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Interesting KEM / Brown & Bigelow deck

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Interesting KEM / Brown & Bigelow deck
« on: June 12, 2015, 03:38:56 PM »
 

Chuqii

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Came across this deck on ebay.  I'd never seen the back before, so I scooped it up.  Also, I'd never seen a KEM deck with Brown & Bigelow branding on it.

By the partial tax stamp, I place it between 1940 and 1964, but after that things get fuzzy.  The "Keep Your Kem Cards CLEAN" card mirrors the text and format of the earliest KEM Playing Cards, Inc. decks from 1935-1937, but they changed the format a bit and squeezed in Brown & Bigelow Remembrance Advertising on the bottom.  Also uses the "KEM Playing Cards, Inc." company name in the copyright, but that name was not in use after 1937.  I am sorely tempted to open it up and check the Ace of Spades.

Anyone have any theories about this deck and how KEM and Brown & Bigelow would have been working together? 
« Last Edit: June 12, 2015, 03:45:55 PM by Chuqii »
 

Re: Interesting KEM / Brown & Bigelow deck
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2015, 03:20:13 AM »
 

Don Boyer

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The bit about "remembrance advertising" might be the clue.  They could have produced the deck for B&B, which was themselves advertising their services for making advertising-related products - including playing cards.

They're probably 1937 or earlier, just based on the statement you made about the company being listed as "KEM Playing Cards, Inc." on the extra card.  Companies, when they change or even slightly alter names, generally try to keep it uniform across all platforms to avoid customer confusion.
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Re: Interesting KEM / Brown & Bigelow deck
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2015, 05:37:35 PM »
 

Chuqii

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Curiosity got the better of me, so I went ahead and opened the deck.  Given that the cards were a bit out of order, I'm guessing I was not the first to open it.

The Ace was no help, since it has no date, but it is the first KEM Ace i've seen with Brown & Bigelow stamped on it.  The deck also has considerable red ink transfer and bleed - you can see how the red ink bled through on the King of Spades. 

Overall, I think Don pegged it.  I was thinking late 40s, early 50s, but I've only seen that red ink bleed in the earliest decks.  Nice work, Don.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2015, 10:27:27 AM by Chuqii »
 

Re: Interesting KEM / Brown & Bigelow deck
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2015, 02:04:54 PM »
 

Don Boyer

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Overall, I think Don pegged it.  I was thinking late 40s, early 50s, but I've only seen that red ink bleed in the earliest decks.  Nice work, Don.

Well, my thoughts were based on the information you provided.  You deserve the credit as well!
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Re: Interesting KEM / Brown & Bigelow deck
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2017, 03:26:09 PM »
 

Chuqii

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So this is an interesting KEM deck.  I'd place it around 1937 because it has the 10 cent tax stamp, the 2nd ever KEM ace of spades, KEM Playing Cards, Inc. (c1936), but the Thrilling Stoty of KEM Cards booklet has KEM Cards Sales Corp. on the back side.  More intriguing, this is my second KEM deck from around this time with a Brown & Bigelow tax stamp.  So now I'm wondering if all the early KEM decks were made by B & B and when did KEM Cards get its own tax stamp?
« Last Edit: August 01, 2017, 03:27:12 PM by Chuqii »
 

Re: Interesting KEM / Brown & Bigelow deck
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2017, 04:07:14 AM »
 

Don Boyer

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So this is an interesting KEM deck.  I'd place it around 1937 because it has the 10 cent tax stamp, the 2nd ever KEM ace of spades, KEM Playing Cards, Inc. (c1936), but the Thrilling Stoty of KEM Cards booklet has KEM Cards Sales Corp. on the back side.  More intriguing, this is my second KEM deck from around this time with a Brown & Bigelow tax stamp.  So now I'm wondering if all the early KEM decks were made by B & B and when did KEM Cards get its own tax stamp?

As far as I know (and admittedly, that's not very far!), B&B never owned Kem.  In the company history literature, I've always seen them write that they were independently owned until the USPC sale a handful of years ago.  They might have worked with B&B on some deck projects, perhaps?  I really can't say with certainty.  B&B has been headquartered in St. Paul, MN, since their founding in 1896 while KEM's old pre-USPC HQ was in Poughkeepsie, NY.  B&B to this day is known for making an assortment of promotional and advertising materials like calendars and the like - and at one time in history, playing cards.  They even make uniforms, according to their website.  I suspect it was just that they worked with B&B and made plastic cards for them, whereas when B&B was making their own, they worked only in paper.

But hey - I could be completely wrong.  This is equal parts casual research and educated guesswork.
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Re: Interesting KEM / Brown & Bigelow deck
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2017, 11:15:52 AM »
 

Chuqii

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Agreed that B&B never owned KEM.  My guess is the same as yours: KEM partnered with B&B in the early years to work out the process for printing plastic playing cards and printing the decks, maybe until KEM could get its own operations up and running. Looks like Poughkeepsie manufacturing began in the late 1940s, and article mentions manufacturing in New York City prior to that.  I wonder when the New York City operations started? 
http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/local/2016/06/21/dateline-local-history-kem-cards/86195284/ 

update:  Poughkeepsie Journal to the rescue.  KEM did partner with B&B and early cards were made in St. Paul.  See article below about KEM printing history.  Weird that they left out Ely Culbertson from the origin story.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2017, 01:36:25 PM by Chuqii »
 

Re: Interesting KEM / Brown & Bigelow deck
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2017, 09:09:53 PM »
 

andrew daugherty

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The company's connection with Western Publishing would explain why Kem has always used the Western (Whitman) face cards and indices. Excellent articles that tell us a lot.
 

Re: Interesting KEM / Brown & Bigelow deck
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2017, 06:54:42 PM »
 

Chuqii

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I never realized that KEM used Western courts.  Thanks for the info.