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Published November 02, 2011 Updated May 12, 2024

Kimberley

Kimberley’s Royal National Patriotic playing cards, c.1892-1905.

1892 United Kingdom Kimberley & Sons Patriotic Add to Collection
detail of box from Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic playing cards

Above: detail from one of the two-part sliding boxes. David Kimberley & Sons, who published the cards, were not previously printers or publishers but manufacturers of carpenters' saws and planes in Birmingham at that time.

Kimberley’s Royal National Patriotic playing cards, c.1892-1905.

“They differ from ordinary cards in having combined with each suit a special distinct nationality of style and appearance. Instead of the ordinary Ace card, I make an Ace which exhibits an illustration of the representative flag of that suit's nationality. Instead of the normal King, Queen and Knave I propose to place a good portrait of the rulers or representatives of the countries indicated...”

Kimberley’s “National Patriotic” playing cards represent four nations: Diamonds represent England, Hearts represent America, Spades represent France and Clubs represent Germany. The Ace card of each suit represents the ‘Royal Standard’ or flag of each Nation. For England (Diamonds) the Union Jack; for America (Hearts) the Stars and Stripes; for France (Spades) the National Colours and for Germany (Clubs) their Royal Standard. Courts represent contemporary and past royalty. The backs usually show an array of clocks in various colours.

The First Edition c.1892-93

Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic playing cards, first edition c.1892-3

Above: Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic playing cards, first edition c.1892-3. The court cards are richly coloured and incorporate gold   see more →

The numerals follow a scheme proposed by Kimberley in his patent application of 1892: a large suit-sign occupies the centre of the card, with the numeric value voided in it twice. The pack has non-standard aces, non-standard courts, non-standard colours for pips (spades are blue, hearts maroon) and the pips on the numeral cards occupy almost the entire card.

Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic playing cards, first edition c.1892-3

Above: numeral cards from Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic playing cards, first edition c.1892-3. This is the only version with giant suit marks on cards 2 to 10; subsequent editions had conventional suit marks   see more →

The cards bear no advertising, nor is there any indication that the cards were intended for commemorative purposes. The fact that they ran into at least five distinct editions suggests they were popular during their ten or twelve years of production, i.e. c.1892-c.1905.

The Second Edition c.1893-97

The court cards and Aces are the same in the first and second editions. Only the numeral cards differ.

Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic playing cards, second edition c.1893-96

Above: numeral cards from Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic playing cards, second edition c.1893-97. The numeral cards have conventional suit sign sizes and arrangement.

The Fourth Edition c.1899-1901

Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic playing cards

Above: Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic playing cards from the fourth edition published c.1899-1901. The Jack of Hearts is a typical representative from the U.S. Navy of the time. The King of Clubs shows Kaiser Wilhelm II. Unlike the first edition which was printed in luxurious colour lithography including gold, the designs here are rendered by means of fine outlines, stipple printed in black, with areas of mainly flat colour. The back design in this edition features a clock design ~ click image to zoom ~ and the set has an additional red descriptive card.

The Fifth Edition c.1902-05

Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic playing cards, c.1902

Above: Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic playing cards from the fifth edition published during c.1902-5 with conventional corner indices. This edition also contained a Joker depicting a lady holding a card. The differences between the different editions in quality and method of printing suggest different printers were involved.   See more →

NOTE: there is really not a great deal of difference between 'editions' and 'types', and certainly no strictly defined difference. Obviously every time there is a change in the design of the cards, it is a new edition, except maybe for the backs. One edition may be released with several different coloured backs. There might be minor differences in design, but if they are similar I think they could be considered the same type. Large differences could certainly be considered as a new type. There must be at least 20 different versions. For major changes though there would be just 5. The first edition with the very large numeral cards lasted only months before being withdrawn. There are only 2 packs known to exist today. The second edition courts were unchanged from the first edition. Only the numeral cards, A to 10, were radically changed. The third edition Aces show the 'cloud background', and the courts, whilst the same basic design, have a white background and are more crudely drawn. This could certainly be considered Type "B". The fourth edition Aces have totally new flags and court figures. The fifth edition introduces A K Q J etc to all cards, and the court colours are changed. There are also other fifth versions with the courts having differing width centre bands and colours. There are also numerous different coloured clock faces card backs for all but the first version, as well as a fair number of totally different backs as well. I am fortunate to have 13 of these packs !


REFERENCES

Denning, Trevor, "Kimberley's Royal National Patriotic Playing Cards" in the Newsletter, EPCS May 1984, pp.6-7.

All images on this page from the collection of Barney Townshend.

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131 Articles

By Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

Retired Airline Pilot, interested in: Transformation Playing Cards, Karl Gerich and Elaine Lewis. Secretary of the EPCS. Treasurer of the IPCS.


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