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~~ Gallery 3 ~~
Sizes, Shapes and Colours

· page 3 ·
Fancy Shapes and Colours
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I thank Pwee Keng Ho for giving me permission to quote his article


Non-rectangular shapes are fancy though rather unusual items.
The round shape is less uncommon than others, because it still allows an easy handling and shuffling (a very particular type of cards called Ganjifa, traditionally used in India for centuries, have always been round!).
In most circular editions the suit pips are arranged as in ordinary decks, but the number of indices is six, instead of the usual four, all around the central subject. The court cards feature simplified personages, no longer double-headed but quadruple-headed, with their bases merging one into the other in the centre of the card.

Round Playing Cards (by ABC, Hong Kong)

the Spanish Baraja Redonda by Fournier, Spain

The Finnish section of the Playing Card Museum in Waterloo University (Canada) shows an interesting barrel-shaped pack with non-standard courts.
Among the many regional patterns, Fournier's Baraja Redonda ("Round Deck") is the only example known with a circular shape, featuring a classic Castilian style. Compared to the scheme adopted by most international round decks, in the Spanish one suit pips too are arranged in a circle, while the indices are only four.

Crooked Pack, made in Hong Kong (unknown manufacturer)

triangular deck, made by 3 Stelle (Italy)
Cards produced in other shapes are clearly gadgets: the one shown above has a curious "S" shape, and would be weird to play with, while the triangular one on the left is really uncomfortable to hold.

An interesting feature of these decks is the way in which the suit signs or pips are arranged, in order to fit the white part of the illustration, whose shape changes accordingly to that of the cards. Also the courts often differ from their usual look (either quadruple-headed or single-headed, in the samples shown).

An odd-shaped deck with a fancy theme is the one produced by Carta Mundi (Belgium) for the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, in the shape of an Egyptian mummy.
All the cards have a gold background, whose texture is decorated with hieroglyphs (see enlarged detail).
The pip cards of all four suits feature the cartouche of queen Nes-mut-aat-neru (700-675 BC), whose coffin appears on the back of the deck; below is the relevant number of suit signs. The decoration in all aces consists of a pyramid over a palm, while the court personages are noblemen and Egyptian gods. An index is found at the top end and bottom end of each card. A grotesque character (a divinity called Bez) is featured on the jokers.


The traditional colour of suits is red for Diamonds and Hearts, and black for Clubs and Spades.
But a few variants of this scheme do exist.

The picture on the right shows a German deck whose suits have four different colours: Hearts are red, Diamonds are yellow, Spades are blue and Clubs are black. This apparently odd combination is called Turnierbild ("tournament pattern"), and it is officially used in the final stage of the German Skat Championship. Since most players prefer to use the Berliner Bild (with French suits), this pattern maintains this design, although not to displease the minority of players who prefer the Neues Altenburg (German-suited) pattern, the colours of the suits recall Hearts (red), Leaves (green), Bells (yellow) and Acorns (black).

Turnierbild deck, by ASS (Germany): this is
an official pattern for Skat tournaments

Atoucouleur deck, by Héron (France): a traditional
French pattern with suits in four different colours
Besides official tournaments, in some games it may be useful to tell the different suits both by their sign and by their colour. Two more examples are the four-colour edition of the national French pattern, called Atoucouleur, made by Héron (left), or the Piquet pattern by the Swiss manufacturer AG Müller (below), named Opti-piquet. In this case the colour scheme is green for Clubs, red for Hearts, pale blue for Diamonds and black for Spades.

Opti-piquet, four-colour edition of the
French-suited Jass pattern,
by AG Müller (Switzerland)
Any other scheme should be considered a non-standard variety. For instance, the deck shown on the right is a fancy edition with reverse colours, so Hearts and Diamonds are black, whereas Clubs and Spades are red.

The other sample shown below, instead, is printed in only two colours, i.e. black and red; the cards are made of thin paper, (not pasteboard), and their corners are not rounded. This deck, though, is more than an oddity for collectors.

Reverse Color deck (made in Hong Kong by an unknown manufacturer)

It comes from Singapore, but it is manufactured in Malaysia, for the numerous Chinese community that lives in South-east Asia.

Hell Cards, for ceremonial purpose, by KSH (Malaysia)
As collector Pwee Keng Ho explained in an article, published in the journal of the International Playing-Card Society, in this area it is customary to burn paper offerings for the souls of the departed, at funerals and other special occasions. Such offerings have the shape of everyday's objects; several specialized shops offer a great variety of paper items for this particular ceremonial purpose, and this deck of cards is one of them. The real purpose it is made for gives reason for its very essential features, although four jokers too are included, and the back is regularly printed, with a geometric motif and a label.

The latter (see detail on the right) bears a rather surprising title, Hell Playing Card (sic), likely due to a very rough translation of its original name in Chinese, MingFu PuKe Pai, which means "Poker cards of the realm of the dead"; the personage in traditional clothes whose bust is featured in the centre is in fact the Jade Emperor, i.e. in Taoist belief, he who presides over the aforesaid realm.

page 1
miniature decks
page 2
patience and jumbo decks


Here is a deck which does not belong to any of the above mentioned categories, but is still somewhat ...strange.
Produced by Modiano (Italy), its name is Doppio Gioco (double game), after the game it is designed for.
On one side it looks like a standard 52-card pack, but there is no actual back: in fact, the reverse too features ordinary values, although they are arranged in a different and apparently random order.
No Joker belongs to this deck.

The picture on the right shows a few cards resting over a mirror, so that both sides are visible.

page 1
miniature decks
page 2
patience and jumbo decks


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