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Published March 18, 2015 Updated November 24, 2023

45: New Zealand

There are three main New Zealand makers that I'm aware of: A.D. Willis, John Dickinson, and Strong & Ready.

New Zealand Add to Collection

There are three main NZ makers that I'm aware of: A.D. Willis, John Dickinson, and Strong & Ready. They all had idiosyncratic designs. I know little of the background information about the firms, so I have had to make deductions from the cards themselves. What I do know of their history is from information gathered by Mike Goodall, so it's thanks to him that it's reproduced here. For a full list of my New Zealand cards, click here

A D Willis

An early card-maker, Archibald Dudingston Willis was born in Middlesex in 1842. For 45 years of his life he lived in Wanganui, where his firm was established in 1872. Their first courts seem to have been copies of NYCCC's US6 (unturned) and US6.1 (turned), very similar to ones produced in Turnhout at the time. The earliest pack I know has the unturned courts and dates from c.1880.

Above: Willis, c.1885 (sorry for the grubbiness!)

Above: Willis, with turned courts, c.1900

Above: Willis, with a smaller AS, c.1910

They made Five Hundred packs in the early part of the 20th century and used the above courts in the earlier editions. Then the design was changed with both 4-colour and 2-colour versions. They produced patience cards, too.

Willis, c.1910-25

Willis 2-colour patience, c.1910

The firm was sold in 1949 to Weeks Ltd, later Weeks Field Ltd. The same courts were used, printed by a firm called United Empire Box Co. (UEB Industries) from the mid-1960s. From 1989-93 Kiwi Packaging took over.

Two different packs by UEB, c.1985-90

John Dickinson

This firm appeared later on the scene in 1920s. The courts are quite distinctive in both two and four colours.

Dickinson courts, AS and joker, c.1935-60

c.1935

There is an unusual version in which the QC has not been turned, as illustrated below. Whether this means there was an unturned version of all the relevant courts I can't say. The firm became the Dickinson Robinson Group (DRG) some time in the 1980s and the courts were reduced in size.

Unturned QC, c.1935 [left two]; DRG version, c.1990 [right two]

In the early 1990s Spicers Paper Ltd of Melbourne took over and used the brand-name "Croxley".

Strong & Ready

The firm started in 1926 in Auckland. The telegraphic address was Toytown, which appears on the later ASs. The first court set has unturned courts in two colours. The AS is a copy of Goodall's anonymous London PC ace.

Strong & Ready, c.1930

The later version of the courts has six of them turned and is in two or four colours.

Strong & Ready canasta, c.1955

Later courts were smaller in two colours. The AS here is the commonest one.

c.1970

In 1972 the firm was taken over by Tanner Couch Ltd., a wholesale stationers that started in 1956. The AS remained the same with the new name but the courts were Waddington's version of Goodall's courts with a Waddington joker and were possibly printed by Waddington. Later, an unusual version of Waddington's Goodall courts was used with all the queens and jacks turned. The joker is an exact copy of Whitman's. They may have been printed in Singapore or Hong Kong, but that's just a guess. In 1989 the firm sold out to the Australian firm, John Sands Ltd.

Tanner Couch, c.1985

Other cards

Waddington cards were imported into New Zealand in the 1920s. These were stamped on entry, as in the example below.

Waddington, 1927

The other pack made outside NZ for their market is a pack with 52 photo views of New Zealand placed centrally on top of standard cards. The courts are copies of the NYCCC ones we saw used as a model in Australia and they were printed in Bavaria for Muir & Moodie.

Muir & Moodie, 1904 [See also https://www.wopc.co.uk/new-zealand/muir-moodie-pict]

The final pack I know of has unusual courts with profile red kings. To judge by the number cards, they seem to be by Willis, but are otherwise anonymous.

Anonymous (Willis?) Strand, c.1925

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By Ken Lodge

Member since May 14, 2012

​I'm Ken Lodge and have been collecting playing cards since I was about eighteen months old (1945). I am also a trained academic, so I can observe and analyze reasonably well. I've applied these analytical techniques over a long period of time to the study of playing cards and have managed to assemble a large amount of information about them, especially those of the standard English pattern. About Ken Lodge →


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