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Playing Card Wrappers and Boxes

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Playing Card Wrappers and Boxes
« on: January 27, 2014, 03:35:08 PM »
 

52plusjoker

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This is the first posting under the heading Wrappers and Boxes. Not sure what content will be added over time, but I want to start with a brief discussion and one picture.

We are not quite sure when the first pack of cards was put into a protective casing, but we do know it was as early as the 1500's. The early hand drawn and colored cards were expensive - pieces of art that were made in very limited quantities. It seems reasonable to assume that they would have been placed in quite an elaborate box or wrapped carefully in fine paper.

After the invention of the printing press, the manufacture of playing cards became a trade and they were "mass produced" on small presses at the premises of the artisans. It is doubtful that these printed runs of cards were shipped in boxes. A paper wrapper was much easier and cheaper to print and from the mid-1500's on, wrappers were likely the norm until late in the 19th century.

Certainly, in America, all the early decks found with any packaging came in paper wrappers. The wrappers are very scarce as decks were always purchased to be played with, not as a collectible, and were presumably ripped off and discarded when the cards were first used. Gradually, we will show some mid-19th century wrappers, and below we picture the oldest American one we know of - earlier than any in the Library of Congress collection and probably dating to the first decade of the 19th century. It is interesting that the early makers branded their cards with names commonly used in the United Kingdom - for example Harry's; Henry the VIII's, and in this case, Highlanders. You can see it was printed from a woodblock on fairly rough paper. It did make the point that these cards were designed and made in the USA - just to make sure their customers were not deceived into thinking the cards were imported from England.

Stayed tuned as we develop this topic further after our return from a 10 day visit to South Carolina.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2014, 03:39:12 PM by 52plusjoker »
Tom Dawson
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Re: Playing Card Wrappers and Boxes
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2014, 12:52:59 AM »
 

Don Boyer

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That's a fine specimen - fantastic condition, considering that, as you said, these were generally torn off and thrown into the trash once opened.

Did early manufacturers use adhesives to keep the wrapper sealed in any way?  I don't even see any glue residue on that wrapper, though the fold creases are very clear, showing it was used to wrap a deck.  Or were they simply folded in such a way as to remain closed without adhesive, as if by some form of Western origami?
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Re: Playing Card Wrappers and Boxes
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2014, 05:15:54 PM »
 

52plusjoker

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That's a fine specimen - fantastic condition, considering that, as you said, these were generally torn off and thrown into the trash once opened.

Did early manufacturers use adhesives to keep the wrapper sealed in any way?  I don't even see any glue residue on that wrapper, though the fold creases are very clear, showing it was used to wrap a deck.  Or were they simply folded in such a way as to remain closed without adhesive, as if by some form of Western origami?
Origami I doubt!
this fine specimen may have been saved for some purpose from the factory - I.e. never wrapped around a deck. Later wrappers we've seen (1850-80) had seals, often the tax stamp. These started in 1862 - and will be another topic for the Source. Have also seen old ones with a touch of glue.
Tom Dawson
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Re: Playing Card Wrappers and Boxes
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2014, 05:14:39 PM »
 

52plusjoker

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There has been some discussion about USPC generic boxes - they had a generic picture of an early Russell & Morgan Ace but no brand name - in the Cellar of Fine Vintages. Pictured is a truly generic box from USPC. They used this No. 52 Playing Cards box for several brands - no company name and no brand name. The one pictured came with an early Congress deck and an extra card pasted on the back of the box [at the factory].
Tom Dawson
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Re: Playing Card Wrappers and Boxes
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2015, 07:59:35 PM »
 

ddhburns

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Okay, bonehead question from a total newbie: How do you guys open a pack (modern, brand-new deck)? Do you try to preserve the cellophane in any way? In cutting the tab, do you outline the "U" shape with a small, sharp knife, as I've seen on YouTube? Quite a few of mine have numbered seals; I'm guessing it's okay to cut them so long as the numbers are preserved?

I'm spending more and more on decks (like the 52PlusJoker deck) which I'm dying to open and look at - but I'm afraid of doing something stupid and decreasing the collector value of them. Is a completely unopened deck any "more collectible?" I'm gonna have to pass this all on to SOMEONE one of these years; might as well keep it as "collectible" as possible... Thanks for your advice!
 

Re: Playing Card Wrappers and Boxes
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2015, 01:27:37 AM »
 

Don Boyer

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Okay, bonehead question from a total newbie: How do you guys open a pack (modern, brand-new deck)? Do you try to preserve the cellophane in any way? In cutting the tab, do you outline the "U" shape with a small, sharp knife, as I've seen on YouTube? Quite a few of mine have numbered seals; I'm guessing it's okay to cut them so long as the numbers are preserved?

I'm spending more and more on decks (like the 52PlusJoker deck) which I'm dying to open and look at - but I'm afraid of doing something stupid and decreasing the collector value of them. Is a completely unopened deck any "more collectible?" I'm gonna have to pass this all on to SOMEONE one of these years; might as well keep it as "collectible" as possible... Thanks for your advice!

First of all, in the modern custom deck world, just as in the vintage deck world, sealed and unopened decks tend to get a premium.

Having said that, just as an opened deck (even one missing the box and a few cards!) can have some value to it.

Different people use different methods for opening their decks.  Personally, I remove the cellophane completely (unless the tuck box has a cut-out in it, in which case I leave the bottom intact), then use my thumbnail to cut the seal along the curve of the paper under the sticker.  Some people talk about the messy sticker glue or wanting to remove the stickers - that's up to one's tastes.  At one time, it was even popular for decks to ship without any seal at all, just the cellophane wrapper - that didn't change until custom-designed seals became more common.

Many collectors, myself included, have a policy of buying "two of each" - one for the collection, one to crack open and enjoy.  It makes deciding whether or not to open a lot simpler.  It's getting more difficult to continue the practice for some, though, because of the increasing price of a custom deck and projects that release multiple varieties of decks.  It's making more collectors become more picky about what they buy even as more buyers are entering the marketplace.

If the price points push too high too fast, though, this hobby could take the same hit as comic books and sports cards/memorabilia before them - demand drastically drops and dealers/designers are stuck with a lot of decks they can't sell.  Those markets have yet to fully recover, and in the case of comic books, it may NEVER recover as print is being supplanted by digital downloads.

But back to my point (I tend to wander!).  It's a matter of one's preferences, whether and how to open, but buying in pairs makes the decision easier to make.  It's simply a matter of how many pairs you can afford.
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Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. Mark Twain