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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.

Caleb Bartlett

Caleb Bartlett patriotic deck (reproduction), around 1835-40.

Old Sturbridge Village reproduction deck. The original, with illustrated courts and non-standard pip colours, was first compiled by Caleb Bartlett but published after he had been taken over by Abbot & Ely, as mentioned on the ace of spades, in around 1835 to 1840. The cards have a lot in common with other early patriotic decks by Jaz Ford and J. Y. Humphries incorporating historical and allegorical figures

See the Box

Caleb Bartlett also made a copy of Ackermann's Transformation pack in 1833.

Old Sturbridge Village Repro Caleb Bartlett pack Old Sturbridge Village Repro Caleb Bartlett pack

Above: Old Sturbridge Village repro Caleb Bartlett pack.


Feb 1825
Caleb Bartlett, c.1830

Above: standard cards by Caleb Bartlett, dating from around 1830. One nice feature of the courts is that they all have the makers initials embedded in the design, a feature that can aid in identification. Plainbacks.com

Caleb Bartlett, c.1830

Above: Caleb Bartlett, c.1830.

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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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Caleb Bartlett

Caleb Bartlett

Caleb Bartlett patriotic deck (reproduction), around 1835-40.

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Reproduction of Richard Blome’s Heraldic playing cards, 1684, presented to lady guests at WCMPC Summer Meeting in 1888.

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Antike Götter

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“Antike Götter” - facsimile of antique playing cards originally manufactured by C. A. Müller, Berlin, 1830.

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Flemish Hunting Deck

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

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This edition has standard corner indices replacing the words King, Queen and Jack, and also contains a “Jolly Joker” depicting a lady holding an Ace of Hearts.

Bavarian Military Cards

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Kimberley

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

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The Beggars’ Opera

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South Sea Bubble

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