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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.

William Tell

Facsimile of Swiss William Tell deck from c.1870 published by Lo Scarabeo.

Facsimile of Swiss ‘William Tell’ deck from c.1870 published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004. The cards, including the four illustrated aces, tell the story of William Tell and the heroes and heroines of the Helvetian independance. See the Information card

Facsimile of Swiss William Tell deck from c.1870 Facsimile of Swiss William Tell deck from c.1870 Facsimile of Swiss William Tell deck from c.1870

Above: facsimile of Swiss William Tell deck from c.1870 published by Lo Scarabeo, Torino, Italy, 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.

Recommended

La Sibylle des Salons

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La Sibylle des Salons facsimile of 19th century deck published by J M Simon, 1979.

William Tell

William Tell

Facsimile of Swiss William Tell deck from c.1870 published by Lo Scarabeo.

“Deck with French suits”

“Deck with French suits”

A facsimile of an early 19th century French-suited deck from the collection of F.X. Schmid.

Le Destin Antique

Le Destin Antique

Le Jeu du Destin Antique, originally published by Grimaud in XIX c., republished many times since...

Caleb Bartlett

Caleb Bartlett

Caleb Bartlett patriotic deck (reproduction), around 1835-40.

Heraldic playing cards

Heraldic playing cards

Reproduction of Richard Blome’s Heraldic playing cards, 1684, presented to lady guests at WCMPC Summer Meeting in 1888.

Tell Wilmoś

Tell Wilmoś

Facsimile of ‘Wilhelm Tell’ Hungarian deck by Salamon Antal, Keczkemét, 1860.

Le Jeu de la Guerre

Le Jeu de la Guerre

Facsimile of “Le Jeu de la Guerre” designed by Gilles de la Boissière in 1698.

National Misfitz

National Misfitz

National Misfitz published by C.W. Faulkner & Co c.1900.

On The Cards

On The Cards

A Motley Pack - transformation playing cards & ‘On The Cards’ book facsimile published by Sunish Chabba, 2019.

Tyrolean Playing Cards

Tyrolean Playing Cards

Facsimile of patriotic 1878 Tyrolean playing cards published by Piatnik in 1992.

Neue Deutsche Spielkarte

Neue Deutsche Spielkarte

Neue Deutsche Spielkarte (Reformkarte) conceived by Dr. Timon Schroeter, 1883.

Musikalisches Kartenspiel

Musikalisches Kartenspiel

Facsimile of Dondorf’s “Musikalisches Kartenspiel” (c.1862) published by Lo Scarabeo, 2004

Johannes Müller c.1840

Johannes Müller c.1840

Facsimile edition of Swiss suited deck first published by Johannes Müller in c.1840.

Jeu de la Géographie

Jeu de la Géographie

“Jeu de Géographie” educational playing cards etched by Stefano Della Bella (1610-1664) and published by Henry le Gras, c.1644.

Goyesca

Goyesca

Baraja ‘Goyesca’ facsimile of original deck published in Madrid by Clemente de Roxas, 1814.

Rois de France

Rois de France

Cartes des Rois de France (1644) facsimile edition by Edizioni del Solleone, 1986.

Lapin Brothers

Lapin Brothers

Reprint of Lapin’s Historical Belarusian playing cards.

Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II

Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II

“Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II” facsimile of French Revolution deck originally published by J. B. Debeine (Reims) 1793.

Antike Götter

Antike Götter

“Antike Götter” - facsimile of antique playing cards originally manufactured by C. A. Müller, Berlin, 1830.

Dames de France

Dames de France

“Dames de France” published by J-M Simon based on originals by Armand Gustave Houbigant, Paris, c.1817

Churchill in WW2

Churchill in WW2

Churchill ‘Walking with Destiny’ playing cards published by the Imperial War Museum.

Naipe Nacional

Naipe Nacional

Naipe Nacional designed by the architect, illustrator and artist Luis Alemany (1886-1943).

I. Hardy facsimile

I. Hardy facsimile

Facsimile edition of 19th century I. Hardy Exportation deck complete with reproduction tax wrapper, c.1990s.

Jeu de l’an 2

Jeu de l’an 2

“Jeu de l’an 2” by Grimaud is a facsimile of French Revolutionary cards first published by Veuve Mouton in c.1793

Jeu Romantique de Nanteuil

Jeu Romantique de Nanteuil

“Jeu Romantique de Nanteuil” published by Éditions Dusserre, Paris, based on originals published in 1838.

Cartes de Luxe (1877) facsimile

Cartes de Luxe (1877) facsimile

‘Cartes de Luxe’ first published by Biermans in 1877 was reproduced in facsimile by Amstel Beer in c.1980.

Gaucho Naipes

Gaucho Naipes

‘Gaucho’ Spanish-suited deck, anonymous manufacturer, made in Argentina, 2001.

Flemish Hunting Deck

Flemish Hunting Deck

Set of medieval playing cards with King, Queen, Knave and numeral cards from one to ten in each of four suits which refer to the activity of hunting, as practiced by the nobility.

Czech Hussite Deck

Czech Hussite Deck

Czech “Hussite” Pack engraved by Karel Hoffmann and first printed by Jan Ritter in 1895.

Serravalle-Sesia Tarot

Serravalle-Sesia Tarot

Serravalle-Sesia Tarot published by Fratelli Avondo, c.1880.

Tarocco Neoclassico

Tarocco Neoclassico

Gumppenberg published several new decks by artists or engravers of the day. The designs are clear and well-engraved, in the style of the revival of antiquity, preserving the symbolic intensity of the Tarot.

Tarocchino Lombardo

Tarocchino Lombardo

“Tarocchino Lombardo” c.1835, a limited facsimile edition of 2500 by Edizione del Solleone, Italy, 1981.

Löschenkohl’s Musical Playing Cards

Löschenkohl’s Musical Playing Cards

Johann Hieronymus Löschenkohl (1753-1807) produced a copper engraved deck of playing cards titled “Das Musikalische Kartenspiel” in 1806.

Soldaten Tarock

Soldaten Tarock

Piatnik was known for their magnificent quality of chromo-lithographic printing, and this facsimile, or reprint, of “Soldaten Tarock No. 217” is virtually as magnificent as the original.

David James Binns

David James Binns

Hand-made “Tudor Playing Cards” by David James Binns, age 12.

Gedimino Stulpai

Gedimino Stulpai

Gedimino Stulpai playing cards made in Lithuania by Spindulys Printing Co., Kaunas, depicting Lithuanian national symbolism.

Aparcero

Aparcero

Naipes Argentinos 'La Partida' y 'Aparcero' published by Obsequios Empresarios Argentinos, Santa Fe.

Naipes Nacionales

Naipes Nacionales

Naipes Nacionales designed by Manuel Bayardi and published by Clemente Jacques y Cia, Mexico c.1940.

Joan Barbot

Joan Barbot

Joan Barbot, San Sebastian c.1765-1810.