Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sports Jokers

Sports jokers, sounds like an oxymoron. But why not? Here they are. There's 61 of them.

First up, two favorites. A soccer referee giving me the red card. And the three stooges playing golf.

Speaking of golf, here's a whole page of golfing jokers. That's not an oxymoron, it's just redundant. Golfing. Jokers.

Note that the four bowlers in this last page are designed by Randy Butterfield of Indiana.

Bicycle Jokers

The Bicycle Joker is among the most classic American jokers. It might be the premier American joker.  I have 60 bicycle joker variations.

Here is my personal favorite, the colored version of the classic Bicycle Joker.

And then here are a sample of the many variations of these bicycle jokers. First, the blue background:

An interesting yellow coloring...

Before we leave the classic Bicycle joker section, lets do a little history.  While not an old joker, this design is a throw back to the origin story of jokers, the "Best Bower", an extra card required by the game of euchre.  Note the date call out at the bottom: 1885.  Was this the date of the first publication of a Bicycle joker?

Here's another variation of the big wheeled old style bicycle but without the reference to the Best Bower or the date.

This next joker, shown front and back, is also a modern recreation made to look old of the Bicycle joker.

(Updated 2/21/2018) I didn't know anything about this next joker but I do think I remember buying it in a vintage story in the mid 70s in Upstate New York.  I show front and back.  Anyone know anything about it?

Here's the info provided in a FB discussion of this joker:

Paul Bostock The design (those 'imps') looks like National Playing cards. I checked Hochman and it is Nu13 1896. At that time, National had recently been bought by USPC, hence using their letters on the Joker. 

Chris Turner National or USPC joker from the special deck for the game 500. These are originals. Look at the vertical lines in the finish of the paper stock. Newer cards (after 1960s) do not show those lines with age. 

Decks have 63 or 65 cards, depending in the variety, including 11, 12 and 13s and one joker. USPC made the 500 deck until the late 2000s. 

The Griffin back seen here is the most commonly found. Other backs included a swastika from when that symbol was considered a sign of good luck. 

Deck made in red and blue. Slip cases with gold embossing first, then later, a larger tuck box. 500 decks of all vintages are still out there at the junk stores and estate sales — and rarely are expensive. 

Finally, it is a wonderful game. The favorite at my house. Four or five players use a standard deck with one joker; six players use the 63 or 65 card deck. 

Dan Nordquist: The characters are the "Palmer Cox Brownies" who were popular cartoonish characters from the early 20th century. National playing cards created the "look" and was bought up by USPC as someone else said. If you like the look of the Brownies, there are others around besides the ones sitting in a circle. Probably the greatest would be the Schlitz beer advertising deck that has them on the Joker. There are also some Joker pics that show them about to launch a huge snowball off a roof at other cartoon characters. And a second Joker that shows the aftermath of the snowball falling on everyone below. Those are all black and white. But the really rare one is a color version of them playing billiards / pool. 

Thus ends the bi-cycle section and starts the unicycle section. The first unicyclist is particularly tricky.

This jester's unicycle is tiny but the tweetie bird on this finger is bigger than his head. And the bells on his hat are larger than the bird's head.

Now, some clowns on unicycles...

And a clown on a sort of unicycle. Actually, it looks like a ball. But I thought he belonged here with the others.

The last bicycle joker to be pictured is a modern design by the incomparable joker designer, Randy Butterfield.   I hope to interview him soon to get the inside scoop on the story of this design.

This is the newest and last page in the Bicycle section. It has the novelty see-through joker (picture above front and back plus the Randy Butterfield jokers (top left and top right). The center bottom is sort of a unicycle theme. I'm not entirely comfortable with classifying him in the bicycle section but he is there. For now.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Jokers by Randy Butterfield of Midnight Cards

I am thrilled to show off my collection of jokers designed by Randy Butterfield of Midnight Cards.

I'll start with one of my favorites. This elegant egg joker design. Reminiscent of the Faberge Egg, this one features a traditional crown on top a jester grimacing gaily from the front, apparently made with or plated with gold.

Here are four variations on the egg.

These next two will get cataloged in the collection in the bust and headshot section.

This joker, in classic black and white, will go into the bicycle section (which I just realized I have not yet put online. Maybe I'll do it tonight.  Could be a late night....). I see the USPC (US Playing Card Company) dollar sig-like insignia in the corner which is typical of the Bicycle and Congress decks.  Was this joker designed for them?

The next ones are bowling which as far as joker taxonomy goes, belongs in the sports section (yikes, it's also not yet online!)

For those of you have not yet clicked through to read about Randy Butterfield at Midnight Cards, his day job is commercial design for packaging and point of sale display for the liquor industry. He designs cards at night. He has a gorgeous family (which you have to click through to see) and sells decks from his website: 

I'm not entirely sure who the card player on this next card is but I want him to stay away from my daughters. And even if he was on my team, I'm not sure that I'd trust him

These next two jokers look much like my son and his friends. 

I think this next Butterfield design belongs in the juggling section of my collection.

Augustus, speak up, what's on your mind?

Saving the best, at least my favorites, for last. Here are Randy Butterfield's Jester on Sticks. As a reminder, jesters carry little wands or baubles which have miniatures of this head. These jokers are just close-ups of these traditional wands, beautifully designed in 3D.  (Boy, I really need to improve my photography).

 Here is the complete set of eight of jester sticks: four with light backgrounds, four with dark.

So while that's not a complete photo display of my Randy Butterfield jokers, it is a large sample. 

Thank you Mr Butterfield for creating these beautiful designs for us.  And shortly, I don't doubt. joker and card design will become widely recognized as the significant fine art that it truly is. Forget canvas and giclĂ©es on the wall, art galleries will soon become regularly dedicated to displays of finely designed cards.  And reigning supreme will be Mr. R. Butterfield.