The Curator's Corner

The Curator's Corner provides a home for information and articles about the cards in the WCMPC Collection to be shared with Members, collectors and other interested members of the public.
Current items are:-

Boer War Cards.
A Unique  WWI  item.
A Much Travelled Pack.
Take a Second Look!
From Poplar to N.Z.
1893 Pack Acquired
The Company's Curator.

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Boer War Cards.

Possibly the earliest cards known to have been printed in South Africa, this rare pack was recently purchased at auction (April 2018) and added to the collection. Unusually, the printer’s name appears on the reverse of every card together with the date. The full inscription reads “Printed by H.M. Guest, Klerksdorp, Trans-vaal, Feb., 1901, during Anglo-Boer War”. Simple yet striking images of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra appear on all the Kings and Queens, respectively. The Joker is suitably macabre for wartime – a skull and crossbones with the text “No Joker”. All in all, a remarkable early 20th century pack.

Click the image for an enlarged view.

A Unique  WWI  item.

Midway through the commemorations marking the centenary of World War 1, it seems appropriate to highlight a pack acquired by the Company which takes as its subject the Flags of the First World War Nations. Featured on every card are one or more flags of nations which took part in the Great War accompanied by a significant date (or dates). The back design shows two versions of the US flag.

One of the additional cards reminds us that many smaller nations joined the war effort relatively late on in the conflict.

It also helps us to date the pack, i.e., 1918 or shortly after.

The pack is entirely handmade – hand-drawn and hand-coloured. The name of the creator of the pack is unknown but the pack was considered to be of sufficient artistic merit and interest to be added to the collection.

Click the images for an enlarged view.

A Much Travelled Pack.

Why should a German pack with a Mozambique tax stamp have a place in the Company’s collection? The answer is to be found on the tuck box where the name of the following business appears – B. Rigold & Bergmann, London.

The pack itself is known as the “Four Continents” and was produced by B. Dondorf of Frankfurt between 1880 and 1906.

Rigold & Bergmann were not Dondorf’s official agents in the U.K.; rather they were forwarding agents with offices in Old Broad Street, London EC. They distributed goods (including porcelain and postcards) for German companies and had offices in Bombay and Singapore. One can speculate, therefore, that this pack started life in Frankfurt, then transited through London on its way to Bombay from where it would have been forwarded to the Portuguese colony of Mozambique (there were strong trading links between India and Mozambique at this time).In Mozambique, the (rare) Quelimane tax stamp (seen here on the 4 of Diamonds) would have been applied. Somehow the pack found its way back to Lisbon where it was purchased for the WCMPC collection. All in all, a much-travelled pack!

Click the images for an enlarged view.

Take a second look!

Sometimes, when looking at two apparently identical packs of playing cards, one gets a surprise! This happened recently during a cataloguing session at the London Metropolitan Archives.

The aces shown here are ostensibly from the same pack – the London 2012 Sports pack. The packs are housed in identical tuck boxes. However, on close inspection you will see that the first ace has a traditional style of lettering in the four corners while the second uses the modern, angular, jagged style (called 2012Headline) which was the official typeface of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Why were two different typefaces used? Was the first one a mistake or a hasty reprint? Any ideas? The Curator would love to hear from you if you know the answer!

Click the images for an enlarged view.

From Poplar to N.Z.

Every pack tells a story. The four cards shown here come from a pack issued in 1929 to mark the 50th anniversary of the firm of T.J. Edmonds Ltd of Christchurch, New Zealand. Thomas John Edmonds (1858-1932) was born in Poplar, emigrating to N.Z. in 1879. He established a grocery business but soon started to specialise in the production of baking powder, using the slogan “SURE TO RISE”. The famous slogan and the sunray trademark are still in use today! Edmonds left his mark on his adopted city, funding the construction of many of its most famous landmarks. Sadly, a number of these were destroyed in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

From a playing-card point of view, what makes this pack interesting is the Maori totem design on the Ace of Spades – unknown other than on this item.

The pack itself was produced a long way from N.Z. – by the Universal Playing Card Co. of Leeds.

Click the image for an enlarged view.

1893  Pack  Acquired (Pink)

An exciting recent addition to the Company’s collection of playing cards has come in the form of an Installation pack from 1893. Although it was listed in John Berry’s catalogue the Company did not previously own the version of this pack with a pink border. The pack was purchased privately.

Apart from the border colour, the 1893 pack is unusual for two reasons. First, the portrait of the Master, James Edgell, appears on the back of the cards. Second, the pack has non-standard faces, using court card and ace designs from Goodall’s “Historic” pack.

So, special face designs were to be found on Company packs as long ago as the 1890s!

Click the image for an enlarged view.

The Company's Collection Curator

Not all members may be aware that we have a large collection of cards and papers relating to playing cards over the centuries and currently stored at the London Metropolitan Archive.

The Curator, P/M Roddy Somerville, undertakes the following responsibilities on behalf of the Playing Card Committee and the Company:-

1) Deciding on additions to the collection and ensuring that these are properly recorded.

2) Setting up a cataloguing system, compatible with the systems already in use and conforming as far as possible with current international standards.

3) Identifying duplicates which may be sold (on occasions such as the Craft Evening) to raise funds for further development of the collection.

4) Maintenance and storage at the LMA.

5) Making the collection available to a wider audience – not just Company members but also members of the public, playing card collectors and historians, students of art, design and social history, etc.

6) Establishing and keeping up links with other museums and collections, arranging loans of items from the collection for temporary exhibitions at home and abroad.

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Latest News

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Mansion House Banquet,6th December 2018, photographs now available to order.


"Echoes Across the Century"

Click the image above for more information and a video on the "Echoes" project in which WCMPC have participated.

Interlivery Bridge Competition Monday 4th March 2019


See the Makers of Playing Cards Charity Trust Brochure , Information and latest News

MPCC Brochure
MPCC Information

Next Livery Dinners
Tues. 2nd April 2019 - Livery Dinner with Guests at the Grocers' Hall.
The date of this year's Banquet at the Mansion House is Thursday 5th December 2019
Please save the dates.

Court Assistant Dr.Paul Bostock has been commissioned by Bridge Magazine to write monthly articles on Playing Cards.
The articles, including  June2018, can be

viewed here

P/M Roddy Somerville has an update to  bring  another interesting item about unusual packs from the Company's Playing Card Collection

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(Including the Burn's Night Supper Photographs)

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Master's Programme for 2018 - 2019
The Master's calendar card for the programme of events for the year can now be downloaded here.

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