Monday, July 20, 2020

Topsy Turvy Card Jokers

As a joker collector, I struggle with questions of how to curate and categorize. 

Today, oh joy of joys, I discerned a new subcategory within the topsy turvy joker (duplex or mirrored) section. With ~300 in the topsy section, creating subcategories is important. 

My new category:  topsy turvy jokers with a card theme! The character might be a queen or other royal card herself. Or the character might be playing cards or dressed with card themes. Or maybe there’s just a few pips or suits floating around. I’m so so so happy with this new Topsy subcategory (which takes its place next to topsy categories such as animals, musical, girls, masks, and travel).

Joker Queen Playing Card
Joker Queen Playing Card

  The next two use the classic king on the joker, he's most often used also on the Bicycle Joker where he is riding a bike.

I define a topsy turvy joker, also called mirrored or duplex, as a joker where the bottom is the same as the top only upside down. Put otherwise, like most of the cards in the deck, they are symmetrical along the horizontal axis.  Magicians (like me) know that all the cards are not symmetrical and this sometimes forms the basis of some card tricks.

Here are the four suits as a design element in the middle of the card. Strictly speaking, not symmetrical although I'd be hard pressed to declare which way is upside down..

This gal, I think, is playing cards but holding a marotte (jesters wand) in the other hand.

BTW, my introduction to the word "topsy turvy" was through the Enid Blyton books about The Magic Faraway Tree in the Enchanted Forest where different worlds, such as the Topsy Turvy one, moved into the top of the tree. I read them repeatedly as a youngster living in London.
Want to see all the topsy turvy jokers?

For yet more fun, read about: 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Crescent Moon Jokers

I have a charming set of jokers with ladies sitting on the crescent moon.  It's inside the sitting section of the collection more specifically, inside the "sitting sideways" section.

Let's start with the Moon Fairy Joker, a venerable piece of American card and joker history. This Moon Fairy joker was the joker on one of the first Congress decks that the USPC published, in 1895 (I'm not sure that this is an original Moon Fairy although it does seem to match the example from Hoffman' Card Encyclopedia on page 87.)

 The World of Playing Cards cites an 1899 Congress Number 606 Deck that looks a lot like this. How do I tell what era mine is from?  Here's the back of myMoon Fairy joker.

Betty Boop has her own  Betty Boop article on this blog.

I call this one Witchie.

This NuVue crescent moon joker was one that I encountered a lot when I started collecting bakc in the 1970s. I think it was because it was the standard joker on most airplane decks (which were free back then) and so I got them often. BTW, if you want a cheap thrill, next time you are on a plane and the attendant is of a certain age and asks you want you want (while she really wants to know if you want water or a coke), tell her you'd like a deck of cards.  It seems to transparent them back to a different era and takes them awhile to recover with "And has it really been 40 years since you've flown?"

 This joker troubles me since the crescent moon is facing opposite all the others.  Does that happen?
More about the joker above. This joker was  featured by Joop Muller as the Joker of the Month, June 2020. Since his research and knowledge is so deep and thorough, I'll quote: 

So here she is, sitting on the moon holding up a drink, surrounded by stars and some light brown nebula's. No, she's not in the best condition. The back shows a goose in flight and advertises Miller High Life, "the champagne of bottle beer". So that's probably in the glass she's holding. Google brought some more information. Apparently this logo is called "Girl on the Moon" and there have been at least 5 versions of her. This version would have been in use in the 1950's. I think it's safe to say that the joker was made in the US, but couldn't put a maker to it. Nevertheless...... cheers!”

Plus there are four more topsy turvy crescent moon jokers. There are two where they have musical instruments and are drinking. (Only one is shown).
And there two (only one shown) in which they just have an instrument but nothing to drink.

What to look at next, I suggest the:

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Joker Nicknames from Dan's Childhood

In the summer of 2018, I had an extended business trip to Chicago. I remembered that there was a joker collector on the Facebook group in Chicago. I contacted him and we met. So far, Dan Nordquist is the only other joker collector that I've met face to face.

Dan Nordquist

Dan is charming, very knowledgeable about the history of jokers especially the early American jokers, and has a wonderful collection particularly of early American jokers.  But what struck me most was his story that he had started collecting jokers as small kid along with all the other kids in the neighborhood. And since they talked about jokers and started seeing the same designs over and over again, they gave them nicknames.  

I asked him if he could remember the nicknames and whether he minded if I shared. Here they are:

He called this joker: Head. 

