a site for the playing card collector
and ephemera enthusiast
a site for the playing card collector
and ephemera enthusiast
This site is for the playing card enthusiast and has been named after Bernard J. Dondorf who was born in 1809 and established a lithographic printing business in Frankfurt Germany 1833 which, amongst other items, printed playing cards. B Dondorf was arguably one of the finest printers of his era printing some amazing playing cards during the company's 100 year history. Ironically it was the quality and expensive production process that ultimately contributed to the the demise of the company in 1933.
Whilst Dondorf playing cards acted as the catalyst and inspiration for me to become a serious collector and remain my main passion, I have developed many new playing card related interests over the years and will share them with you on this website.
This site aims to showcase the very best in collectable playing cards and card games and to share information on the subject. There is also a blog reporting items of interest and details of any cards recently sold at auction, subscribe to receive regular updates sent by email.
Launched June 2018 I hope this site will develop progressively and prove to be of value to all who share in it.
What's new? ....
- Early Card Stamp
- The Kings Evil
- Early Playing card boxes (see new page Card boxes)
- Early woodblock printed cards
and changes :
- New Page - (Irish Playing Card makers)
- New Page - (A Little More History)
What's in the news - Blog at the foot of this page - sign up for regular updates..
Dondorf Playing Card - Shakespeare No. 192
The Daily Courant, Monday 1 January 1705
Advertisement for a new set of playing cards advertised in the Daily Courant - "This present Monday being New Years Day, will be published a New Invented Pack of Cards, in which are described in pictures, done from Copper Plates, finely engraved, the various transactions of Her Majesty's most Glorious Reign to this present. Historically disposed according to the order of time in which they happened. Price 1s 6d per pack."
A card from the 'Queen Anne Playing Cards' first issued in 1705 but with a red 'Stock In Hand' stamp indicating that the cards had been in stock and unsold by August 1711.
The amount of duty payable on a pack of cards since 1711 has fluctuated over time. When by an Act of Parliament duty was imposed as from 11 June 1711 the initial charge on every pack whether made in Great Britain or imported, was sixpence. This act also set out guidelines as to how the duty was to be exacted, and the starting date for these arrangements was stated to be 1 August 1711. A second Act, the following year, authorised a reduced duty of one halfpenny for 'Stock in Hand' (i.e. packs of cards completed, and uncut sheets finished ready to cut, before 12 June 1711 but as yet unsold, provided such stock was declared and marked before 1 August 1712. Ref: Taxation on Playing cards in England from 1711 - 1960 by John Berry.
The custom of healing by royal touch has a long history and was practised by monarchs of many European countries. The first recorded British monarch who's touch was claimed to show curative powers was King Edward the Confessor (1042-1066). He introduced a ritual for the 'King's Evil' a name for a condition of swollen and discharging tuberculous lymph glands of the neck, also called scrofula. After touching the diseased patient the King ordered that they be maintained at royal expense until they were cured. During the 13th Century the upkeep of patients' was replaced by the donation of a coin possibly a penny or small silver coin. During the reign of King Henry VII (1485 - 1509) the coin donated by the king in the healing ceremonies changed to a gold coin known as 'Gold Angel' The Angel's name is derived from its design depicting the archangel Michael defeating a dragon, a scene from the biblical book of Revelation. This image of purity of gold gives the coin a special resonance. After receiving the royal touch, the patient would be given an Angel, which had been pierced and threaded on a ribbon, hung round the neck by the monarch as a further means of warning off disease. The practice of 'touching' was seen as an example of divine right of kings, a manifestation of the authority believed to have been granted by God.
This cure was seen as painless, instant and miraculous and thus became very popular. The practice was continued by each monarch up until the execution of King Charles I in 1649. After the demise of Charles I, the start of the Civil war and then the resulting creation of a Rump Parliament under Cromwell the practice stopped. After the Restoration of the monarch in 1660, Charles II quickly re-established curative touching and the practice continued after 1668 , during the reign of James II, until his death when it again lapsed. It was not undertaken during the reign of William and Mary who thought it a 'silly superstition'.
Queen Anne reintroduced the practice during her reign (1702 -1714) and special gold touch pieces were also issued for use in her ceremonies. The death of Queen Anne in 1714 marked the end of this ceremony in England.
Please get in touch (see bottom of page for contact details) if you have any pictorial or Illustrated cards that you may wish to sell. Will be happy to purchase single cards
Playing cards with 'Duty Aces' wanted. Will consider part sets if in good condition.
