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Published January 16, 2023 Updated April 23, 2023

The British Royal visit to India playing cards

printed in Spain for British India in 1911.

1911 India Spain Naipes Comas NEGSA Vda. de Antonio Comas Royalty Souvenir Add to Collection

In 1911 George V (1865-1936), King of Great Britain and Ireland visited India with Queen Mary to be crowned Emperor of India. The ceremony took place in Delhi on December 12th. 1911, after which the king attended a 10 day hunting party in which 18 rhinos, 29 tigers an 4 bears were killed among others. This would of course be unacceptable by today's standards.

Unusually the cards celebrating the occasion were printed by a Spanish company Vda. de Antonio Comas, run by Josefa Ribo, who took over the company after the death of her husband Antonio in 1911. The cards were printed in 1911 or very soon after this date. The exportation tax stamp on the 4 of clubs was used from 1904 until 1931. The pack has 52 cards plus a standard COMAS 'huntsman' joker and came in a plain white box with one card stuck to the front. The reverse in two tone brown shows a portrait of King George V on one end and Queen Mary on the other.
The aces all show the text 'Made in Spain. Special Manufacture for British India' indicating that the order came from India. The square corners and quality of the cards is quite similar to other packs ordered for India during the same period. The court cards are very similar, although not exactly the same, as those used by Emil Zippel of Hamburg (see here) for India, and those made by Ockelmann & Buss of Hamburg in 1920's. They are based on Rococo playing cards made by Dondorf.

Below: the joker, tax stamp and reverse of the cards.

References:
- Testimoni Historic de Naipes Comas, Salvator Tena Fuentes 1995. 34c (6-16)
- Stanley Gibbons auctions Oct.77 no.311 & Aug.78 no.346

All cards shown are from the collection of Paul Symons ©.

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By Paul Symons

Member since February 01, 2016

I'm British but I have now lived in the Netherlands for more than 50 years and am still enjoying every minute of it. I started collecting playing cards in the early 1980’s after speaking with my neighbour who was at that time a croupier in a casino. I started with just collecting jokers, but that soon led me to complete packs of cards and eventually to specialising in old and antique playing cards, particularly those of C.L. Wüst of Frankfurt, Germany. I am presently the Dutch representative of the I.P.C.S. and the auctioneer at the IPCS conventions.


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