April 2012


After April 27 we had to sit it out until "Queen's Day", when we celebrate the birthday of our Queen in the Netherlands and everywhere people sell their stuff on the streets. We already knew which deck would be shown here, but there's always a possibility -be it an extremely minimal one- that something great will be found on that last day of April. It was a lovely day with lots of sun and fun, but -as expected- no super find.

Mid April there was the largest collectors fair in the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht and once again it was Miriam who found a very rare deck. It's an early Dutch football quartet by the Speelkaartenfabriek Nederland, which was still missing in our SN collection. So....within a few hours our weekend was already made! We did find some other nice decks there, but nothing really special. Although we consider this quartet deck our best find, we don't show it here, because this site is dedicated to suited playing cards only. So for this page our deck had to come from elsewhere again.

We had 2 bids in the 52+ auction, but neither was a winner.

On the 22nd the Dutch playing cards collectors meeting was held in Nieuwerbrug, but it was a bit disappointing to see that -although it was the 50st meeting- again there were less attendants and visitors than at the previous meeting. Trading was very slow and it didn't bring any good finds either. So the internet had to supply our winner here. We had done well selling on eBay and didn't really get a chance to spend this money during the above events, so we spent it on eBay and the Dutch auction site. 

We added a good number of decks again and there was an interesting shortlist until the 27th. When we received this deck, the decision was immediately taken. Of course this deck is an antique and rarely seen one, but that wasn't what tipped the scale. In this case the skies did it and we're happy to show the deck here and tell you why.

The deck was printed in chromolithography by Bernard Dondorf from Francfort s/M (see the Jack of Clubs) and it was published from around 1868 until around 1885 as "Vues et caractères Suisses" (Nr. 228). It was probably made for export to the Swiss market and not for the domestic German market. The used language in the deck is French. Names of towns and cities from the French speaking part of Switzerland are given in French and also the reference to the maker's own town is in French: s/M = sur Main. In German it would have been a/M (am Main).

The courts each show two Swiss "characters". The name of the canton (Swiss provence), that they represent is mentioned in the right corner, together with its coat of arms. In the left corner there's the suit sign and on the Kings a crown is added there. That's not superfluous, because the figures depict common people and are not recognizable as royalty. If the crown hadn't been added in the Hearts suit here below, it would have been impossible to tell the King from the Jack.

As said, the skies tipped the scale for this deck. Not the bright blue skies on the courts, suggesting a beautiful summer day, but rather the skies on the aces did the job. We have quite a few decks with illustrated aces, but have never seen skies like these on any of them. There's a full moon over Interlaken, it's dawning in Zurich and the sun is setting over Grutli. Each view is crowned with a delightful sky, showing a different time of the day and even of the season.

The views not only show the main Swiss cities Genève, Bale, Berne, Zurich, Schafhouse and Interlaken, but also the rather unknown Engelberg and Grutli (French for Rütli). The latter is a mountain meadow on lake Lucerne that has played an important role in Swiss history and from around 1850 Engelberg became a well-known international vacation resort and spa. So their appearance on these aces is not coincidental. 

It may seem that some cantons were considered more important than others, as some regions are represented on two cards. Berne (Bern) is on the King of Clubs and the Queen of Hearts, Bale (Basel) on the Queen of Clubs and the King of Hearts, Lucerne (Luzern) on the King of Diamonds and the Queen of Hearts, Appenzell on the King of Hearts and the Queen of Diamonds and Fribourg (Freiburg) on the King and Queen of Diamonds, while Genève (Geneva) is only mentioned once.

The deck consists of 52 cards. The back design shows Helvetia. The allegory is typically pictured in a flowing gown, with a spear and a shield emblazoned with the Swiss flag, and commonly with braided hair and a wreath as a symbol of confederation. Here she's depicted with a chamois and a hat that masks the spear: definitely a more friendly and idyllic Helvetia. The maker's name and town are mentioned at the bottom.

Unfortunately our deck didn't come with a box, but..... sometimes you can't have it all.