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Published October 14, 2023 Updated October 15, 2023

Clamcleats playing cards

Clamcleats playing cards for sailors designed by Celia Allison, New Zealand, 1986.

1986 New Zealand United Kingdom Tai Wah Ltd Celia Allison Advertising Navy Sports Add to Collection

This pack was printed by Tai Wah, Ltd. of New Zealand for Clamcleats, Ltd., a British company that designs and manufactures cleats for holding in place the ropes of sailboats, yachts and catamarans, etc. The court cards and aces are designed by Celia Allison (born 1958), a New Zealand illustrator and graphic designer. Since no publisher can be identified on the cards or the plastic container, and with the company's name prominently displayed on the aces of spades and diamonds, it isn’t clear whether this should be classified as a British or New Zealand pack. The pack is subtitled on an extra card, “Sailors playing cards,” and appear to be made of plastic for use in a wet environment. The Jokers and court cards have a sailing theme, displaying yachting, surfing and boating accessories, while the aces are designed to look like knotted rope. The card backs show a rope held in place by a cleat.

Clamcleats playing cards for sailors designed by Celia Allison, New Zealand, 1986 Clamcleats playing cards for sailors designed by Celia Allison, New Zealand, 1986 Clamcleats playing cards for sailors designed by Celia Allison, New Zealand, 1986

Above: Clamcleats playing cards for sailors designed by Celia Allison and printed by Tai Wah, Ltd, New Zealand, 1986.

Note from Roddy Somerville

Clamcleats Limited, based in Welwyn Garden City, is a family-run company now in its third generation. They published the pack thanks to Dale Emery, who (from memory) was a director of the company and one of the family. He himself was an enthusiastic playing-card collector who often attended meetings of the British Group of the International Playing-Card Society. It is interesting to note that the logo of the company has not changed in almost 40 years! - R.S

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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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