July 2015


It was a hectic month, but in the end a very worthwhile one. We didn't really follow all the offers on the different Ebay's and the Dutch auction site, so only a few decks were acquired on the internet. However, we had been in contact with the son of a deceased Dutch collector and he wanted to sell the complete, large collection of his father, Gerard Gemert. That deal was finalized in the last week and we're still busy sorting out the 2000 and more decks. We had to buy the whole collection to get the few gems that we had seen, but have now found some hidden ones too.

So there was a very interesting shortlist this month and each would have been a sure winner if we could have spread them out over nine months. The contestants were (in random order): 1/ a very rare Dutch deck, "Harte Troef", the Speelkaartenfabriek Nederland (1923, only 711 copies made!). 2/ A rare Pin-Up deck from 1957 by that same manufacturer. 3/ the Braun&Schneider Transformation playing cards from 1852. 4/ the beautiful Art Deco "Whist No 555" by Grimaud from around 1900. 5/ the Jeu de Drapeaux deck (in the version by H. Kenter). 6/ the French Cartes Comiques from around 1870. 7/ the rarely seen Cartes Magiques Musicales by M. Frommann. 8/ the Jean Hachette transformation playing cards by that same manufacturer. 9/ a rare Belgian deck by F. Hemeleers van Hoeter (Brussels, c1860), which came with one of the first "Naine Jaune" jokers (see our Joker of the Month).
We still have to sort out the greater part of the collection, so there's always a chance that something  exiting will turn up, but.. nothing could ever surpass "our first Cotta"!

It's a transformation deck that is probably to be found on the wish list of many collectors. The deck is described in Albert Field's book about transformation cards (U.S. Games Systems, 1987) and titled "Classical Antiquity". It's dated as 1806. The deck was published by J.C. Cotta, a publisher and bookseller from Tübingen, Germany. The designs were done by Countess Charlotta von Jennison-Walworth. The deck was printed by stipple engravings on copper.

For those visitors who are not familiar with transformation playing cards Mr. Field describes this special kind of playing cards on the cover of his book as "the creative art that transforms playing card suit signs into pictures" and that's just what it is. Most of the times that doesn't apply to the court cards, but there are exceptions. However, looking at the aces here below you'll see what the idea behind this transformation is. You definitely have to click them to see the pip cards. They reveal this transformation even better, sometimes so well done, that it's hard to find the pips when looking at the design in detail (see the six of clubs).
Until 1805 transformation cards were known from illustrations in books or -in card form- as a limited number. The first complete deck was published in Germany by Cotta. It came as the start of a series of 6 packs. They were published each year as "Karten-Almanachs" (Card Almanacs) and spanned the years 1805 to 1811, with the exception of 1808. This deck is the second one in this series.

The title "Classical Antiquity" only refers to the court cards. They show figures from the Greek mythology. Mr. Field had already provided some information about them in his book, but some figures could do with some additional info, which was easily found on Wikipedia. So -if you want- you can brush up your knowledge of the Latin and Greek mythology a bit, but more important........ you can ENJOY these small works of art, especially those on the pip cards.

Assuerus (or Ahasuerus) is the Latin name for the Hebrew name Ahasveros. He is mentioned as Xerxes, King of Persia in the Book of Esther. He died in in 465 B.C.
Andromaque is the French name for Andromache, a figure from the Greek mythology. She's the wife of the Trojan prince Hector. Her name is the title of a book by Euripides and later a play by Racine too.
Burrhus (or Burrus) was a Praetorian prefect under the reign of Claudius and Nero. He owed his position to Agrippina, mother of Nero.

Ulysses is the Latin name for Odysseus, king of the Greek island Ithaca and the Greek leader in the Trojan War. He's also the mythical hero in the Homer's Odyssey.
Iphigenia is the mythical daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. She was sacrificed by Agamemnon as an offer to Artemis, so she would let the Greek ships sail to Troy.
Mardochie (Mordecai) was the uncle of Esther. He helped save the Hebrews from Haman (also known as Haman the Agagite or Haman the Evil), a vizier under king Ahasuerus (Xerxes).






Pirrhus (also known as Neoptolemus) is the son of Achilles and the princess Deidamia. During the Trojan war he killed Priam, Polites and four other men on the battlefield, and made Andromache his concubine. He became king of Epirus and was later killed by Orestes.
Esther was the Hebrew heroin who was married to Xerxes, king of Persia.
Arcas was the son of Zeus and Callisto. He was butchered by king Lycaon and his meat was offered to Zeus. The all knowing Zeus transformed Lycaon into a wolf and killed all his sons. He revived Arcas and made him king of Arcadia (named after Arcas).


Agamemnon was the mythical leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War. He was killed upon his return from the war by Aegystus, the lover of his wife Clytemnestra.
Agrippina was the mother of Nero by her first husband. She persuaded her third husband Claudius to adopt Nero as his successor. She was later put to death by that same Nero.
Orestes was the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. He killed his mother and her lover to avenge his father.

The cards have blank backs.