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Published February 18, 2023 Updated February 18, 2023

The story behind some special Jokers

How the “Gibbons” Jokers came into being.

France Dusserre Joker Add to Collection

Sometime after the famous London stamp dealers Stanley Gibbons had opened their Playing-Card Department (1977), it was realised that there was not enough of a renewable supply of antique and second-hand playing cards to keep a business going over a long period. The decision was therefore taken to branch out into the sale of modern playing cards. This involved contacting embassies in London to find out whether there were any playing-card manufacturers or publishers in specific countries and, if so, to obtain their contact details. Once this had been done, manufacturers and publishers around the world were approached and asked to supply samples and price lists. Thus it was that Stanley Gibbons started to build up a stock of modern playing cards.

One of the publishers who was approached quite early on was Jean-Claude Dusserre in Paris (Editions Dusserre). He had reprinted a number of historic packs from the collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. These were attractive and reasonably priced so it was decided to place an order for some of them. Jean-Claude Dusserre had a sales ploy which Stanley Gibbons could not resist: if an order was placed for 100 or more packs of any one item, he would create a special Joker design for inclusion in the pack. The gibbon, being a somewhat comical creature, was considered ideal for this purpose, while at the same time being a cryptic or coded way of showing that the packs had been made for, and for sale by, Stanley Gibbons!

The final design shows two gibbons. It was used on the following six packs: Jeu Impérial Second Empire, Jeu des Philosophes de l’An II, Jeu Bonaparte, Jeu Henri IV, Jeu de la Pucelle, and Jeu Equestre Louis XIV. They are identifiable by the different symbols in the corners and by their respective back designs. None of the original packs would have had a Joker so, rather than leave the Jokers blank, Editions Dusserre often used to create special Jokers for different advertisers.

Special Jokers from Jeu Impérial Second Empire, Editions Dusserre

Above: Special Jokers from Jeu Impérial Second Empire, Editions Dusserre

Special Jokers from Jeu des Philosophes de l’An II, Editions Dusserre

Above: Special Jokers from Jeu des Philosophes de l’An II, Editions Dusserre

Special Jokers from Jeu Bonaparte, Editions Dusserre

Above: Special Jokers from Jeu Bonaparte, Editions Dusserre

Special Jokers from Jeu Henri IV, Editions Dusserre

Above: Special Jokers from Jeu Henri IV, Editions Dusserre

Special Jokers from Jeu de la Pucelle, Editions Dusserre

Above: Special Jokers from Jeu de la Pucelle, Editions Dusserre

Special Jokers from Jeu Equestre Louis XIV, Editions Dusserre

Above: Special Jokers from Jeu Equestre Louis XIV, Editions Dusserre

Anyone who is a serious collector of Jokers will know that “Gibbons” Jokers are rare. No more than 100 pairs of these 6 Jokers were ever produced, as Stanley Gibbons never placed a new order before the Playing-Card Department closed at the end of January 1981.

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By Roddy Somerville

Member since May 31, 2022

Roddy started collecting stamps on his 8th birthday. In 1977 he joined the newly formed playing-card department at Stanley Gibbons in London before setting up his own business in Edinburgh four years later. His collecting interests include playing cards, postcards, stamps (especially playing cards on stamps) and sugar wrappers. He is a Past President of the Scottish Philatelic Society, a former Chairman of the IPCS, a Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards and Curator of the WCMPC’s collection of playing cards. He lives near Toulouse in France.


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