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Published July 03, 1996 Updated June 28, 2023

Stefans Bercs

In 1923 a competition was announced for a new Latvian pack. The winner of this competition was Stefans Bercs.

1923 Latvia Sweden Ernst Platesa Latvijas Vertspapiru Spiestuve Stefans Bercs Folklore Add to Collection

Stefans Bercs, 1923

The Latvian ‘National’ pattern

In 1923 a competition was announced for a new Latvian pack. The winner of this competition was the silversmith Stefans Bercs (1893-1961), one of the most distinguished masters of Art Deco in Latvia. This was Latvia's second pack and it became the most popular. The designs have echoes of Livonian history and folklore. It was issued in Latvia until the end of World War 2, and then again in Sweden for Latvians in exile [example].

Above: Playing Cards designed in Latvia by Stefans Bercs and first issued in 1923. This particular edition was printed by Ernst Platesa Lithography, Riga, as seen printed at the bottom of the Ace of Hearts. The letters 'L.S.K.B' on the tax stamp stand for 'Latvijas Sarkanā Krusta Biedrība' (Company of Latvian Red Cross). Later editions were printed by Latvijas Vertspapiru Spiestuve. Packs were sold as No.5 (full pack) or No.6 (32 or 36 cards). The designs have echoes of Livonian history and folklore and the decorative details on the court card clothing include swastikas. Bercs was a silversmith and his pack became the most popular in the country. It was issued until the end of World War II. It was reprinted in Sweden in 1959.

Playing Cards designed in Latvia by Stefans Bercs

From 1919 -1921 there were no tax stamps on Latvian playing cards. In 1922, by law, the Latvian Red Cross was to receive dividends from the production and sale of playing cards and a special tax stamp was placed on the ace of hearts for this purpose. In addition to the stamp, the symbol of the Red Cross was incorporated into the design of the ace of hearts. This taxation arrangement continued until 1943.

Left: Aces of Hearts from packs designed by Stefans Bercs. The first one is printed by Ernst Platesa and the second by Latvijas Vertspapiru Spiestuve   (click image to zoom).

References: Jānis Mētra in The Playing Card, vol.32, no.1, July-August 2003, and also: Latvian Playing Cards by Jānis Mētra, Riga, 2006.

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By Albinas Borisevičius

Member since July 01, 2010

I have been collecting cards since 1968, of course, then there were no contacts with world collectors, so my collection was very small. It was only in 1991, when Lithuania declared its independence, that it was possible to have contact with the world. It was a great honor for me to attend the IPCS convention in Munich, where I found many friends-colleagues. I managed to make an agreement with the Viennese card factory to print the ancient cards of Lithuania (PILYS).

My area of collecting - classic mirror-type cards and tourist cards - with images of cities, countries, photos. Also topics Sherlock Holmes, Alexander Dumas, Discover, Chess, Basketball, postage stamps on the cards. Since I am already 75 years old, I don't work, so I can't buy old cards (I really like classic cards from the 1920-1950 period). But my opinion is that it is better to have a card copy than nothing, so I will print one set of cards in Vilnius for my collection. Of course, if anyone wants, I can print it for them too. You can see my printed cards here: Lithuania - Orija.

I have published one book in Lithuania about cards and card games (in Lithuanian, about 400 pages): Albinas Borisevicius. Pirmasis padalijimas (The first deal)


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