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12:18pm on Sunday, 13th March, 2011:

Jack of Clubs #1


In 1974, when I was 14, I went on a school trip to Heidelburg in Germany. There, I bought a pack of German playing cards. These were the first cards I ever bought as an object of beauty, rather than as a functional object used for playing card games. I now know that they are Berliner Bild ("Berlin Pattern") in their look, which is the modern standard for German decks that use French-style suits; however, at the time I just liked their appearance. They had D for the queen and B for the jack, too! Here's the packaging:

It's actually a card, but because the deck came in a plastic container it shows through so acts as what would normally be the box art.

I recently bought some cards off eBay, which arrived while I was in the USA. They're an incomplete set, which I knew at the time I bought them (and meant I got them cheap), but I was quite keen to get them. Here's the Jack of Clubs, alongside the same card from my 1974 pack:

As you can see, it's the same pattern. There are minor differences (eg. the belt buckle) and the modern version has the manufacturer's name on it, but it's pretty obvious they're the same basic design.

The same applies to the rest of the pack (that I have of it). The style used for diamonds is different, mind you:

As for when my partial deck was manufactured, and by whom, I don't know. It has round corners with indeces and comes with a joker, so that would make it 1870 or so at the earliest (although no way is it that old); indeed, it has four indeces (so left-handed people can use it), which wasn't a common early feature of index-bearing cards. Having looked at the other cards, their minor differences from the standard mean it was probably manufactured by F X Schmid. I don't know when F X Schmid manufactured cards, though, so that doesn't help date them. At a guess, I'd say they were from the 1920s.

I didn't buy them because of how old they are or who made them, though; I bought them because they looked like the very first pack of cards I bought simply to own.

Ah, nostalgia...

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).