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4:26pm on Sunday, 5th March, 2017:
I haven't added any new playing cards to my collection for a while, mainly because the ones I see on eBay that I like are all out of my price range. I did pick up these recently, though, because they're interesting.
So, this is the Paris pattern for playing cards, but it's not French (or at least not made for sale in France).
We can tell its age from the fact that the cards are missing indeces in the corners and there's no tax stamp on the Ace of Clubs: it's almost certainly from the 19th Century and before 1890. However, during that period the design of playing cards in France was heavily regulated: there were nine different designs, each one assigned to a specific region so the tax authorities could collect taxes from the right places. For this reason, the French Paris pattern cards from this period are very similar.
Here are some Knaves of Hearts from French decks of the same period, with the one from the above deck on the right:
The middle two are what these cards normally look like. They have the same colouring, with only some minor differences on the chest. It's a feature of French playing cards that the pictures all have names: this one is Lahire (named after a French commander known as La Hire who featured in the Hundred Years War). One of the cards has "Cercles" written underneath the name, which (I believe) means the cards are intended for use by middle-class men in their social clubs; I guess the modern equivalent would be something like "Casino". The V on the other central card means Valet, which is the French for Jack.
The card on the left doesn't have these features. Instead, it has "B. P. Grimaud", which is the name of one of the best-known playing card manufacturers in France at the time. It's clearly based on the standard design, but with some adjustments (see the hair and the hands). This particular card was produced for export from France to another country, where they liked their cards slightly larger (it's the same length as a modern card and only slightly narrower).
The card on the right is almost identical to the card on the left. The other cards from these decks are equally similar, except that only the ones on the right have the suits in the corners of their aces.
My best guess, then, is that the deck I bought is by Grimaud and probably aimed at the export market. As for whether it's older than the Grimaud on the right, I think the indeces on the aces would make it the more recent of the two (but not by much). As for a date, hmm, maybe 1875-1885?
I could be writing anything now, I don't think anyone is still reading...
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