troppau and moved to Leipzig in 1874, where he died on 7th June 1923. He was a costume designer who also illustrated various books, including humorous works by Edwin Bormann, as well as these playing cards.

Right: an ink drawing signed by Arthur Lewin titled “Hunter”, dated 1895.

Facsimile Edition

A facsimile edition was produced in 1997 to celebrate a further 100 years of the Fair, printed by Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik and presented in a replica box. In the facsimile there is no tax stamp on the deuce of hearts

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By Rod Starling

Member since January 09, 2013

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Rod Starling is one of the founding members of the 52 Plus Joker card collectors club. He has written many articles for the club's quarterly newsletter, Clear the Decks. His collection still encompasses both foreign and American decks. Rod has also authored a book titled The Art and Pleasures of Playing Cards.

Also by Rod Starling

Download as Adobe PDF files:

"Playing Card Art Collectors Extraordinaire"

"Some Facts About Facsimiles"

"Something New and Topical"

"Tales From the Stage"

"Shuffling Along With History"

"Steamboat Cards and the Mississippi Mystique"

"Piatnik: High Quality & Longevity"

"Three Rare Playing Card Back Designs"

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