December 2019



I had already made scans of this deck for eBay, but when I took a good look at the courts I decided that I wasn't ready yet to part from this deck. An analogy with the yearly pardon that a US president gets to bestow on a turkey sprang to mind and as that turkey usually gets plenty of media attention, I decided that this deck should get the same treatment here. Just to illustrate how easy a choice can be made sometimes.

The deck was first described on page 135 of the book about playing cards from Turnhout by Van Autenboer and Cremers as High Life Playing Cards No 5000.  It's presented as "playing cards with advertisements a specialty of J. van Mierlo-Proost" (sic). As this is the only line in English in the otherwise Dutch text, it must have been taken literally from the box or backs. The courts and aces are depicted, but not the back. It's described as: advertising. Van Autenboer en Cremers also mention (in Dutch) that the deck was produced by SA L. Biermans around 1930 for J. van Mierlo-Proost, Turnhout.
In his extensive book about Belgian playing cards Luc Biebouw shows this deck on page 344 and titles it as High Life Playing Cards, c1930. He refers to Van Autenboer and Cremers as source. However, he leaves out the No 5000 and doesn't mention the Van Mierlo-Proost name. Biebouw also shows the joker, a back and the front of the box and they are exactly the same as the deck that is presented here below. It's obvious that this back can't be described as advertising. So I assume that besides decks with a factory back a special advertising version of this deck (with a special factory number 5000?) was also produced. Apparently the deck from the National Playing Card Museum that Van Autenboer and Cremers describe wasn't complete. They mention 51 cards, missing a pip card. They don't mention the presence of a joker, so I guess that it was missing too.


After this long introduction, it's time to take a closer look at the cards.....

On the courts each suit has a dominant color: spades-blue, hearts-red (of course), clubs-green and diamonds-yellow. The clothing is ornate and on the Queens the suit signs are interwoven in their garments. The kings all wear a chain with pendant around their neck. The pendant apparently refers to the suit. It's clearly seen on the King of Spades, but the pendant of the King of Hearts is not as clear. It's not really a heart shape and there are red and white stripes. These colors return on the chest of the king and jack. Also not clear to me is the object that's on the chest of the Jack of Spades. Anyone?

The aces are plain. Just like all the other pip cards they don't even have the elegant, fine outline that the courts have.


The dominant color of each suit can also be recognized by the color of the veils on the queens. The pendant of the King of Clubs shows an upside down clubs sign, but that of the King of Diamonds shows a French "fleur de lis" though in a diamond shape. The fleur de lis returns on the chest of the jack. But just like on the Jack of Spades the checkered piece on the chest of the Jack of Clubs is a bit enigmatic. So again..... anyone?

One last puzzle: text on the box is in English, but courts have French indices and aces are 1's.




The deck 
consists of 52 cards
and a joker.

Our box lacks the top flap, but I'm pretty sure that if there was any text it would be in English too.