Comedy Head Joker
Comedy Head Joker

Another anecdote that I found interesting that he shared was about his "little gang of 5th and 6th grade joker collectors" and I quote:

We decided to canvas the entire neighborhood for decks that had interesting jokers.  We told everyone whose doorbell that we rang that we were gathering old and maybe "stale" decks for an old folks home.  We discovered a few new Jokers this way ( such as "Livingston" ) and although we initially were just using the old folks thing as a pretext, we ultimately did give almost everything we found ( lacking a  few Jokers ) to a real old folks' home.  Now we are all "old folks" ourselves!

Candy Joker
Shovel Player
Donkey Clown
Mardi Gras
S Rider

Pinwheel Joker by Western Publishing

And Old Pinwheel.

I like the idea of a bunch of neighborhood kids ringing bells, asking for decks for an "old folks home", and then opening the deck and saying: "Durn, just another Old Pinwheel."  It somehow reminds me of my childhood where I collected cards and coins with my brothers and we would go to local banks to get an entire pound as a bag of either copper, threpences, or sixpences. But that's another story.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Americana Jokers

I post this section on Americana Jokers on Memorial Day 2020, the first year of the Global Covid19 Pandemic. And because it's Memorial Day and I think the way I do, I'm reflecting on these symbols and going to share some thoughts.

The Americana jokers, a subsection of the travel section,is closely related to the Real People / Americans section.

First, the Stars and Stripes with the American Eagle.

Next, the Statue of Liberty. It stands on Ellis Island and if you arrive at the USA through the NYC Harbor, it's one hell of a sight.  The Mother of Exiles was constructed for the US Centennial Anniversary. It was designed and donated by France. Moneys were also raised in the US and a poem was written as part of this effort. 

I find the imagery around the Statue of Liberty breathtaking. It's not a statue showing military strength to scare the enemies nor to glorify American military strength. It's not a statue of a general nor of a triumphant arch.  

It's a statue of a female welcoming the refugees. The word "homeless" appears in the sonnet quoted at its base. And while its a statue of a Womyn, this is no madonna focused on her child. In fact, there's no hint of subservience or family about her.  She be powerful.  

The Statue of Liberty is inscribed by a poem written by a women.  Much of this statue's imagery runs counter to current thinking both from the American Right (Poor people stay out of the USA) and from the Leftist Feminists (There's been no American historical respect or recognition for women).  

Here's the inscription:  Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore....
Mother of Exiles Welcomes Immigrants
Here's The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus:
 Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
 "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor
,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Here's The Stars and Stripes. Not much more to say about her...I do like the way my image is reflected in this picture of the flag. I am a "Navy Brat" as in my father was career Navy and a Naval Academy Graduate.

Here's a joker of a classic war memorial. Cannons, cannon balls, muskets, and eagle. I feel like I should be able to date it from the munitions. Is it an Independence or Civil War Era memorial?

I'm now thinking about our National Holidays. The American Government has created the following:
Memorial Day - Last Monday in May - To remember those lost in the wars.
The 4th of July - The Fourth Day in July - To Celebrate the Birth of our Nation
Labor Day -  First Monday in September - To Celebrate Labor
Columbus Day - Second Monday in October - Due to the recent public recognition that Columbus was a slaver and so on, this is morphing as a holiday to either not existing (stock markets stay open) or to becoming an Indigenous People's Day.
Thanksgiving - Fourth Thursday in November - To Give thanks for something to someone.
Christmas Day - December 25th - This celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Initially in the spring, moved to December about a thousand years after He died.
New Year's Day - January 1st - It's make-a-resolution and nurse your hangover day.
Presidents Day - Third Monday in February - To celebrate our presidents, it was derived from Washington's and Lincoln's Birthday.
MLK Day - Third Monday in January - Celebrating Dr King's Birthday
It's interesting that Good Friday is not a Federal Holiday. My source on all this is Wikipedia US Holidays.  

I just wondered, if it wasn't the government that created holidays, would we have a different set of holidays? My personal preference would be to elevate Valentines Day rescheduling it to the second Saturday in February. I'd also make Halloween the last Saturday in October. I'd redo Columbus Day entirely and convert it into a Multicultural Day to celebrate and build understanding of our differences.  I would import The Day of the Dead from Mexico. My understanding is that in Mexico, everyone picnics at cemeteries  as a way to remember, celebrate, and perhaps communicate with those that have passed on.

OK, back to jokers. Or at least to reflecting on the significance to me of the symbolism on the jokers. Today, I'm hung up on content.

Here's a nice symbol: the Liberty Bell.  It always reminds me of the old days when communities were more physically defined and an important distance was earshot.  Bells were an important part of the community communication. 

I've always thought there was a lot that should be said about the crack in the Liberty Bell. In my mind, the crack evokes the mistakes and shortcomings at the creation of the US.  Even as Freedom started to ring,  the bell was cracked and broken.  

