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Published November 21, 2019 Updated June 06, 2022

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair No.41 Playing Cards by the United States Playing Card Co, 1895. All the number cards have been imaginatively transformed.

1895 USA Heraclio Fournier PlayingCardDecks.com United States Playing Card Co. Azured Ox Transformation Add to Collection
U.S. Playing  Card Company letterhead, image courtesy Dean Canter

“Vanity Fair” Transformation Playing Cards published by the United States Playing Card Company, 1895, 53 cards in box. All the number cards have been imaginatively transformed and the double-ended court cards have been modified into comical images. The king of spades smokes a pipe, the queen holds a spoon, and the jack holds a shovel. The ace of spades depicts Uncle Sam and Miss Liberty in full colour and reads "Vanity Fair No. 41, copyrighted 1895 by The United States Playing Card Company, Cincinnati, U.S.A." The Joker is a winged devil with a pitchfork. The back design is a centre medallion with four Asian faces wearing caps, all within a snowflake pattern, and comical faces appear in the four corners, printed in green.

Vanity Fair Transformation Playing Cards, 1890

Above: “Vanity Fair” Transformation Playing Cards published by the United States Playing Card Company, 1895. Several different backs and box designs are known - click image to see more.

Reproduction by Fournier in 1998

The Vanity Fair deck was reproduced by Fournier in 1998. It is exactly the same as the original except that it is bridge size. The original deck is poker size. At the time, USPC owned a controlling interest in Fournier.

Reproduction Vanity Fair Transformation Playing Cards Reproduction Vanity Fair Transformation Playing Cards

Above: front and back of double boxed set of reproduction Vanity Fair Transformation cards published by Naipes Fourner, 1998. Even though the cards are bridge size, the pictures are still the same size as the originals. I would think that the original plates were used to produce this repro. Image courtesy Rod Starling.

Reproduction by Playingcarddecks.com, 2019

Reviewed by Matt Probert.

Vanity No 41 Playing Cards (reproduction based on the "Vanity Fair No 41" transformation deck by US Playing Card Co., 1895), produced by Will Roya, illustrated by Azured Ox, printed by USPCC in two colours: red and green, limited edition of 2000 packs each colour.

Like the 19th century originals, the reproduction pack is cut to poker width. In addition, the reproduction packs includes an additional joker where the devil is wearing green, but otherwise identical to the other joker; a double-back card and an alternative nine-of-diamonds to further expand the scope for use by card magicians.

Vanity No 41 Transformation Playing Cards manufactured by USPCC, 2019 Vanity No 41 Transformation Playing Cards manufactured by USPCC, 2019

Above: Vanity No 41 Transformation Playing Cards produced by card magician Will Roya, illustrated by Azured Ox, manufactured by USPCC, 2019 in two colours: red and green (each with a different back design copied from originals) in a limited edition of 2000 packs of each colour. The red pack has the hobgoblin design as used in the 1998 reproduction pack published by Fournier, only printed in brown; while the green pack is printed with the "clown" back.

The designs themselves have been reproduced from originals, though some minor differences occur. Most obviously in the nine-of-clubs where the original card design has the legs trimmed off the boy in the top left corner of the card, the reproduction pack depicts the whole boy. To my mind a better image than the original pack. Less obviously, the spacing in the top left corner of the six-of-hearts between the index and the toad is clearer in the reproduction pack. The original is rather cramped, with the heart suit indicator almost touching the toad’s arm. The reproduction pack has the main image better located within a more centralised position. Other cards show slight variations to the original images, but in no way detract from the comic nature or general essence of the originals.

Vanity No 41 Transformation Playing Cards manufactured by USPCC, 2019

Each pack is supplied in a colour coordinated box - either red or green, corresponding to the colour of the backs of the cards inside, and printed with gold ink and sealed with an imitation tax stamp (of a design used between 1894 and 1896) and wrapped in cellophane.

The cards are produced on Bicycle playing card board, in poker width, with the same embossing and finish to provide the finish that is preferred by card magicians, one of the key target audiences for this pack. As a magic theatre prop these cards excel. For collectors the pack offers an opportunity to own the art work of the popular USPCC Vanity Fair pack without having to pay the earth trying to source a rare original. Packs are sold either as a pair comprising one pack of each colour; individually or as an uncut sheet. To prevent the cards being passed off as originals the ace of spades in the reproduction pack has different wording to the original. The title has been reduced to “Vanity”, the word “Fair” having been dropped, and the copyright information at the base of the card has replaced “Cincinnati, USA” with a reproduction notice thus: “2019 REPRODUCTION BY PLAYINGCARDDECKS.COM & AZURED OX”.

Vanity No 41 Transformation Playing Cards manufactured by USPCC, 2019
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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


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