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4:43pm on Wednesday, 14th February, 2018:



Every year, I have a class for my second-year students that involves the use of playing cards. Because of this, I have a stash of playing cards in my office, which I bring out to give to the students. I bought them as a bulk lot off the Internet (some kind of closing-down stock sale), so they're not exactly standard. There are decks for crop circles, the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, the 1999 Cricket World Cup, the 1999 Arsenal football team, Saints Row 2, the movie Skyfall, and several others.

One year, one of my students was looking through them all and I asked if she was interested in playing cards. She said she collected them. I let her have as many of the decks as she wanted, and asked her how old her oldest deck was. It was something like 1984. I was appalled that she didn't have anything older, and said I'd give her a Dondorf deck from the early 1920s that I had a duplicate of in my collection.

I brought the deck to work, but it occurred to me that I should ask if it was OK for me to give something to a student or if it was against regulations. The Head of Department decided that while it's not against the regulations, I would be opening myself up to charges of favouritism and possibly sexual harrassment if I gave the student the cards. If she'd been male I may have got away with it (it's weird how rules designed to help women somehow work against them), but as the Head of Department was herself female I was in no position to argue. I asked if I could give the student the cards after she'd graduated, and was told that yes, this would be acceptable. I therefore held onto the cards until the student graduated.

Well, she didn't graduate. She blew her exams and I never saw her again after them. However, I kept the cards in my office and announced that I would give them to the first of my future students whom I discovered collected playing cards. That way, there could be no possible accusations of favouritism, because I had no advance warning of whom would receive the cards.

Every year since then, when I've given out the packs of crop circle cards and so on, I've asked if anyone there collected playing cards. Every year since then, no-one has. Most students don't possess playing cards until I give them a deck, and they're as bemused that anyone would collect them as I am that people still collect Beanie Babies.

This year, though, it was different. This year, one of the students said yes, he did collect playing cards.

I duly asked him to come to my office and presented him with one Dondorf Whist Number 160 pack with a 1923-1929 tax stamp (no tax value as they left it off due to hyper-inflation) and no box. Next week, I'll give him another Dondorf deck and a Muller deck that are duplicates of ones I already have. When he got up this morning, the oldest cards in his collection were from 1990. It'll be more like 1890 with the cards I'll be giving him next Tuesday.

Another youth corrupted! Muahahaha!

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Copyright © 2018 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).