JOKER OF THE MONTH

 

*** 2011 ***

JANUARY 2011

This time the general collectors fair in Utrecht brought us some single jokers again and there were some good ones among them too, such as 2 jokers by Elaine Lewis. But we have also been following the joker offer on Ebay this month. There were a good number of antique American jokers on offer, but we can't afford the prices that they made.

But we found one that we could afford too and it comes from an advertising deck for the playing card manufacturer himself. So it's not a surprise to find the name of the manufacturer on the joker: Leonard Biermans from Turnhout (Belgium). The advertising slogan "La Carte des Rois, Roi de la Carte" (The Card of Kings, the King of the Card) was used in the 1960's.

The history of the printing company goes back to the 19th century, but in 1971 the company was one of the investors in a new company, that would make world fame: Carta Mundi. For that the playing cards division of Biermans was merged with those of Van Genechten and Brépols. Nowadays the Carta Mundi company has taken over many traditional playing card manufacturers and has become a world leader in the making of playing cards.

FEBRUARY 2011

There was a curiosities market and the monthly flea market in Utrecht. Both brought us a few new decks, but nothing spectacular. Due to Miriam's medical condition we haven't been able to keep up with the auction sites for a few weeks and spent many hours in emergency rooms and waiting rooms for the neurologist, the radiologist or the laboratory. Still this month our best joker came from the Dutch auction site.

And it's one that you won't see very often. It's a modern designed joker from the "Gothic Card Deck", which was a gift for new members of the German "Gothic Magazine for Underground Culture" in 2000. The deck was designed by a young Dutch artist, Marcel de Jong. Although it was about ten years ago, he was still able to give us further information about this edition. There were only 500 decks printed by a small printshop from Sigmaringen, Germany. Although there were plans to make a box too, but as that turned out to be too expensive for the publisher the deck came in a simple plastic box. The deck was printed on card that is a fraction thicker than usual and it has square corners. The deck consists of 52 cards, 2 extra cards and 2 jokers. So there was a choice to be made and as we have a soft spot for skeletons on jokers, we've chosen this one. Due to the small number of the edition it's a hard to find deck and the jokers are equally scarce nowadays, so we're happy to share this one with you here.

MARCH 2011

Besides the usual flea market, there was the Collectors Bourse, two weeks later at that same location, the Veemarkthallen in Utrecht. This complex will be torn down later this year, so both events will have to find an other location. We had planned to attend the Collectors Bourse and had booked a stall there, but unfortunately at the last moment Miriam's health didn't allow her to attend the event and Joop didn't want to man the stall by himself all day. But he couldn't resist going there for a couple of hours on Friday and Saturday. It didn't bring anything spectacular, but it was nice talking to the other playing card collectors there.

Our Joker of the Month however didn't come from these local events, nor from an auction site, although Ebay deserves some credit here, as we first spotted the complete deck there. But we ordered the deck directly from the artist, Chris Byrd. He had designed a non-standard deck and published it as "Byrd Playing Cards" in 2010. The deck was printed in the US by Gemaco and consists of 52 cards and 2 jokers. The red version has the same design, but with the use of red instead of blue. The design suggest motion and this feature can be found on some of the courts too. There were not that many jokers to choose from, so this one didn't really have any serious competition. Enjoy!

APRIL 2011

There were two events this month which were visited. Of course the main event was the largest collectors bourse in the Netherlands, as usual in the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht. The usual flea market in Utrecht coincided with the meeting of the Dutch collectors in Nieuwerbrug and as the latter has a far better and more certain offer of playing cards, Joop went and he even manned a stall there. Miriam had just returned home from hospital, so she didn't come along.

The Jaarbeurs wasn't disappointing, although we could only add two new decks to our collection. Of course the Dutch meeting brought us some more decks to add and this time Joop also brought back John Berry's "Playing Cards of the World", a highly informative book about the Guildhall playing cards collection.

Although the Dutch events brought us a good number of jokers, we had won a few older American advertising jokers on Ebay too and we chose one of those as Joker of the Month this time. The joker came from an advertising deck for the Westinghouse Electric company. There was a bridge scorecard, dated 1926, with the deck. We were caught by the mysterious man in 19th century dress (Mr. Edison?), apparently conducting some sort of electrical experiment that lights up the town in the background. The whole scene was intriguing enough to share it with you here.

