For other issues, related links, the catalog of my entire collection, and other administrative or trivial issues, please jump to the end of the page.
To see the individual pages about each deck, click on the small images on this page. To see full-size images of the cards themselves, click on the small images on the individual pages.
Whether you're hopping on your Harley to tour Route 66, taking a cruise on the Pacific Princess, flying to the Orient, or just taking a train to Washington DC, there is one absolutely necessary item you need to take along with you. Whether you're whiling away the time by yourself waiting for your hours-delayed airliner, making new friends in the club car, delighting children with magic tricks, or desperately trying to win the money to buy your ticket back home, no traveller should be without a deck of cards. It's a portable, multilingual, versatile, universal entertainment system. Many's the hour I've spent on airplanes, having exhausted the magazines on the seat back in front of me, playing solitaire to mark time. And fond are the memories of friends I've accidentally made on Amtrak trains from DC to Boston and back (and to the little girl I gave my only patience deck to as we passed New Rochelle, I hope it gave you as much pleasure as your bright smiles did me).
However, for the unfortunate traveller who has managed to leave his port of call not equipped with such a valuable tool, there is always hope. In fact, I prefer to leave town with only one or two packs of cards on hand, leaving valuable space in my luggage for the purpose of buying others on the road. And there are always ones to buy. Souvenir decks abound in every locale I've ever visited, and they vary from the simple designs on the backs of standard faces, to galleries of scenic vistas, to old photographs of historic figures. And beyond. Especially in Europe, where card playing is even more popular than in the US, packs made specially for tourists abound. There are times I feel like Stuart Kaplan, tempted to mail my clothes home to make room in my suitcase for the cards I've bought.
This issue I'm going to do a little bit differently, by presenting both standard and unusual decks. Since so many souvenir decks decorate just the backs of the cards, it hardly seemed fair to exclude such a large segment just because I prefer nonstandard faces. This issue we have backs from places like the Kennedy Space Center and Mount Vernon, Virginia; historical decks from Hawaii and New Hampshire; pictures of the French and English countryside; even maps to help you get around; and a little surprise trip at the end. And rest assured there are more where these came from.
["Route 66" from an unidientified card maker, bought in Los Angeles;
"Amtrak," coming out of Union Station in D.C., printed by Hoyle
and bought on board a train somewhere in Maryland; "Princess Cruise Lines"
from an unknown card maker, a gift from a friend; "Korean Air" from the
Je Playing Card Co., bought somewhere over the Pacific; and "Harley
Davidson" from USPC, bought, well, I no
longer remember where - and that's how it should be.]
I present the real souvenir decks, the ones you'll
find just about everywhere in the world, with standard faces and decorative
backs. Most of these are from unidentified manufacturers, Hong Kong
more often than not, and are as inexpensive as they are ubiquitous.
Naturally, the quality often suffers, but one is usually buying a memory,
not a heavy-duty deck. Here, then, are but a few of the many decks
I have collected in idle moments in airports and truck stops around the
country and the world. Many of the souvenir decks I have are gifts,
and a handful are other people's memories, bought at a yard sale.
let's start some more serious tourism. From Parker
Brothers, by way of my mother, comes a tourist's souvenir deck from
none other than the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
With lithographs of all the pavilions, from the Electrical Pavilion, where
George Westinghouse's enormous turbines powered the whole exhibition, to
the towering dome of the Administration building, to the Alpine charm of
the Germany Pavilion, many of the most memorable sights, at least from
the outside, are preserved. If you have the means, I strongly suggest
you go visit the Fair yourself.
getting to Chicago in 1893 seems a tall order, then consider the Hawaiian
Heritage Playing Cards, which bids you to revisit the modern history
of royal Hawaii, from first contact with James Cook in 1778 through to
the end of the monarchy in 1898. Published by the Hawaiian
Heritage Playing Card Co. It's filled with drawings and photographs
from the actual period. This deck shows images of the landmarks,
villages, harbors and mountains of these beautiful islands, as well as
the faces of the people who shaped its history - from Cook and King Kamehameha
the Great to Father Damien and the common people of Hawaii.
sent you on such a long odyssey, I'll try to make it up to you with a trip
into the history of New Hampshire and the White Mountains. From the
Hampshire Historical Society, this deck is a reproduction of a souvenir
deck from a century ago, with pictures of the hotels, mountains and waterfalls
that defined New Hampshire tourism at the turn of the 20th century.
