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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Collecting Playing Cards

Author: Larry Freeman

( Article orginally published September 1942 by Hobbies )

Playing Cards. This hobby has recently captured the fancy of thousands of enthusiasts, particularly children. It is estimated that over 100,000 school children, a5 well as many adults, are now devoted to card collecting. Children in the main collect individual cards and get pleasure out of comparing the different backs. They set up "card banks" at school and trade with each other. The new bridge set is not safe in a house with a youthful card collector, for he may take it to the "bank" and deposit it for distribution.

Playing-card collecting is an old hobby and reaches back for centuries. Some adults have always collected complete decks of antique cards; but the fad of saving individual cards is relatively new. Playing-card manufacturers say the children's hobby first came to their attention about ten years ago, when they received many letters in childish scrawls requesting sample cards.

The owner of a deck of old cards should not entertain the notion that it has much monetary value. Most of the decks produced in the last 75 years are not worth more than a couple of dollars to the collector. Perhaps a half million different decks have been produced in the world during that period. That figure is a natural challenge to the serious adult collector, but no one could ever hope to approach such a number. The largest collections rarely contain more than 20,000 different types. And as about 5000 new designs are ordinarily produced each year, it would be a problem to keep up with the current output alone. Card collecting offers the opportunity to specialize, and some collectors are interested only in cards with portrait, dog, or historical subjects on the back. Others may specialize in collecting different Jokers. Rare decks are mostly museum pieces. A few go back to the 14th century, although cards may have been used in China before that time. It is also possible that a few decks of relatively recent origin may some day attain museum value. Cards of noted actresses now dead, the Dionne Quintuplets, Shirley Temple, etc., before long may have more than ordinary value. But as one collector said, "The value of a rare deck depends entirely on what a collector will pay to get it."

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