The World of Playing Cards Logo
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.

avatar
505 Articles

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.


Related Articles

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

A limited edition art print of the 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

A limited edition art print of the King of Diamonds 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

A limited edition art print of the Jack of Hearts 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Queen of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

2024 Tarot – Images du Pays Basque

Tarot – Images du Pays Basque

Seventy-eight photographic images of the French Basque Country on a pack for playing the game of Tar...

Classification of Numeral Card Designs in French-suited packs

Classification of Numeral Card Designs in French-suited packs

The classification of numeral cards in French-suited packs, covering various pip designs in over 400...

2024 Holidays – les côtes françaises

Holidays – les côtes françaises

Holiday destinations around the French coast as depicted by Pauline Launay.

2022 Jeu des 7 familles basques

Jeu des 7 familles basques

A Happy Families-type game from the Basque country, with designs by Soledad Bravi and Agathe de Las...

1985 Atout Cœur!

Atout Cœur!

Poster designs by children for an anti-smoking campaign in the Midi-Pyrenées region of France.

Why our playing-cards look the way they do

Why our playing-cards look the way they do

Analysis of early playing card designs: origins, suit differences, standardization, technological ad...

1985 Victor Hugo 1885-1985

Victor Hugo 1885-1985

Characters from novels by Victor Hugo marking the centenary of his death, as conceived by Dominique...

1985 Victor Hugo “L’homme qui rit”

Victor Hugo “L’homme qui rit”

Two different packs with costume designs for Victor Hugo plays, issued on the centenary of his deat...

2017 Les Beaux Étés

Les Beaux Étés

Comic book characters who lead mundane lives, with designs by Jordi Lafebre.

1770 Cartes enfantines

Cartes enfantines

Miniature 18th century Paris pattern cards for children, with decorated aces and 2s.

2013 Les plaques émaillées d’Antoine Vollon

Les plaques émaillées d’Antoine Vollon

54 different enamel plaques depicting silk manufacture, by the Lyon artist Antoine Vollon.

1984 Le Jeu des Musiciens

Le Jeu des Musiciens

Artist Silvia Maddonni’s gently humorous take on musicians and their instruments.

1995 Les Saints Guérisseurs et Protecteurs

Les Saints Guérisseurs et Protecteurs

Healing and patron saints portrayed in paintings, manuscripts, altarpieces and statuary.

2001 Kuzco, l’empereur mégalo

Kuzco, l’empereur mégalo

Notched cards featuring toys representing characters from the Disney film Kuzco, as offered by McDon...

1964 Monuments de Paris

Monuments de Paris

‘Monuments de Paris’ souvenir playing cards produced by Heraclio Fournier, c.1964.

1988 Lorilleux International

Lorilleux International

Promotional pack for Lorilleux International’s Lotus inks, with designs by James Hodges.

2021 Les Tontons du Rock

Les Tontons du Rock

Caricatures of rock and pop stars in black and white by Charles Da Costa.

1745 Burgundy pattern

Burgundy pattern

The old Burgundy (or Burgundian) pattern by Nicolas Chenevet, Dijon.

1980 Zodiaque

Zodiaque

“Les Signes du Zodiaque” playing cards designed by Youdi des Aubrys.

1981 British Monarchs

British Monarchs

Commemorating the royal wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer on the 29th

1991 54 Affiches Retro

54 Affiches Retro

54 different old French advertising posters, mainly for travel and health products.

1980 Jeu de la Belle Epoque

Jeu de la Belle Epoque

Jeu de la Belle Epoque, remembering a golden age of optimism, progress and elegance.

1985 Correspondances

Correspondances

‘Correspondances’ depicting the 52 transfer stations of the Paris Métropolitain, France, 1985.

1987 Jeu Gothique

Jeu Gothique

‘Jeu Gothique’ illustrating the Gothic period in France, published by Editions Dusserre.

1978 Jeu Bonaparte

Jeu Bonaparte

Jeu Bonaparte depicting the extended family of Napoleon Bonaparte, France, 1978

1989 Jeu du Bicentenaire de la Révolution Française

Jeu du Bicentenaire de la Révolution Française

Pack created by Yannick Pennanguer commemorating the bicentenary of the French Revolution and the ce...

1988 Jeu des Bonnets Phrygiens

Jeu des Bonnets Phrygiens

Reproduction of Jeu des Bonnets Phrygiens relating to the Phrygian cap (or liberty cap), France, 198...

1977 Jeu de la V<sup>me</sup>

Jeu de la Vme

A political pack designed by Pino Zac and published in 1977 by Editions Arts et Lettres.

1983 Jeu des Médecins

Jeu des Médecins

Cartoons of doctors and nurses by Pino Zac, published by B.P. Grimaud in 1983.

1962 Jeu Boléro

Jeu Boléro

Sweeping, semi-abstract designs by J.L. Jolin in red and black only.

1976 Le Giscarte

Le Giscarte

Le Giscarte political playing cards designed by Eddy Munerol, France, 1976.

1968 Knoll International

Knoll International

Geometric designs by the French artist Jean Garçon for Knoll International, the furniture company.

1960 Cartes à Jouer Fluorescentes

Cartes à Jouer Fluorescentes

Standard French cards but printed with fluorescent inks on a black background.

1980 SEMP playing cards

SEMP playing cards

Modified Anglo-American courts advertising a French medical publishing company.

1997 Claude Weisbuch

Claude Weisbuch

Free reinterpretation of the traditional Paris pattern courts by the artist Claude Weisbuch.

1985 Hôtels-Grils Campanile

Hôtels-Grils Campanile

Publicity pack for the Campanile hotel and restaurant chain featuring French provincial costumes, wi...

1980 MISSCŒUR

MISSCŒUR

Elongated cards from France with a fourth court card, a Miss.

1965 Jeu des Copains

Jeu des Copains

French popular singing stars of the 1960s.

Dessoris

Dessoris

Spanish-suited cards by Dessoris, Perpignan, which anticipate the French Catalan pattern.

1760 Lyon pattern by Michel Ressy

Lyon pattern by Michel Ressy

Lyon pattern by Michel Ressy, c.1760.