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Published March 08, 2023 Updated March 08, 2023

Ilford playing cards

Colourful advertising pack for Ilford designed by Mario Grasso, based on standard English courts.

1981 Switzerland United Kingdom AGMüller Mario Grasso Advertising Photography Add to Collection

Surprisingly for a company known for the manufacture of black-and-white film, this pack has extremely colourful court cards. The designs by Mario Grasso (1941-2018) are based on standard English pattern courts: some traditional elements and attributes have been retained, but several of the heads (especially those of the Queens) and costumes are quite far removed from the familiar ones. The back design is in black and white – the word ‘ILFORD’ repeated over and over. The cards have gilt corners. A high-quality board has been used. See the box

Why would Ilford have used a Swiss illustrator and why would Müller have printed this advertising pack for a UK company? Probably because Ilford at one time had a plant in Switzerland which they developed in partnership with the Swiss company CIBA-Geigy.

Ilford playing cards printed by AG Müller & Cie, Schaffhausen, Switzerland, for Ilford Limited, Basildon, UK, 1981 Ilford playing cards printed by AG Müller & Cie, Schaffhausen, Switzerland, for Ilford Limited, Basildon, UK, 1981

Above: Ilford playing cards printed by AG Müller & Cie, Schaffhausen, Switzerland, for Ilford Limited, Basildon, UK, 1981. 52 cards + 3 (identical) Jokers in tuck box. Size: 62 x 87 mm. © 1981, ILFORD Limited, Basildon, Essex, GB.

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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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