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4:20pm on Monday, 20th August, 2012:

More Old Cards


Yes, it's time to bore you with photos of old playing cards again.

I bought this pack a couple of weeks ago:

It's patience-sized, a little worn but in reasonably good condition considering its age. What is its age, though?

Well, according to the jack of clubs:

it was made by the :

Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkarten Fabriken A.G., or VSS. This means it can't date from before 1872 as that's when VSS was formed.

As VSS was a German manufacturer, there's a tax stamp on the Ace of Hearts:

This is the stamp used in Stralsund from 1879 to 1888. This makes the pack a contemporary of the one I told you about in May that you've already purged from your memory. The printing quality isn't as good as Dondorf's was in the same era, but it's better than the May pack's. The artwork is also more accomplished. The cards have round corners with index numbers in them; from this, I'd have to say that the pack I showed in May is probably older than I thought, perhaps more like 1875 than 1885.

That's not the whole story, though. The variation of the Berlin Pattern used for the face cards is attributed to Berliner Spielkartenfabrik Eduard Büttner, which used it from 1900 until 1907 (when the company was bought by VSS). This is at minimum a good 12 years after the stamp on the Ace of Hearts was superseded. The World Web Playing Cards Museum has an entry for this pack (which it identifies as patience deck number 184) that raises a query about it as it also has a tax stamp older than it "should" have. Although some stamps were used a little longer than they were supposed to be, VSS didn't reprint the deck until 1928 — no way could the old stamp still be in use then.

I think it's more likely that the pattern used was a VSS or other Stralsund design that Büttner picked up.

Gawd, this is almost as bad as tracking down my unco-operative ancestors in genealogy...

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).