MAY 2011

This month's joker came from Ebay. Although there were several outdoor flea markets and a collectors meeting in the National Playing Cards Museum in Turnhout, Belgium, these didn't bring many new jokers. Miriam received a stack of jokers as a birthday present from an elderly lady with whom she has been swapping jokers for many years and to our surprise most of them were new for us. But still we chose this souvenir joker from c1930.

It comes from a deck that was printed in New Zealand by J. Dickinson & Co Ltd. and published there as "Souvenir Playing cards". The deck came with a small booklet about the history of New Zealand and a list with short descriptions of the 54 views, that are presented on the cards. There's only one joker. An extra card is described as "54th card".

Ever since we found an old Souvenir deck of Peru, we have chosen to only buy souvenir decks from this era, that are not American or Canadian. We have a number of those, but there are so many different ones. So we thought it would be nice to focus on souvenir decks from other countries now. We know that there's one from South Africa, as we were outbid on it on Ebay. But there must be others too. So if any of our visitors has a souvenir deck in this style from anywhere in the world, except for the US and Canada, and would like to sell it, then maybe some day there's going to be another joker like this as Joker of the Month.

JUNE 2011

Our joker for this month comes from a deck that was published earlier this year by the British artist Dominic Murphy as "Alice in Wonderland". We had a good deal of jokers to choose from, but we immediately liked the style and technique of this artist so much that we acquired two of his decks. The other deck is titled "Surreal" and we show that deck in full in the "Art & Cards" xpo. Be sure to visit it!

Although the deck is called "Alice in Wonderland", not all the card designs are inspired by that book. There are also images based on "Through the Looking Glass", an other book by the same author, Lewis Carroll. This joker was inspired by a scene from that book.

There's one oddity though. The "o" in one of the words "joker" shows a black square with an undecipherable pattern of white lines. We were not sure if this was a printing flaw or if it has some special meaning. so we've asked Dominic about it and he answered: "the O in the joker is the printer's signature and means "print studio" in Chinese, but it is also very similar to my monogram so it works well. It is on all the cards I have produced".

For now.......ENJOY the cute Tweedle Twins playing hop-over.

JULY 2011

Because July was a rainy month, we visited only a few outdoor markets and they didn't bring anything spectacular. So this month our joker came to us through the internet. No, this time not from Ebay or any other auction site!

In May a Russian collector approached us with a question for an exchange of decks from our sales offer on this site. It took a lot of emails to and fro and scans to choose from, but in the end we got to an agreement. The package from Moscow arrived this month and there were some nice decks with jokers. But one deck stood out, not only by its shape, but also by the lovely illustrations.

So this month a Russian joker. It was one of the 4 jokers, that came with a deck, that was published by Alexander Lutkovsky from Novosibirsk as "Matrioshka" in 2007. The cards are not only shaped like a matryshka doll, also known as babushka's, but each card has a different illustration. The artist is Ecaterina Stupakova and she has used a nice Russian folk style for her illustrations.

In the mean time another Russian collector has approached us with a similar request and maybe that deal will lead to another package from Russia. If it arrives in August, there might be another Russian joker as Joker of the Month for August too.

AUGUST 2011

August wasn't any better than July, not in weather, not in markets and not in finds. And the expected package from Russia didn't arrive in time for this update either. So we were lucky that our friend Clarence Peterson had put up a few decks for auction as a "summer sale" and that we managed to buy some of them. As the only other decent deck is already shown as "Deck of the Month", the "Joker of the Month" had to come from one of these decks.

We already have the W-deck and the B-deck in our collection and were surprised to find that a K-deck had been published too. Is this abacadabra to you? We'll explain.......
In the days that Tony Blair was still in control of the UK, two decks appeared on the market. One deck was called the W-deck, because it mocked George W. Bush and the B-deck was aimed at Tony Blair. Both decks had 52 different cards, in which the portraits of Bush and Blair were blended into old photo's, posters or paintings in a comical way.
In 2004 John Kerry was the Democratic nominee in the presidential campaign and apparently considered worthy of a special K-deck too. It was made in China, but published in the US. And as John Kerry didn't win the election, maybe some Republicans saw him as the joker at that time. Well, seven years later he's here for all of us to see as.....
"Joker of the Month".

