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Published February 27, 2023 Updated February 27, 2023

The Firebird playing cards

Exquisite designs with characters and scenes from Russian folk tales by the artist Yury Shakov.

1984 USA Heraclio Fournier Siamese Imports Co Yury Shakov Folklore Palekh Add to Collection

Yury Shakov (1937-1989) was a well-known Russian artist (living in the USA) who specialised in Palekh miniature paintings. His skill has been put to good use in this, his first venture into the field of playing-card design. The subject is Russian epic or folk tales, namely The Firebird, Tsar Saltan, Sadko, and Ruslan and Ludmila. There is enormous detail in each of the court cards, with extra decoration in two corners of every card. The Firebird appears as the central motif in the back design. The cards have gilt corners.

It is interesting to note that all four of these tales have been turned into either an opera or a ballet at some time.

In the double pack, the red-backed pack has one Joker and two extra cards with explanatory text, while the black-backed pack has two Jokers and one extra card including details about the artist. See the box

The Firebird playing cards designed by Yury Shakov. Printed by Heraclio Fournier, Vitoria, Spain, for Siamese Imports Co., Inc., Manhasset, NY, USA, 1984 The Firebird playing cards designed by Yury Shakov. Printed by Heraclio Fournier, Vitoria, Spain, for Siamese Imports Co., Inc., Manhasset, NY, USA, 1984 The Firebird playing cards designed by Yury Shakov. Printed by Heraclio Fournier, Vitoria, Spain, for Siamese Imports Co., Inc., Manhasset, NY, USA, 1984

Above: The Firebird playing cards designed by Yury Shakov. Printed by Heraclio Fournier, Vitoria, Spain, for Siamese Imports Co., Inc., Manhasset, NY, USA, 1984. 52 cards + 1 Joker + 2 extra cards, plus 52 cards + 2 Jokers + 1 extra card in a double plastic tray with a cardboard sleeve. Size: 57 x 88 mm. © 1984 Siamese Imports Co., Inc.

Yury Shakov also designed the Russian Tarot of St Petersburg – or rather most of it, as he very unfortunately died in 1989 before it had been finished. The pack (completed by another, unnamed artist) was later published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

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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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