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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.

Il Circo

Il Circo illustrated by Jules Garnier, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004.

Il Circo (The Circus) illustrated by Jules Garnier, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004. The illustrations on the cards evoke the feel of a traditional 19th century circus, with clowns, acrobats, unicycles, wild animals and the bizarre, although we can’t see any cigar-smoking ladies or fire eaters in the company. William “Buffalo Bill” Cody is honoured on the king of spades and back design. Overall the deck is beautifully produced and a pleasure to behold. See the Info card

Il Circo designed by Jules Garnier, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004 Il Circo designed by Jules Garnier, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004 Il Circo designed by Jules Garnier, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004 Il Circo designed by Jules Garnier, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004 Il Circo designed by Jules Garnier, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004 Il Circo designed by Jules Garnier, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004 Il Circo designed by Jules Garnier, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004

Above: Il Circo illustrated by Jules Garnier, published by Lo Scarabeo, printed by Modiano, 2004. www.loscarabeo.com

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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

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Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.

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Il Circo

Il Circo

Il Circo illustrated by Jules Garnier, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004.

Maxi Puke 201 Circus Poker

Maxi Puke 201 Circus Poker

Maxi Puke 201 Circus Poker brand produced by Wenyu Paper Products, Shanghai.

Circus Snap

Circus Snap

Circus Snap published by Pepys Games, c.1954.

Birkel Schwarzer Peter

Birkel Schwarzer Peter

The Birkel company has produced several promotional “Schwarzer Peter” packs over the years and this one is themed on the circus.

Circus Transformation Cards

Circus Transformation Cards

Deluxe Limited Edition Circus Transformation Deck designed by F. Robert Schick, 1988

Circus No.47

Circus No.47

“Circus No.47”, first issued in 1896. The staid old Kings, Queens and Jacks have given way to various well-known ring masters, clowns and queens; dashing circus designs. Indeed, the clown Jacks are only a short step away from Jokers!