Note 1 - This is a replacement posting with the same information as posted earlier today.
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PLAYING CARD EPHEMERA
Many playing card collectors also have a fascination for related collectibles, for example items associated with card games or gambling, items with playing card images or motifs, or the ephemera that is associated with playing cards. An attempt to list all known playing card related objects would fill many posts and is beyond the scope of this post. Suffice to say, we have seen collectibles with playing card motifs in glass and porcelain, wood, paper, metals, fabrics, ivory, celluloid, plastics, and almost every other material known to man.
One area of interest to many collectors is commonly referred to as “playing card ephemera”. The word ephemera likely means different thing to different readers, but for our purpose we will define it as “items made from paper products which either use playing card images in a significant way or are associated with decks of playing cards or playing card manufacturers”. We say paper products because ephemera, by definition, means something that was not made to last and that, in most instances, was expected to be discarded within a reasonably short time of its use.
Examples of ephemera using playing card images would include postcards, general advertising, fruit labels, trade cards, calendars, posters and store cards. Ephemera more directly related to playing card manufacturers and their products would include product advertising, wrappers, extra cards, letterheads and envelopes, billheads, packaging and display boxes, booklets, trade cards, catalogs and price lists, salesman’s samples, and playing card tax stamps.
Like collecting the cards themselves, collecting playing card ephemera provides almost endless variety. This special area has become, for many card collectors, one of significant interest and fascination. It provides one with much more insight into the makers, and the quality and beauty of the ephemera itself adds greatly to the collector’s interest. It is interesting that, amongst people who collect various types of paper ephemera, items printed by the playing card manufacturers, especially those from about 1870 to 1920, are in great demand because of the high quality of the printing and lithography used by these quality printers in promoting their own products.
Playing card ephemera was made to be discarded after its intended use was over. Most of it is even more fragile, and consequently needs more tender care and preservation, than playing cards themselves. Storage in appropriate archival materials is a must, if one is to preserve the item to the best of one’s ability, thus keeping it for others to enjoy in the future and, incidentally, preserving its value.
A few examples below:
Some sterling silver spoons with a playing card motif. It is surprising how difficult it is to find these.
There are literally thousands of postcards with playing card images, people playing cards, cheating at cards, casinos, etc. Something for all tastes!
This is a wrapper from a deck of cards made in New York in the early 1800s. Rare to find such ephemera without the deck!
We have seen hundreds of sheet music covers with playing card themes. This one displays rather large playing card images. They are 19th century with the one-way courts, square corners and no indices.
Finally, another category that is hard to find – an old envelope from a playing card company – in this case New York Consolidated Card Co. which contained a few sample cards.