SEPTEMBER 2011

From 2 - 4 September the annual IPCS Convention was held in Malmö, Sweden. Joop spent 2 days in Copenhagen first, as a sort of vacation. Of course he came back with some decks, but as there were no joker collectors among the attending IPCS members, he didn't bring home any single jokers.

On Sunday there was an excursion to the Offason plant. This Swedish manufacturer opened up the production line for playing cards especially for the IPCS group (see "Events") and afterwards treated us to a very nice lunch buffet. So we contemplated to show you one of their jokers here as a way of thanking them for this.

But friends of us had visited the annual Moules & Frites festival in Lille, which coincided with the IPCS convention this year, and had found a deck that was incomplete, but had both jokers. As the deck was of no value to them, they gave it to Miriam as a present, for the jokers. Gifts like this are always much appreciated here, even more than a lovely Swedish Sunday afternoon, so we decided to thank them by giving this joker a spot here.
The joker comes from a French deck that was illustrated by the well-known James Hodges. It was printed by Grimaud and published by Laboratoires Delalande, a pharmaceutical company, in 1969.

OCTOBER 2011

There was a tremendous amount of jokers to choose from this month. We received a complete collection of jokers from a dear friend, with whom we have been swapping for more than 10 years. She had thought about quitting this hobby for a while and made the decision by the end of September. So suddenly we had about a few thousand jokers to go through to see if there were any new ones for our own collection and we must have found a few hundred.
The rest of the jokers were added to our own duplicates and we took them to 2 collectors meetings this month, a general collectors meeting and a meeting of playing card collectors. On both occasions we sold quite a few jokers and bought several new ones too.

But there was one joker that we bought through Ebay from a friend of us from the Windy City (or WrigleyVille as he prefers to call it). It comes from an American advertising deck for the ISTMA, the Iowa State Traveling Men's Association, from the 1930's. The deck was printed by the USPCC.
The message could have been depicted in a less harsh way, but it illustrates the (ongoing) battle between public transport and private cars. In the 1930's the ISTMA obviously favored the train and with the present traffic jams here in the Netherlands, they would still have a point here. So this month a joker with a message to reflect upon.

NOVEMBER 2011

This was a month full of surprises, pleasant and unpleasant ones. The pleasant one was that Miriam not only found an extremely rare Dutch deck, but also two rarely seen jokers by the same manufacturer. All this on a Saturday during the largest collectors fair in the Netherlands. The unpleasant one is that she has probably run into some bad particles in the air there too, which caused coughing and a sniveling nose on Sunday and together with a tightness on her chest on Monday, it became so severe that she had to be admitted to hospital on Tuesday. It casts a shadow over her finds, as if it's an extra price that had to be paid.

However, we can't ignore this rarely seen Dutch joker and it deserves a place in this section. No doubt this joker will look familiar to regular visitors. It's the background watermark of most pages in the Joker section!
This joker was made by the Speelkaartenfabriek Nederland around 1912 and there are 3 variations known. We only had one of them in our collection and we're glad to add this second variation now too.

There were a few interesting old jokers on the shortlist already, like a scarcely seen "bannered" Piatnik joker or two USPCC jokers advertising dogfood, all from the 1930's, but as soon as this Dutch joker turned up, there was no doubt which one would be shown here.

DECEMBER 2011

Miriam returned home on December 2, but she needed a lot of taking care of in the first two weeks. She has started with her fitness program again now and is slowly on her way back. Small steps, but forward.
Together with the holiday season, it left little time for Joop to spend on the site, so no extra joker xpo this month, only this nice old joker here and another contribution by Hugo Diependaele to the World Xpo.

We found this joker on the French Ebay in a deck with a standard French or Belgo-Genovese pattern. We don't really recall the pattern anymore, as the deck was heavily played with and we disposed of it immediately. Obviously the played game didn't need a joker, as it is still in very good condition. The maker is apparent.... Piatnik & Sons from Vienna (Austria). But dating this jolly joker is a bit more difficult. Standard patterned decks with a generic factory back design hardly give any clues. So we can only make an educated guess here and would say..... 1920's. 
We do know that it's a not often seen joker, so a nice one to conclude this year with.

 

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