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Collecting Playing Cards

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Collecting Playing Cards
« on: January 08, 2014, 09:01:54 AM »


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Playing cards have been known since at least the early 1300s, and it is a safe wager that almost since that time there have been people who were fascinated enough by the card images, artistry and folklore surrounding the cards to collect them. Certainly by the 17th century there were collections housed in museums and we can speculate that individual collections abounded as well. It is not the place of this comment to describe the many fine collections that have been accumulated in museums and private hands over the centuries, but is noteworthy that there now seem to be more collectors of old and unusual playing cards than ever before, and a growing number of people are building collections of modern decks, especially with new designs and finishes.

Although basically meant for playing games, cards have been used for many other purposes. Their use as an advertising media has grown steadily. They have been used for Fortune Telling, by charlatans, for centuries. During World War II, they were used to instruct and help teach Aircraft recognition. Decks have been designed to aid the traveler in communicating in foreign languages. Legends are told of their use as a prayer book and an almanac.

Collectors, whether casual or serious, fall into several categories. Firstly, there are those who collect complete decks of cards and those whose primary interest rests in collecting single examples of playing cards, whether for a court card, Joker or back interest. Then there are those who collect playing cards related to another main interest, for example Coca Cola whose advertising decks are highly desired by Coke collectors, or gambling paraphernalia where American collectors like to add Faro or Steamboat decks to their displays.

Within the deck collectors group there are many different divisions. For example we have collectors who collect decks from a certain country, or countries. Those who only add non-standard designs to their collections are another group. We have people who collect only certain categories like decks that advertise products. Then there are those who collect only old and antique cards. And recently we have seen a large number of collectors on the search for new designs, which has spawned an amazing number of designers some great, some good and some, well not so good! The list goes on, and on, and on.

Regardless of what you collect, there is something out there for you. The trick is finding it! For the collectors of antique and vintage decks, one has to look to antique shops and shows, auctions, eBay, trading with fellow collectors, conventions of playing card clubs and societies, etc. For those with an interest in new designs, the internet and trading with fellow enthusiasts seem to be the main marketplaces.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2014, 10:55:50 AM by 52plusjoker »
Tom Dawson
52 Plus Joker Playing Card Collectors Club

Re: Collecting Playing Cards
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2014, 11:20:30 PM »

Don Boyer

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Let's also not forget a rather powerful block of deck collectors, in terms of how they're steering a segment of the modern deck design market - many collectors, particularly of modern decks, will specialized exclusively in cards made by USPC, and within that group is a subset who will only collect decks with the Bicycle brand name.  Many a beginning deck designer brand their decks as Bicycle in an effort to help insure marketplace success, particularly in the marketplace known as Kickstarter.  It's been said with some degree of accuracy that there were some very awful deck designs out there that only became successes because of the fact that they made the deck with the Bicycle brand on it, "forcing" the more obsessive Bicycle collectors to purchase it regardless of design quality.

Ellusionist, arguably the starter of the modern custom playing card deck, created all of their early decks (including many gaffed decks, gaff cards and a few gimmicks) in variations of either the Bicycle Rider Back design, the Tally Ho Original Circle Back or the Tally Ho Original Fan Back.  It wasn't until the release of the Arcane deck that they set aside the need for the Bicycle brand, having already established themselves as deck makers of note in the collecting community with a large-enough base audience to target.
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