March 2022


It was one of those decks that we were never able to afford when it was offered as a complete deck. During our collecting days we have acquired a complete collection three times. The last two contained parts of this deck, but we were able to almost create a complete deck. I say almost, because the QC is a copy. Besides that 7 cards have a slightly different coloured back. They're all in the clubs suit and can be recognized by the round corners and soiling.
Still, we were very happy with this result, not only because it's a rarely found deck, but rather because some of the designs brought smiles to our faces. And apparently that was exactly what the maker had in mind, as the deck was published as "Cartes Comiques" (Comical Cards).

It's one of the early playing card decks that were produced by the company of Bernard Dondorf, which was founded in 1833. During the first 20 years the company produced different printed paperwork and specialized in bonds, bank notes and stamps. It seems that a first attempt to produce playing cards was made, but wasn't continued. However, no decks from this period were ever found. In 1853 the company acquired a steam engine and that opened up new possibilities. Also for the playing card production.
The German collector Franz Braun was the first to work on a complete overview of the company's playing cards production. His Dondorf catalogue, number 4 in his series, has proven to be a great reference book whenever we came home with another Dondorf deck. And while our collection was growing we learned about variations and knew which features to look for in newly found decks.

Braun dates this deck as c1860. It's the first version and one of the first decks to be printed in chromolithography. A second version exists since around 1870. The versions are easy to distinguish. All the pip cards in the second version are printed in green and 3 cards have been redrawn. They were obviously done by a different artist, as they show a difference in style with more detail. Another eye-catching difference is the absence of the naughty dog on the KC. I don't have a copy of the second version, but here are the 3 cards as pictured in the Braun catalogue.

The artist is unknown, but -based on his unique style- a second deck by his hand is known: the even more rare "Musikalisches Kartenspiel", also dated by Braun as c1860. In the Comical Cards here he also uses humanized animals on the courts and creates his own suit signs: a crown, a shoe and a battle axe. The captions are more or less amusing and in French, which was the "lingua franca" in those days for the upper and middle classes. I doubt that the deck was specially aimed at export to France. I have translated the captions on the courts to the best of my abilities, but for those on the pips you'll have to take the dictionary.

So now it's time for you to enjoy the deck and don't forget to click the  aces!



strength and stupidity



what do you say about it?


The Aces here are a gateway to their pips..... click and see.

aim well

yours for life


all in



saint simplicity

not better (or better... the best)

money thirsty


another traveler

The deck consists of 52 cards.
Back design with gold printed details.