The first break to get addressed was the creation of a country based on the Articles of Confederation. It was a disaster.  A little more than a decade later, faced with overwhelming problems  including Shays Rebellion, many of the American leaders met in Philadelphia for a long hot summer. They had been convened to amend the Articles of Confederation. Instead, largely in secret, they formented a new revolution, this time scheming to replace the existing American "United States" system with a new Federally-focused American constitution.  It was treasonous, risky, and successful. They created the US Constitution. 

But the Liberty Bell was still cracked. No freedom at all for Blacks (or other non-white races). No voting rights for women. In fact, no real talk of civil rights at all. This flaw of the constitution was fixed as a condition of adopting the Constitution: the addition of a Bill of Rights.  

Flaws that were later recognized and fixed in the constitution including recognizing that all Americans had the same rights including both genders and all the races.  Well, women were given the right to vote but the ERA has never made it through.  Also, in the early 1900s, the Constitution was amended so that senators were directly voted.  I wonder if we'll fix more flaws soon perhaps to improve our representation of the majority of voters, perhaps to go big on gender orientation rights? I'd love to see some progress increasing the separation of state and religion. I've wondered all my life why our money is not inscribed with "We, the People" rather than "In God We Trust."  I think it's wrong and I'd love to see my generation, the Boomers, fix it before we pass on.  I wonder if we'll backtrack on a women's right to choose? The Liberty Bell's cracks remain.

The World Fairs. Starting in the middle of the eighteen hundreds, learning about the world was often achieved by touring the World's Fairs. These  were held over many months where products and information and technology and animals from around the world were brought together so people could marvel and learn.  

This joker, which I show front and back, is from the 1904 St Louis World's Fair.

Joker 1904 Worlds Fair in Saint Louis

Playing Cards 1904 Worlds Fair in St Louis

I like to see (maybe I should create it) a TV series on the World Fairs since each of them were so rife with stories. There is a best seller book about a Chicago World's Fair.  Well-known buildings left over from these world's fairs includes:
the Crystal Palace in London from the first World Exposition in 1851 (there's a really great episode of the TV series on Victoria which tells the story of how Prince Albert championed and inspired this Exhibition to an astonishing level) 
Trocodero Palace in Paris for the 1871 World's Fair
Eiffel Tower in Paris for the 1889 World Exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution

And the backs.

This page starts with my favorite symbols like the Liberty Bell but includes one of my least favorite modern symbol, the Confederate Flag.  I'd like to see it gone from modern usage and for it to only be known for its historical significance. I'd also like to move more aggressively in removing the names of people from buildings and such when their main historical role in history was aggressively asserting and defending their rights to own slaves. Names currently in use by the US Military which should be gotten rid of (thank you NYT for this reporting): Camp Beauregard, Fort Benning, Fort Bragg, Fort Gordon, Fort AP Hill, Fort Hood, Fort Lee, Fort Pickett, Fort Polk, and Fort Rucker. #Shameful.  

And here are the backs of those jokers.

This page has several American Worlds Fair joker cards, The middle joker on the page is from the 1904 St Louis World Fair and shows the Festival Hall and the Cascades. That fair celebrated the Louisiana Purchase.

The joker on the right of the middle row celebrates A Century of Progress International Exposition, also known as The Chicago World's Fair  held from 1933 to 1934.

The joker on the middle row on the left above  (shown again below) confuses me since it cites winning in the 1878 Paris Exposition. Could it have been that the Chicago Consolidated Card Company had won  a Gold Medal in the 1878 Paris Exposition? Can anyone explain (in the comments below) to me?

Many astute readers have asked about Congress jokers.  Should they be in this section? they are not, there's a separate  Congress Joker section  with 27 jokers. Here's un petit amuse gueule for you of them.  

Congress Playing Card Jokers
Congress Playing Card Jokers

This being the American Subsection of the Travel section, we'll now move from monuments more to geography of the US. I've already shown you three of the nine pages of American Travel jokers.  Here's page number four.
And their backs.

Page Five!

Page six. (noted that the Wild Bill joker should be moved to American People section).

Page seven. This pages focuses on water. Across the top, there's a sunset over the water, a Florida sun over the water and then some frozen glacier perhaps Alaskan water. Row two has two waterfalls and one port. One three is Northern Midwest Beauty with Michigan and South Dakota.

Page eight has more water plus some Love NY and Park Celebrations.

This last page, makes 81 (9x9) plus a few, is mostly texty. The three across the middle are facts about Guam, Oregon, and the US Virgin Island. 

One last thought. I just checked for unopened decks that might contribute jokers to this section and I immediately found four:

Here's a summary of the travel subsections of the joker collection: now all online and counted!
The total is 354 travel jokers.