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.

Clifford Toys

Clifford Toys is a brand name of F. Levy & Co., Ltd, London, sellers of toys and fancy goods.

A range of cheaper or more economical card games under the brand name ‘Clifford Series’ appeared just after the War, often bearing the legend “British Made”. These games shared the sense of optimism and love of fun which characterised similar games by Tower Press and were usually produced in bright colours on low grade cardboard. The brand was owned by F. Levy and Co, of 22-24 Tabernacle Street, Finsbury Square, London, EC2 who had founded a wholesale business in 1923 selling toys and fancy goods from Hong Kong. Eventually they marketed a few items under the brand name Clifford which was his son’s Christian name.

Oval Clifford logo appeared on boxes after 1958

Clifford himself later followed his father into the business and it was he who began to introduce games such as Housey Housey into the range with the Clifford brand name. Later in around 1945 he published miniature toy patience cards with the brand name Fleveco (F Levy Co) and he began publishing the first Clifford card games in the early 1950s. In the fullness of time his son Richard took control in around 1959 and he wanted to expand the toy business with a range of plastic cars which again were made in Hong Kong by a UK owned company Herbert Kees Ltd.

During this period Clifford card games appeared in several editions of 16 different games, including: Animal Rummy, Circus Snap, Donkey (2 versions), Happy Families (3 versions + a miniature), Mystic Fortune Teller, Old Maid, Pantomime Snap, Happy Hours Snap, Nursery Rhyme Snap, Wild West Snap & There and Back.

At some point in the 1960s or ’70s the brand became ‘Clifford Toys’.

Clifford Series ‘Donkey’ card game, c.1948
Clifford Series “Pantomime Snap”
The ‘Mystic’ Fortune Teller card game published by Clifford Toys
Clifford Series Snap Cards, c.1950
 Clifford Toys ‘Old Maid’, 36 cards + rules in box, c.1960 & c.1970.

Above: from 1958 the games were made with an oval Clifford logo on the box top, but many of the games were printed without any identification on them, so that they appear anonymous. Some of the games were issued in telescopic boxes.

  • See more Clifford games →

    ‘Clifford Series’ card games, 1950s-60s ‘Clifford Series’ card games, 1950s-60s

    Above: Collection of Clifford games. As they never numbered their games these are in no particular order. Images courtesy Rex Pitts.

Clifford games miniature children's pack, c.1945 Clifford games miniature children's pack, c.1945

Above: two early versions of miniature children's packs published by F. Levy and Co, c.1945. All the courts are based on those of Dondorf but have been turned in the lower pack. The top pack is printed on thinner card than the bottom one. Images courtesy Ken Lodge. See contemporary Dondorf courts

Clifford games miniature children's pack, c.1945

Above: another edition of miniature playing cards of rudimentary quality with Continental courts, believed to have been published by F. Levy and Co, c.1945. Image courtesy Matt Probert.

Clifford Toys, (England), c.1945, FLEVECO miniature cards Clifford Toys, (England), c.1945, FLEVECO miniature cards

Above: Clifford Toys, (England), c.1945, “Fleveco” miniature or toy cards. “Fleveco” is an acronym for F Levy & Co.

The first Clifford card games appeared in the early 1950s.

Right & Below: ‘Clifford Series’ Happy Families, c.1960 →

‘Clifford Series’ Happy Families, c.1960
‘Clifford Series’ Happy Families, c.1950s
  • See more cards...

    ‘Clifford Series’ Happy Families, c.1950s ‘Clifford Series’ Happy Families, c.1950s ‘Clifford Series’ Happy Families, c.1950s

    Above: ‘Clifford Series’ Happy Families, 36 cards + rules in box, c.1950s.

At some point in the 1960s or ’70s the brand became ‘Clifford Toys’ with a new logo. In the 1970s a new range of 6 photographic card games with square corners was introduced. These were: Animal Happy Families, Animal Snap, Capital Cities Snap, Fireman’s Rummy, Guardsman Snap & Travel Snap. These at last had the brand name on the boxes and at first were made in England but later, with fewer cards, made in Italy. Although card games ceased being created in the 1950s they continued to be re-published until the 1970s. They also produced a big range of miniature children’s books. The company now no longer exists.

NOTE: information and images of cards courtesy Rex Pitts.

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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

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Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.

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