June 2017



On the 2nd we received an antique French deck that has been in the running for this spot for a long time. Although Joop picked up a few new decks during the Collectors Day at the Belgian National Playing Card Museum in Turnhout, none of them made a chance to be shown here, but..... these LOSERS here did!

It was a bit of a hectic month with lots of appointments with friends, so there wasn't much time to spend at the pc. Still we did follow the offer on a few eBay's and the Dutch auction sites. There was a nice antique French fortune telling deck (with suits, A's-7's) but that still wasn't a real winner. However, on one of the Dutch auction sites Joop discovered a rarely seen deck. A good bid did the rest and because it was a Dutch auction site, it only took a few days before the deck arrived in our mailbox. It was immediately chosen for this spot!
We have a similar designed deck (which can be seen in the "War on Cards" xpo) but that deck has all texts in French. This version has all texts in Flemish, which is very close to Dutch. The French (Walloon) version is already a rarely seen deck, but somehow this Flemish version is even more difficult to find. But we found that there are some other differences too. Our French version has rounded corners and gilded edges all around, while this Flemish version has square corners and no gilded edges. But there are some differences on the pip cards too.

The deck was lithographically printed by Leonard Biermans from Turnhout and published as "Jeu des Alliés" in 1919. It was published to celebrate the victory over Germany and the end of the Great War in November 1918. The designs are full of slogans, sayings and comments and they reflect the commitment and gratitude, the sense of unity and the relief, that the Belgians must have felt in the first months after the end of the war. Belgium was struck hard in the southern part of the country, where a harsh trench war was fought that has cost many young lives and of which farmers still find the relics when they plough their land.

Just like in the French version each of the courts cards and aces (a joker was never issued) has slogans, sayings or comments along all sides. But there's plenty of small texts to find on these cards too. We have made a comparison of the French and Flemish texts and in general one can say that they are the same, with a few exceptions. For instance on the King of Spades, where the French "Petite Belgique à vous l'honneur" (Little Belgium honor is yours) is replaced by the Flemish "Klein Belgie door den barbaar tot slaaf verwezen" (Little Belgium enslaved by the barbarian").
Because some texts were set in rhyme, the translation sometimes needed to be adapted a bit to rhyme in Flemish too. However, along the sides the texts have sometimes changed place on the card and this has also happened with one text in the design.
The texts were probably translated from French into Flemish by a translator with little political knowledge. On the King of Spades one of the French lines says "le président Wilson restera en renom". In the Flemish text this is translated as "voorzitter Wilson zal benoemd blijven". The part where Wilson will remain appointed (in office) was translated correctly, but Wilson himself was demoted from President to Chairman. Another cute example is on the Queen of Hearts. There "Le Japon" is translated into "Japonie". I think that even in Flemish the correct name is Japan.


The Kings and Queens show the "western" allies, the jacks Germany and its allies. The Kings and Queens are designed like regular courts, only the sash or robe is done in the national colors of the represented country. However, the Jacks are more personal in design, like the German emperor William II with his pig's ears in the spades suit or the German field Marshall Von Hindenburg depicted as a joker in the clubs suit.







The Ace of Hearts shows the flags of the western allies on both sides, each with the (Belgian) lion in front of them. The other aces show general battle scenes or scenes from famous battles, like those on the Marne or the Yser (spades) or Verdun (diamonds).

Click any ace to see the pip cards.









The QD is dressed in the Greek colours, but in the text Portugal is mentioned too as one of the allies. The text reads: "Greek and Portuguese you have well understood which race of people one should bash the head in." No subtlety here!

There are a few mysteries left to discuss. First a simple question: why would one use French indices in a Flemish deck? But more mysterious are, printed in red, the names of St. Grégoire and St-Amandsb. The latter was named Mt St-Amand in the French version. It probably refers to a community, a suburb of Gent, called St. Amandsberg (Mount St-Amand). We had hoped to find a similar answer for St. Grégoire, but that reference didn't become clear. It's a village in France, but so far away from where the frontline was, that it's hard to believe that it has anything to do with this war. But here below is another puzzle.....

The back design with swords and bombs has a remarkable detail: the "marque déposée" shield, held by a lion. It's a sort of copyright statement. The French as well as the Flemish version have the same back design. The lion represents Belgium and the slain German eagle at his feet speaks for itself. The initials, which seem to have an R in front and an A and P in the back, can be read in different order, but none of them gave a search result. It could be that the initials belong to the artist who has designed the deck, but also the initials of an organization that was involved in the publication of the deck. Maybe our Belgian friends have a clue.....

Sadly both our decks didn't come with the original box.