The World of Playing Cards Logo

Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Bancks Brothers

The 'Old Frizzle' Ace of Spades shows the duty paid as one shilling, and the manufacturer's name is engraved at the bottom of the ace.

Bancks Brothers, formerly Joseph Hunt & Sons, 20 Piccadilly & 12 Glasshouse Street, London, c.1840-1890

See wrapper

Bancks Brothers (Anthony Bancks & Robert Olddiss Bancks, card makers) were successors to Hunt & Sons (1790-c.1840) who was the first maker to 'modernise' the court card designs with a complete redrawing, in which some of the idiosyncrasies which had crept into playing card designs were rationalised. The example shown below (top two rows) dates from c.1845 and illustrates the new-style courts which had been inherited from Hunt & Sons. These are still full-length figures and the cards have been coloured using brush and stencils. The Jack of Hearts now holds what is clearly a leaf, rather than the top of a staff as in earlier times. The 'Old Frizzle' Ace of Spades shows the duty paid as one shilling, and the manufacturer's name is engraved at the bottom of the ace. Shortly after this, Bancks Brothers produced a double-ended version (below, bottom two rows).

single-figure cards by Bancks Brothers (successors to Hunt & Sons) c.1845

Above: single-figure cards by Bancks Brothers (successors to Hunt & Sons) with the 'Old Flizzle' duty Ace of Spades, c.1845. The Queen's noses are sometimes drawn slighly smaller, as in the example below.

single-figure cards by Bancks Brothers c.1865 double-ended cards by Bancks Brothers c.1865

Above: double ended version, stencil-coloured, c.1865. Note that the pip cards are still single-ended. The Ace of Spades has the manufacturer's name around the top, and a reference to Her Majesty and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales at the bottom. In all the above examples the backs are plain white, although examples are known with dotted backs or with other patterns. There are no indices, and the corners are square. Bancks Brothers late Hunt also produced packs with back designs commemorating the Royal Wedding of the Prince of Wales in 1863 and also the special 1890 Ladies presentation pack for the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards given to the lady guests attending the Company's Ladies Dinner held in July 1890. This last deck, featuring the Ace of Spades and double-ended courts shown above, along with a special back design and red silk box, was issued in very limited numbers making it one of the rarest packs issued by the company.

double-ended cards by Bancks Brothers c.1870

Above: later small-format cards with double-ended courts and unusual colouring of turquoise / yellow / red printed by letterpress, c.1870-80. Images courtesy John Sings.

Messrs Bancks produced a wide range of back designs including coats-of-arms, floral series and oriental designs, often with gold and silver printing. Bancks Brothers also produced an experimental, non-standard pack in around 1870, with special designs with the heads of single-ended courts and numerals inserted into large suit signs, the the value of each card printed in each corner.

Packs are known with Bancks Brothers 'Old Frizzle' Aces but with Goodall courts. Apparantly Bancks Brothers had large stocks of 'Old Frizzle' Aces which were out of date for duty rebate but continued to be used until at least 1875. This suggests that an association may have existed between Bancks Brothers and Goodall around this time. R.O. Bancks, the surviving partner of Bancks Brothers, died in 1886 and the business was subsequently sold to George Clulow's son. George Clulow was a partner and later a director of Charles Goodall & Son.


Wrappers

Great Mogul wrapper Mogul Club House wrapper
avatar

By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

View Articles

Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

Recommended

72: The Ace of Spades

72: The Ace of Spades

In standard English packs the Ace of Spades is associated with decorative designs. This is a historical survey of why this should be.

J. W. Spear and Sons

J. W. Spear and Sons

Jacob Wolfe Spear founded his company manufacturing fancy goods in 1879 near Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany

RCI Playing Cards

RCI Playing Cards

RCI Playing Cards, a 20th century playing-card maker of Minneapolis, 1969-1985.

58: Woolley & Co.

58: Woolley & Co.

The firm of Thomas Woolley lasted for many years from 1836-1904 in several different guises.

Parker Brothers

Parker Brothers

Parker Brothers, Salem, Mass., USA.

48: Ferdinand Piatnik & Sons

48: Ferdinand Piatnik & Sons

Ferd. Piatnik produced a very large range of cards with many different standard and non-standard patterns. This is a survey of his standard English output.

C.L. Wüst, 1811 - 1927

C.L. Wüst, 1811 - 1927

SPIELKARTENFABRIEK VON C.L. WÜST, 1811 - 1927. A short history of the Wüst factory by Martin Shaw & Paul Symons.

Empire Card Company: Star Playing Cards

Empire Card Company: Star Playing Cards

The “Star” special pack of playing cards manufactured by Thomas De la Rue under their Empire Card Co subsidiary, c.1910.

Hudson Industries

Hudson Industries

Hudson Industries Pty Ltd of Carlton in Victoria was first registered as a printing company in 1920. In the 1940s they registered their own distinctive ace of spades and joker.

John Sands

John Sands

John Sands had incorporated the earlier playing card manufacturing businesses of Hudson Industries Pty Ltd and Valentine Publishing Co.

The Valentine Group

The Valentine Group

The Valentine Group, Australia.

Goodall c.1845-60

Goodall c.1845-60

Goodall’s earliest cards were traditional in appearance but in around 1845 ‘modernised’ courts were designed

British Playing Cards

British Playing Cards

British Playing Cards Ltd was the predecessor of Universal P.C.Co. and involved Alf Cooke of Leeds and Bemrose of Birmingham, and maybe one or two other printing firms.