"Among the White Mountains," in addition to being
an historical reproduction, is also a fundraiser for the Society itself.
So come take a tour of the natural beauty and grand hotels that helped
make New Hampshire tourism what it is.
should never visit a strange city without a map. This deck, like
so many others, is just such a map - in this case, a map
of London. And more than just a reduced map on the back, too.
Each of the card faces has a little piece of a street (and tourist sight)
map of London - with three jokers in all, you get a 5-by-11-card map, with
plenty of places to go. And you even get a map of the Underground
as an added bonus. So toss a deck in your backpack and take a tour
of all the games in town.
we move into a very different sort of tourist deck: the picture-deck.
One of a series from Neil McLeod Prints, and featuring the photography
of Colin Baxter, the York and Yorkshire Playing Cards has whittled down
the beauty of Yorkshire, England, to only fifty-four images of its hills,
farms, abbeys, and pubs. The singularly beautiful landscape is captured
well by Baxter, also known for a book of photography of Yorkshire.
Decks like this abound in the British isles, with decks to be found of
places from Ireland to Northumbria. It's enough to make you want
to start shopping for airfares.
Britain has no monopoly on the market for tourist picture-decks, though.
In continental Europe, playing cards are just as popular, and every city,
it seems, has decks displaying it in all its glory. A present from
my brother from when he passed through Prague, this deck, Praga
Kaput Regni, had to limit itself to only 32 cards - it's a Skat deck.
Skat is one of the most popular card games in Europe, especially Central
Europe, and many decks you will find will have only 32 cards. But the beauty
and grandeur of this ancient city is conveyed well by this deck, and someday
I hope to go there and get the other 20 cards.
you know what? There are just too many of these souvenir
picture-decks. Rather than take you through a tour of Paris,
Lourdes, Mont Saint Michel, Greece, and indeed the whole world, I'll just
pull one card from each of these and let you guess what the rest of the
decks look like. Truly, I've made this display too long as it is.
I think you should all just hop on a plane and go visit these places youself
- as long as you promise to bring me back a deck of cards.
but there's more than one way to take a vacation. A celebration cum
documentary on cannabis culture across the world, Laurence
Cherniak's Hemp Culture Playing Cards are a
joyful and irreverent slice of the social, agricultural, political and
psychological world of cannabis. From the Californian gubernatorial
election to the ancient saracen Hashashins, from Nepal to Maria Sabina's
Huatla, Cherniak has traveled the globe over documenting and rejoicing
in the culture of hemp. These cards are but a small part of his work.
I thought about doing the standard Net thing and assembling a list of useful links surrounding playing cards, collecting and such, but no effort I could produce could possibly rival The Bob Lancaster Gallery of Unusual Playing Cards. He has a monstrous list of collectors, artists, manufacturers and just plain interesting sites about playing cards. And so, in deference to his monumental efforts, I provide only a link to him. I hope he doesn't have to pay by the hit...
And people are always asking me where to buy cards. There are plenty of places throughout the net that sell them, from little theme sites that happen to have a deck or two to enormous cards and games superstores. Bob's site lists many of them, but I have to confess - I just like Newt's Playing Cards. And they've got a heck of a selection.
Issue 8, 11/98 - 12/98: Playing With Cards
Issue 7, 10/97 - 12/97: Sports Cards
Issue 6, 8/97 - 9/97: A Game of War
Issue 5, 6/97 - 7/97: Playing Cards As Art
Issue 4, 4/97 - 5/97: Court Fashions
Issue 3, 2/97 - 3/97: A Fortune in Playing Cards
Issue 2, 12/96 - 1/97: Literature on Playing Cards
Issue 1, 10/96 - 11/96: Handmade Playing Cards