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Published September 22, 2022 Updated September 22, 2022

Trip or Trap

Fighting drug abuse in the flower power era using humour and ridicule.

1970 USA Brown & Bigelow W.R. Spence Humour Medical & Pharmaceutical Add to Collection

Looking at these cards, they could only have been designed in the flower power era, the age of the hippy. The creator, Dr W.R. Spence, was an anti-drug campaigner who used many methods to promote his messages, including playing cards. The colourful court cards and Aces include jokes or slogans to mock people who use drugs. They certainly have a strong psychedelic feel to them. The pip cards list the prescription names, slang names, medical uses, legal source and symptoms caused by various different drugs. There is a summary of the drug names on one Joker and text about the effects of drugs and the aims of the pack on the other. The colourful, borderless backs repeat the words “trip trap” over and over. The cards are gilt-edged.

Trip or Trap fighting drug abuse created by Dr W.R. Spence,1970 Trip or Trap fighting drug abuse created by Dr W.R. Spence,1970 Trip or Trap fighting drug abuse created by Dr W.R. Spence,1970

Above: Trip or Trap playing cards created by Dr W.R. Spence, made by Brown & Bigelow, Saint Paul, MN, USA, for the Spenco Medical Company, Waco, TX, USA, 1970. 52 cards + 2 Jokers. Size: 57 x 89 mm.

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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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