August 2018

 

 

After several months of sorting out our newly acquired collection, we've finally come to a nicer stage: sorting the decks for our own collection by country and only checking a few duplicates to see if they are an improvement of our own decks. The rest are all new to us and there are some surprising decks. In the last week of this month we came across three nice Lithuanian decks and we had a hard time deciding which deck to show here.

We could have shown any of these three decks here, they all had special and exciting designs on the courts. The choice was between the Vaivorykste deck (also known as "Höffische Spiel") and a pretty similar designed deck, called Klubams (for clubs). Klubams fell off the table and we chose the joker from the Vaivorykste (Rainbow) deck as Joker of the Month. So for this spot we went for the "Gedimino Stulpai" deck. It were the unusual layout and the special designed pips that tipped the scale.

As our knowledge about Lithuanian decks is just as limited as the decks in our present collection, we looked at the WWPCM site and the WOPC site. They both mentioned Spindulys Printing House as manufacturer of 6 decks, of which the 3 decks mentioned above are part. The information about the decks and the pictures on the WOPC site were for the greater part provided by Albinas Borisevicius and the information about the manufacturer came from Tadas Jurys.

Lithuania is one of the 3 small Baltic states, but has covered a much larger area in the past. Around 1400 it was one of the largest countries in Europe. Halfway the 16th century it formed a commonwealth with Poland and this lasted until the end of the 17th century, when the commonwealth was partitioned by Russia, Prussia and Austria. Most of Lithuania was occupied by the Russian empire and this lasted until the end of WW I, when Lithuania became an independent state again. Not long before WW II started it was occupied by the Russians and during WW II by the Germans. After the war had ended Lithuania became a Soviet Republic under control of the Russian Soviet Union again until independence was declared in March 1990. Since May 2004 it's a member of the European Union.

The Spyndulis printing house, situated in Kaunas, was formed by combining 3 print shops: Svyturis, Varpas and Raides. Spyndulis started their production in 1928 and is still active at the present moment, but mainly as a book printer. The card production stopped after WW II. Our chosen deck here was printed around 1930 and published as "Gedimino Stulpai", which is translated as "The Columns of Gediminas".
Gediminas was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from around 1315 until his death in 1341. He is seen as one of the most important figures in Lithuanian history: the Grand Duke who literally "made Lithuania great again". Under his reign Lithuania expanded and stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The Columns (or Pillars) of Gediminas refer to an ancient Lithuanian symbol and once the Lithuanian coat of arms. The symbol is in appearance close to the trident. The suit symbols in the deck are said to be variations of the trident.


The suit symbols of the spades have been placed upside down. At first we thought that this might have been done by mistake, but then we saw that the pips on the joker showed the same upside down presentation of the spades symbol. So maybe it's the designer's idea of a variation of the trident?

On the WOPC site Tadas Jurys mentions that at that time the playing-card designers were Mstislavas Dobužinskis (1875–1957) and Barbora Didžiokienė (1896 - 1976). We couldn't find any name or initials, but probably one of them was responsible for these designs.
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The aces are all embellished with rather spiky, Art Deco like designs. For the scan we've placed the central spades symbol in its upright position, but guess that it should have been used upside down too. There's a Lithuanian tax stamp on the AD. Peter Endebrock dates it as c1925, but it was probably in use until 1944. The full text reads "Lietuvos Valstybes Monopolio Kortos" (Lithuania State Playing-card Monopoly).
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By now you must have wondered where the abbreviations K, M and D on the courts stand for. At least we did and as we didn't find any answer on the WOPC or the WWPCM sites, we turned to a fellow IPCS member, Janis Metra, for information. He told us that the K in Lithuanian stands for Karalius (king), the M for Mergele (maid/virgin) and the B for Berniukas (fellow). Here the aces are indicated by an A, but in Lithuanian decks a T for Tuzas (aces) can also be found.
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There's one other thing still puzzling us, maybe a designer's thing too: on all the courts the large pips are set against a brownish background with white dots or a white one with brownish dots, except for the KS and the KD, with their solid brownish background. Understandable on the KS, because it would become the same as the background of the head next to it, but on the KD??
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The deck consists of 52 cards and a joker. The back design also exists in green. The special designed pips are used on all cards too.
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