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Decks of Cards

1797?/1980 "Superfine Harry VIII Playing Cards Made by I. Kirk, London. X Pounds." 2½" x 3¾". Reproductions produced especially for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Two extras.

The legend on the packet, which shows a crude image of Henry the VIII, reads "For Exportation. Fifty pounds penalty if relanded, and twenty pounds if sold or used in Great Britain." Thomas Kirk did the illustrations for the Croxall edition of 1797; might he be connected with this "I." Kirk? Each card has a title, a fable and moral in verse, a picture, and a playing card face. That is a great deal of information to put into a small space! The verses presume that the player knows the fable. My favorite illustrations in this fifty-two card set are WC on the Jack of Hearts and "The Goat in the Well" on the Eight of Hearts. Many (all?) are signed by Kirk.

Click on a card below to see all thirteen cards in that suit.

1940? Two matching decks of TH playing cards. The design shows white characters against a green and a black background, respectively. Self sorting club playing cards. "Deck Copr. 1932." In the sturdy original 3 7/8" x 5" box. NY: Bid-Rite Playing Card Corp. $12.99 from Louie and Annette Fotinatos, Norwalk, CA, through Ebay, March, '01.

The card that comes along with the deck proclaims "Self-Sorting Cards—First Change in over Three hundred years." Wow! I received these cards with the original cellophane still around each deck. Each deck also still has its original inspection notice. In the design the tortoise on a scooter moves to the bottom left corner of the card, while a hare (in mid-air?) bounds after him.

1950? Three decks of playing cards showing FG on the backs. Against a black background, a brown fox stands up towards some white and green grapes. A banner in white and green proclaims the title underneath the fox. In the sturdy original 3¾" x 7½" slipcase, stamped with "For Samba or Bolivia" on its felt bottom. Cel-U-Tone Finish. Congress Playing Cards. $4 from John Verderame, Morgantown, PA, through Ebay, Sept., '00.

The set comes with a small brochure that helps to explain why three decks come together, for the brochure contains official rules for Canasta, "Incorporating the Latest Changes Made for 1950." The cards are in very good condition. See the adjoining item for a companion deck.

1950? Two decks of playing cards showing FG and CP, respectively, on their backs. The fox is as above in the three-deck Canasta set. For CP, against a tan background, a black crow stands over a white pitcher. A banner in white and blue-gray proclaims the title underneath the scene. In the sturdy original 3¾" 5" slipcase. Cel-U-Tone Finish. Congress Playing Cards. $6 from Harry Glogower, New York, NY, through Ebay, June, '00.

The style and artistry of the two cards make them a nice complement to each other. I am especially pleased that someone had sense enough to put two fables together in one set.

1970? Two individual playing cards showing FG on the backs. One image is entirely in black and red; the other is in black and blue with a red stripe around the outside. $8 from Dany Wolfs, Roesalare, Belgium, August, '00.

Actually the FG image in the blue card is reduced to include the red stripe inside the white margin, which occupies the same space as on the red card. The only identifying mark is "Grapes" on the 4 of spades on the red card. The blue card is the 2 of clubs. If I keep this up, will I be able to put together a whole deck of individual cards with different fable images?

2004 La Fontaine Playing Card Collection. Art by Dante Moglisi. Turin: Lo Scarabeo. €10 at Variantes, Paris, Dec., '04.

"54 cards dedicated to some of the most famous tales." The 54 full-color illustrations here are small but delightful. Variantes was a store I came to love for its various puzzles and games. These cards were a great find on my way to Africa, when I wisely took an overnight in Paris along the way.Click on a card to see a larger version of it.