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Published November 23, 2023 Updated November 23, 2023

Banjo playing cards

Banjo playing cards featuring the collection of Akira Tsumura, Japan, c. 1978.

1978 Japan Tsumura Juntendo Music Add to Collection

Each of the cards in this Japanese pack displays a different named banjo - all from the collection of Akira Tsumura who, at one time had the world’s indisputably finest and most comprehensive gathering of banjos. In addition to this pack, Tsumura published three highly-regarded and informative banjo books as well as books about ukuleles, guitars and more. This pack was published in a limited edition of 500 copies by Tsumura Juntendo Inc., Tokyo, and dates from c. 1978.

Banjo playing cards featuring the collection of Akira Tsumura, Japan, c. 1978 Banjo playing cards featuring the collection of Akira Tsumura, Japan, c. 1978 Banjo playing cards featuring the collection of Akira Tsumura, Japan, c. 1978

Above: Banjo playing cards published by Tsumura Juntendo Inc featuring the collection of Akira Tsumura, Japan, c. 1978.

The back of the cards shows a banjo-wielding black male astride a donkey pulling uphill a black woman in a cart. Similarly, the jokers portray black figures – presumably in acknowledgement of the history of the banjo which was created by enslaved Africans and their descendants in the Caribbean and colonial North America. Beneath the image is a Tsumura cartouche. For information on the fate of Tsumura and the collection see here

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By Peter Burnett

Member since July 27, 2022

I graduated in Russian and East European Studies from Birmingham University in 1969. It was as an undergraduate in Moscow in 1968 that I stumbled upon my first 3 packs of “unusual” playing cards which fired my curiosity and thence my life-long interest. I began researching and collecting cards in the early 1970s, since when I’ve acquired over 3,330 packs of non-standard cards, mainly from North America, UK and Western Europe, and of course from Russia and the former communist countries.

Russian Playing Cards

Following my retirement from the Bodleian Library in Dec. 2007 I took up a new role as Head of Library Development at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) to support library development in low-income countries. This work necessitated regular training visits to many sub-Saharan African countries and also further afield, to Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh – all of which provided rich opportunities to further expand my playing card collection.

Since 2019 I’ve been working part-time in the Bodleian Library where I’ve been cataloguing the bequest of the late Donald Welsh, founder of the English Playing Card Society.


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