August 2012



The first week of August Miriam was hit by the same bacterial infection as she had been twice before during the last year. This time it took about a week before the tests made that clear, so her treatment with antibiotics started a little late and it took about another ten days before she began to regain her normal breathing again. Maybe that was because the weather didn't help either. We've had some very warm and humid days here. Too hot to go outside, unless in the early hours of the morning. Joop likes to spend those hours at an outdoor flea market, but he only did two of them this month. He didn't bring home any interesting things, but enjoyed strolling around the stalls in the early morning sun. So Ebay and the Dutch auction site had to bring the more interesting decks and..... they did! At the end we had an interesting shortlist, but already in the second week we had decided which deck we would show here this month.

We had seen some cards on pictures before and had been able to hold a complete deck for the first time before the "live auction" started at the New Haven convention in 2000, a joint one by the 52+ and IPCS. We had only been collecting seriously for about 4 years then, the euro hadn't been introduced, so we were still on Dutch guilders and the exchange rate for the dollar was high at that time. Because we both loved the deck, we decided that we would bid up to $ 400. However, the deck started at $ 250 and within seconds the price was already above our limit and Miriam didn't even get a chance to raise her hand. She's still not sure what was more disappointing then: not winning the deck or not even getting a chance to bid. 
So we've been looking for an affordable deck ever since.
It's almost 12 years later now and we think we got a good deal on this deck at about half of what we were willing to pay in 2000. For our thoughts about prices, do read the PS at the bottom of this page!
We won the deck on Ebay, so it took another ten days before we could finally enjoy the fine and humorous designs...... all of them..... and whenever we feel like it.

And now...... so can you!

This is the first edition, copyrighted and produced by the USPCC in 1895. It was published as "Hustling Joe Playing Cards No. 61". Not long after the first publication a second edition was made, also copyrighted 1895. The reason for this was the colored background on the court cards. As you can see this covers the whole card, while on the pips and aces the colors don't reach the sides. It's hard to imagine that these lovely decks were used to play a game with, but it seems that players had become suspicious about this difference and thought that when dealing out the cards others could spot them. So in order to rule out any suspicion a second edition was made in which the colors on the courts no longer reach the sides. The second edition is also easily recognizable by the yellow cape that Joe is wearing on the Ace of Spades.


CLICK the ACES to see the pips per suit, you'll love them!

On the courts the designs are dedicated to their actual meaning. The police chief and constable (and the housewife!) with their CLUBS, the King, Queen and miner with their DIAMONDS, the farmer family with their SPADES and of course the HEARTS are dedicated to love, either of the painful or caressing or confusing type. But there's one thing puzzling us: why do the Jack all have a leave or feather on their hats? Anyone for an answer?
The pips are all illustrated, but not in a true transformational way. We're not sure how to judge the illustrations on the Spades, but they show different professions in the Diamond suit and different sports in that of the Hearts. The Clubs are about good and bad. It's the only suit in which the pips actually tell a short story. About the thief who is caught by the police and, after being brought to justice, send to jail. About another constable bringing the sad news to the thief's wife (or let's keep it decent, his fiancÚ), and their falling in love, of course with a marriage as happy end .

The deck consists of 52 cards and a joker.

And it came in the original box.




Although we have gotten more and more interested in the historic context of playing cards too, we basically still collect out of passion for the designs on the cards. We've never looked at our collection as an investment for the future. The above deck brings us pleasure and we enjoy the graphics. Whether it's a first or second edition, is not that important for us. The illustrations are the same and by our standards the deck should to be in our collection.
However, at the moment there is a dealer on Ebay, who has added to each item description of his decks a text, in which he proclaims that collecting playing cards will be a good investment for the future, as prices of antique decks will only go up. To spice that up, he asks rather high prices for his antique decks. But that's not our concern, anyone is free to ask whatever he wants. We will not name and shame the dealer here either, but if any of our visitors ever finds one of his decks on Ebay and has read his optimistic text, be aware of the following............

The price of a deck is, just like any other commodity, bound by a simple economic law: that of demand and supply. In the days before the internet, collectors only had a few meetings per year, where they could buy and sell their decks. Decks that they may have found in garage sales, antique shops or at a flea market, but didn't fit in their collection were offered and the offer by other collectors was inspected for new additions for their collection. These meetings and the occasional auction house were the only places where collectors could buy the decks that they wanted for their collection. So the demand was often higher than the supply and most of the antique decks made great prices. However, the rise of the internet and especially auction sites have changed that landscape completely.

It took less than 10 years, but now you can choose from over 9000 decks on any given day at Ebay. And that number will probably keep on growing for a while. For us most of it is rubbish, but each week you may find some real treasures too. So the supply is much larger than in the old, pre-internet days. On the other hand there's no significant growth in demand. The average age of the playing card collector is steadily rising each year and clubs like the IPCS and the 52+Joker have been trying to interest younger generations for years now without any significant success. Sadly, some collectors have deceased in the meantime and their collection was auctioned or sold by their family. And some elderly collectors have decided to sell their collection and leave the revenues to their children.

So we fear that this situation of more supply than demand will only get worse in the coming decades and prices of 19th century decks will only drop further, with the possible exception of a few real rare ones. We're not that pessimistic about the prices of even earlier decks, but the future will have to prove us right about that first.
For us collecting is not about making a profit. We do deal in cards to make a profit, but that's only to keep our own collecting as budget neutral as possible. In our will we've dedicated parts of our collection to a number of playing card museums around the world, and in the meantime we just keep enjoying our cards.