36: Minor Makers of the 19th Century

36: Minor Makers of the 19th Century

In 19th century England there were a number of makers who produced cards in relatively small quantities.

31: The Not-So-Minor Cardmakers of the 19th Century - Part 2

31: The Not-So-Minor Cardmakers of the 19th Century - Part 2

This page continues the presentation of examples of the major English cardmakers of the 19th century.

29: James English

29: James English

An overview of the courts and aces of spades produced by James English.

Standard Playing Card Co.

Standard Playing Card Co.

Standard Playing Card Co. started producing playing cards in c.1890 but was in business for only about four years before United States Playing Card Company acquired it in 1894.

American Bank Note Company

American Bank Note Company

The American Bank Note Company was a long-established firm producing national currency, finely engraved stock certificates and other security printing, including postage stamps. They also entered the playing card market c.1908-1914.

J.L. & J. Turnbull

J.L. & J. Turnbull

An ‘Old Frizzle’ Ace of Spades was assigned to them in 1833. In 1853 James L. & J. Turnbull were listed as ‘Makers of Playing Cards, Pasteboard, Paper Glossers and Pressers and Drawing Board Makers.

Russell Playing Card Co.

Russell Playing Card Co.

Willis W. Russell started a modest playing card business in Milltown, a small town in northern New Jersey, in 1905.

Thomas Wheeler

Thomas Wheeler

Thomas Wheeler appears in directories at 2 Richbell St (1799), 8 Middle Row, Holborn (1801), 118 Holborn Hill (1802-07) and 127 Holborn Hill (1807-21).

Ormond Printing Co. Ltd

Ormond Printing Co. Ltd

During the 1930s The Ormond Printing Co. Ltd produced playing cards for the Irish market with a distinctive ace of spades, joker and court cards. In 1935 the firm was acquired as a manufacturing facility for Waddington’s cards in Eire.

5: De La Rue

5: De La Rue

In December 1831 Thomas de la Rue was granted his patent for printing playing cards by letterpress.

Irish Playing Card Mfg Co

Irish Playing Card Mfg Co

Irish Playing Card Manufacturing Company.

Igor Domicelj, Buenos Aires, c.1945-55

Igor Domicelj, Buenos Aires, c.1945-55

Igor Domicelj commenced producing playing cards in c.1945. By the early 1950s the range had grown to include Naipes La Estrella, Barcelonesa, Chinita, La Española, Fantasio, Cartas Gitanas, Naipes Tipo Húngaro and a Jewish Quartet game.

G. Berger, Buenos Aires, c.1935-50

G. Berger, Buenos Aires, c.1935-50

Berger also produced a Hungarian-type "Seasons" pack with the brand name "La Estrella" and a six-pointed star logo, which was subsequently used by Domicelj and Vigor, suggesting some sort of business succession.

Van Genechten

Van Genechten

A. Van Genechten ran a flourishing business, supplying various kinds of cards both inside the country and abroad including England, Spain, France, Denmark, South-East Asia, China and Japan.

Cappellano S.A. c.1920-c.1985

Cappellano S.A. c.1920-c.1985

Originally known as Cappellano Hnos in the 1920s, and undergoing several changes of name and address, the company produced catalan style packs with the brand names "Naipes Triunfo" and "Torcacita" as well as an Anglo-American style pack titled "VELCAP".

Brown & Bigelow

Brown & Bigelow

Brown & Bigelow of St Paul, Minnesota, was a leading producer of playing cards in the U.S. from the late 1920s - 1980s.

Thai Playing Cards Manufacturing Factory

Thai Playing Cards Manufacturing Factory

Thai Playing Cards Manufacturing Factory

SOIMCA

SOIMCA

SOIMCA - Sociedade Impressora Caxiense - is an important playing card manufacturer in Brazil. It was established by Nelson Soares in Caxias do Sul, in the south of Brazil, by 1955.

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventories

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventories

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventories, Barcelona, 1660-1800.

Amos Whitney Inventory

Amos Whitney Inventory

Amos Whitney Factory Inventory. What it was like inside an 18th century playing card factory...

Chromolithography

Chromolithography

Colour lithography was invented in 1798 by a Bavarian actor and playwright named Alois Senefelder (1771-1834). It is based on the principle that oil and water do not mix.

Dondorf

Dondorf

The luxury playing card factory founded in Frankfurt am Main by Bernhard Dondorf in 1833 existed for 100 years.

Dieudonné & Cie Aluette

Dieudonné & Cie Aluette

Aluette playing cards manufactured by Dieudonné & Cie, Angers (France), early 20th century.

Glanz

Glanz

Non-Standard playing cards manufactured by Joseph Glanz, Vienna, Austria, 1862.

Litográfica del Perú

Litográfica del Perú

Litográfica del Perú S.A. were manufacturers of playing cards in Peru sometime around the decades of the 1970s and/or 1980s.

Western PCC

Western PCC

The Western Playing Card Company was formed in 1927. The exact history and origins are not clear.

Mesmaekers & Moentack, c.1860

Mesmaekers & Moentack, c.1860

The Mesmaekers firm had been established in Turnhout in 1859 by the partnership of Gustaaf Mesmaekers and Louis-François Moentack.