Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Playing Card Museum Joker Poster: Can I Collect Them All?

 In 1991, the US Playing Card Museum published a poster with the pictures of 72 jokers. 

In December of 2020, I decided to see how many of these jokers from the poster were in my collection. And then I set out to collect all of them.  

How am I doing? There are still 15 that I don't have. This article goes through the cards on the poster, row by row.  I'll admit which jokers I don't have - or brag about those that I do - and share what I know about the history of each joker.  

Click through to see the updated list of the 15 jokers that I’m still looking for.  If you have any of them, even as part of a whole deck, I'm highly motivated. to buy or trade for them.

Background: This poster was published by the Playing Card Museum in 1991. The museum was run by the The United States Playing Card Company.  The fine print:  "Poster Design Margery B. Griffith Photograph, color separations and printing: Stevenson Photo Color Company. Paper and preparation: The United States Playing Card Company. Copyright 1991." I would love to hear how they picked these 72 jokers. I'm particularly intrigued by the choice of a joker published by Adobe Systems which was still a very young company back then.

Here's my status on these jokers. November 2023, I have 15  left to find.  The Perfection Joker 5B, Adobe joker 5E, Bengal Kalamazoo 3I were recent arrivals.

 If anyone has these jokers that I’m missing for sale as singles or with a deck, I’m highly motivated. 

Row by row review.  Starting at the top row.
Row 1.

1A. Universal Playing Card Co., London, c 1940.
In my collection, he's in the Performers with cards section. I have three variations and some duplicates. He is a British joker, created by Alf Cooke in Leeds in the 1920s in black and white. Corporations doing what they do, he seems to have become part of Universal Playing Card Company Limited and then, via Amalgamated Playing Card Company Ltd, part of Waddingtons. It's described on the World of Playing Cards.

1B. He is in the American People section of my collection (which doesn't quite make sense) and  is the source of much interest by me to figure out what myth he might relate to.  I have maybe four variations of him. He was first published in 1895 by the Standard Playing Card Company based in St Louis and Chicago. He first appears as SU2 on P137 of Hochman. The key says FASTMAIL (sic), Standard Playing Card co, Chicago, c 1905.


1C. He is in the topsy jokers with  clowns or jesters section. Two variations. Northbrook Playing Card Co., 1965.

1D. I have NY56 Mascotte.Spanish American War, Army Edition Samuel Hart.1895. Hochman P 60.  He is the standing section.

1E. Head no hands section. I have him in two colors and with duplicates available. Virginia Slims, USPC for Philip Morris, 1984.
1F - Picture provided by Matt Schacht who says that this is the Dougherty Indicator. MOGUL CLUBS 315. A. Dougherty, NY (Joker first appeared in 1890). I have him!

1G -  Parachuting clown. In the clown section.  A Special edition. USPC. c 1950. 

Waldorf Dougherty 1909 Clown Joker

1I Waldorf #240. A Dougherty, NY c1909. I bought him with the deck. I keep the joker, as I do with my most precious decks, with the deck and only have a photocopy in the joker albums. (I have an article about my oldest decks).

1G -  This card playing guy is in the head and busts section, subsection with hands but NOT holding a wand. I have six variations. Special edition. USPC c 1950.

 ROW 2

I do have A,B, D, E, F, G, and I.  I don't have C and I hear he is terribly rare.  

Row 2, Column A - 2A. This jester head is on a stick so he's in that section of jester wands. Arrco Playing Card Co, Chicago, c 1975.

#2B. This jack in the box should in my opinion, be with the other jack in the boxes that are in with the jesters on a stick. I'll move him shortly. Currently, to be honest, he is in the clown section since he is clown-like and his pair, below him, is also a clown. USPC for Barton Playing Card Co. C 1960.

#2C. I do not have this dancing skeleton. At least not yet. Want it.  I also can't find it in Hochman so it might not have deep roots, it might just be a modern novelty joker.  X-Ray Playing Cards Co. NY c 1940

2D - Topsy Jester or Clown Jokers - jester with wand, have dupe. Special edition, USPC 1935.

2E - Modiano. Have him with dupes and variations in the heads with hands section Modiana. Trieste, Italy. c 1950.

2F Clown with goose and balloon in the clown section.   Special edition. USPC. 1935. 

2G. - I got  this laughing head in early 2021, He's from Hochman P134.  He was initially published by the Kalamazo Playing Card Co under the St Louis Playing Card Co name for the Russell.  Kalamazoo Playing Card Co for Metropolitan Playing Card Co, NY c 1905. (is this right?). He's in the heads with hands holding wands section.

2H - Standing juggling joker that I do NOT  have. Adking USA for Pacific Telephone Yellow Pages. c 1960.