It is always exciting to find some nice early wood block printed cards as they are relatively scarce and when you consider that they are made from just paper and card and were made over 200 years ago its amazing to think that they have survived this long. To most card collectors and those that collect packs of cards as opposed to single cards it is particularly good if you can find a complete pack that is 52 cards for a standard deck and 32 cards for a Piquet or Bezique set.
I spotted these cards for sale on an auction site. They were a partial set with 11 courts and a number of pip cards but without an Ace of Spades. Sometimes an auction house will incorrectly describe an early set of cards as being without the Ace of Spades as they are not familiar with the early designs and fail to identify the ace which is often present. In this case the ace was not present so it was not possible to readily identify the maker. The ace of Spades is also an easy way to identify the age of the cards by looking at the tax duties stamped on the ace.
So why would I be interested in buying a partial set without the ace of spades. Well my first thoughts were that these cards had quite a distinctive style, typical of cards printed c. 1795 -1810. One particular feature was the Queen of Hearts which features the Queen holding a Tulip which is not common and only known to have been used by a few early makers including Blanchard, French, Wheeler, Gibson
I had not seen this style of design before and the closest design I could find was from a set of cards supposedly by HUNT which I already own. The QH on the left is by Hunt but as you can see she holds the more conventional style of flower and not a Tulip.
The KD above on the left is from a deck by HUNT. Whilst close in design there are still subtle differences in the design.
The Ace of Spades from an early deck by Hunt c.1800
This QH is from a set of playing cards that has an ace by H FRENCH and again although very similar in design has subtle differences. The Queen is holding a Tulip.
The above image has been kindly provided by Ken Lodge and is a copy of cards in his collection including what he believes to be a fake or copy of a Blanchard Ace of Spades.
Without the benefit of an ace of spades it is difficult to definitively identify the maker of a set of cards. That said reference works produced by Ken Lodge and Paul Bostock on 'Wood block and Stencil' and the 'English Standard Pattern' by Ken Lodge are the best guides you can find today to help you identify early English Playing Cards and are essential for the serious collector.
To conclude, the part set of cards that I bought at auction visually, are most like those that can be seen in the picture above with the (fake) Blanchard ace of spades (from the collection of Ken Lodge). Whilst the Blanchard Ace of Spades is believed to be a fake or copy are the rest of the cards also copies or has the ace just been added to another printers set of cards. Are they even English as cards from Belgium are known to have found their way to our shores. Until we can find a similar deck with an authenticate ace of spades then we can only assume that they are indeed a copy of fake. But, they are still over 200 years old, relatively rare and fake or no fake they provoke debate, so what is there not to like...
This deck was produced in celebration of the wedding of Edward (VII) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863. CB Reynolds is an unknown printer and whilst we have an address , 22 Seel Street, Liverpool. very little is known about this firm. Very little is documented about these cards so much more research is required.
The deck 52 cards is extremely ornate and must have been fairly costly to produce. The Ace of hearts has a picture of the newly married couple. The courts are non standard and have a mix of South American natives (clubs) alongside European style courts (Diamonds, Hearts) whilst the Spade courts reflect ordinary folk as farmers etc.
All the pip cards have small caricatures within each of the pips, very similar to cards designed by Alfred Crowquill (see below) printed at a similar time by Reynolds. Is there a connection here?
So what about the marriage... Edward married Princess Alexandra, elder daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark on 10 March 1863 at St Georges Chapel Windsor. Alexandra was both elegant and beautiful and their relationship has been described as "affectionate". Despite this, Edward indulged in many affairs with actresses and society beauties throughout his marriage. However, Alexandra showed amazing tolerance of his behaviour, remarking that "he always loved me the best".
Playing cards published throughout the reign of Queen Victoria
Wrappers more than just paper and string
The beauty of Dondorf playing cards for all to see
Delightful artwork in playing cards from the turn of the 20th Century
Card games that are a bit different
Playing cards from the Art Deco period
Standard old English playing cards with Duty Aces
Early Illustrated playing cards individual cards or complete sets purchased
Playing cards by Dondorf.
Old or unusual English card games
Pre 1900 commemorative English Playing cards for Royal events
If you wish to enquire about the availability of any playing cards or books for sale or have old / Unusual cards or games for sale then please contact us here.
Playing card valuation and research service also available.
Suffolk, England, United Kingdom
a selection of catalogues detailing Dondorf playing cards, English Royalty cards issued during Queen Victoria's reign and early English playing cards, when available in printed form will be advertised on EBAY.
Is your collecting theme Royalty?
or early English playing cards?