June 2011


Again we can't complain about the number of decks to choose from this month and the short list has never been that long. Although we had some good finds at the open air flea market in Utrecht, which was held twice this month, and brought home some nice decks from the last collectors meeting before the summer break, again the main source of decks was Ebay.

To illustrate the tough choice we'll sum up the "short" list: an antique German deck by the Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken from around 1890, a great Pin-Up deck from India from the 1960's, two beautiful artist decks from the UK, a vintage Belgian Fortune Telling deck by Van Genechten from 1928 and a Belgian deck with 55 painted portraits by a small printer from 2008. Although none of these decks made it to this spot, some were too rare or beautiful to ignore, so you'll find the Indian Pin-Up deck in our "Pin-Up & Erotica" xpo and one of the UK artist decks in the "Art & Cards" xpo.

The chosen one this month was made in Italy. It's a deck by the Italian comic artist Benito Jacovitti, who was born in Tremoli on March 19, 1923. He has a special place in our hearts, ever since we met his work in comic magazines and comics like Cocco Bill and Zorry Kid in the 1960's. Jacovitti died in 1997.

Because the text on the cards is in Italian and our knowledge of Italian is limited, help came from our collector friend from Italy, Gustavo Orlando-Zon. He translated those captions that we didn't understand and supplied information about the deck.

The deck was made by Arti Grafiche Panetto & Petrelli and published before the municipal elections of 1951 in Italy. It's obviously an anti-communist edition, which is not a surprise, as in that period Jacovitti was working for Il Vittorioso, a Catholic comic magazine for young adults.  A reprint of the the original deck was published around 1975.

The design of the backs suggests that the deck was published by an anonymous Civic Committee. As far as we could tell, the text in the outer ring consists of conjugations of the verb to vote. The inner ring was to difficult for us and was translated by Gustavo as: "What are you going to do that day? I'll go and vote. You're in trouble if you don't. Where are you going in such a hurry? I'm going to vote. You're in trouble if you don't".

In 1951 municipal elections were held in Italy. That same year the political emotions of that era in Italy were depicted very well in the first movie in the Don Camillo series, in which Fernandel played the role of a Catholic priest who was at war with the town's communist mayor. Just like the movie, this deck uses humor to tackle communism in general and the Italian communist party (PCI) and their newspaper l'Unita in particular.

The Cups suit is apparently dedicated to the pro Russian and pro communism propaganda, as brought by leftwing newspapers, especially the communist l'Unita newspaper. The Clubs suit shows the aggressive side of the Italian communist party.  Gustavo pointed out that in fact a lot of Italians were really afraid of the (local) communists.

The Italian communists are mostly depicted with a red scarf around their necks, the Russian ones are wearing a red coat. The communist mayors can be recognized by the sash in Italian colours around their waist. No names are mentioned on the cards, but the only easily recognizable figure is Stalin, who appears on several cards. Thanks to Gustavo we now know that on the ace of coins Stalin hands the Russian rouble to Palmiro Togliatti, the leader of the  Italian Communist Party between 1927 and 1964. The financial ties between the Russian Communist Party and Italian parties are emphasized in the coins suit. On the 3 of coins Gustavo recognized Pietro Nenni, the leader of the Italian Socialist Party.


Although the Cups suit propagates the Russian will for peace, the Swords suit emphasizes the belligerent face.
Stalin, seated on an Italian communist horse, has killed the peace dove.

The deck consists of 40 cards, not an unusual number for Italian decks. They are somewhat larger than usual and measure 71 by 113 mm. As the cards from the original deck seem to measure 72 by 114 mm, we assumed that our deck was the reprint from 1975. But in March 2012, we heard from Gustavo again and he told us that the reprint from 1975 has square corners. So this is the original deck! The cards are printed on very thin carton, which lets the back design shine through when held to the light. The deck was never issued with a box, but in 2007 PubbliCartoMania published a box for this deck in honour of Jacovitti.

There's another deck by Jacovitti in our collection and it's shown in the "Pin-UP & Erotica" Xpo.
Interested? It's only a CLICK away!