2-I Topsy Jester or Clown Jokers - Have twenty or so variations of this Western Publishing Joker, if you count different numbers at bottom

Row 3
I have A,B,F, G, and I. I'm missing a lot: C, D, E, & H.
Humiliating! Can anyone help me?

3A Donkey - He is my US Political Section.  Kennedy Kards, Humor House Inc. 1963

3B - Jester coming through the looking glass. I have him in color and black and white.  This Jolly Joker matches Ad12, Triplicate No. 18, c1876, Dougherty on P71 of Hochman and P54 of Paper Empires. She's in the hands but no wand of the Heads and Busts section. Interesting note: the first PM that I got about this post commented on my using she to refer to "the character peeking through a hoop".  Funny that I hadn't really though about the gender until Dan mentioned it. Since the character has make-up, I immediately thought it was feminine but really, as a circus clown, it's more likely a guy.Dupes. NAGPKA #708. A Dougherty, NY for export. c 1925

3C-D-E - I don't have any of these.
3C - Clown with a parasol off to the side. USPC for EW McCarroll Co. Pittsburgh c 1925.
3D - Perfecto Americana. Atlas Playing Card. Co, NY c 1925. Is this the Perfection deck that Glen says is unfindable?
3E - Smiling clown head.  Chess Deck. Unknown. c 1900.

3F - Nose itch head. It's in  in the hands but no wand of the Heads and Busts section.  It's the top one of this set. The joker is by Bernard Dondorf from Frankfurt, Germany. They were used from ca.1895 until 1933. Here's Joops page about him and his kind.  I have two variations above. Joop explains: "NASM stands for Nederlandsch Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij (Dutch American Steamship Company), which later became the Holland Amerika Lijn, better known now as HAL." Poster: B Dondorf, Frankfurt, Germany c 1895.
3G -  Topsy Jester or Clown Jokers - Historical clown.  Goose stepping clown. Originally published by A Dougherty, c1905. AD37. Hochman P77.  Climax #14.

3H - Don't have it. Eclipse Comic Playing Cards. EH Lowerre. First Original American Transformation deck with Joker. 1876. I’m told that this a collectors dream and probably unfindable and unaffordable. 

3I - I now have the Bengal. American Playing Card Co. Kalamazoo Paper Box Co, c. 1895. I bought it with the entire deck. Most expensive purchase yet. I'll keep the deck intact and together, I have a quality copy that I'll put in my album. I've done that with a few on this list where I had to buy an entire deck. It'll go in the seating section, facing forward.


Row 4.
I have A,B,C,D,E, G, H, & I. I'm missing F which is  known as the Democracy joker and which is   very rare. 

4A. -  Topsy Jester or Clown Jokers - Russian.  I remember when I first bought him, I was in Russia in 1979! That's a story.

4B -  The guitar playing joker was first made by King Press c1937.  It's listed as MSN51 King Press, P159 of Hochman. He's in the clown section. Imperial King Press. NJ c 1935. 

4C is this version of the Bicycle joker. Notice how the hat and plants are different than the standard Bicycle joker. The one in my collection is of course in the Bicycle section and is as best I can tell, a modern reproduction of the old one. I'm not sure if the poster shows and an original or modern repro.

4D - Hubert Humphrey on a Hobby Horse. Humphrey was known for his progressive views, persistence,  and his good nature: he was nicknamed the Happy Warrior. I have this one.  He was initially categorized (currently) in the horse section but when I understood more,I moved him to the  politicians jokers section of the collection.  This joker is one of two from “The President’s Deck” published by Alfabet, Inc. manufactured by USPC.  United States Playing Card Co. c.1972.  Richard Nixon (US President) was on the Kings, Pat Nixon (first lady) was on the Queens, Spiro Agnew (Nixon's first vice president who was indicted, convicted, and incarcerated for corruption) on the Jacks. The jokers featured the two candidates who has run against Richard Nixon in the election: Hubert Humphrey (Democrat) and George Wallace (who ran as an independent and was a racist populist who is best known for his statement: "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever").  Hochman p.229, P13; Fournier, Playing Cards, North America 232.USPC Presidents Deck. Smith Western Publishing. Oregon. 1971. 

4E - This crooked joker is in my Odd Sized and Shaped joker section. Crooked Deck. Arnold Free Novelty. 1969.
4F - I  have Uncle Sam on the globe as of 11/23/2023! 4F Charter Oak. N American Card Co. Chicago. C 1900. Hochman P30 L27. American Beauty Cards.


Row 5
I have only A, B, C, D, E, & H. I need  F, G,  & I. 
I have less than half of this row: I feel like such a loser... 

On the bright side, in 2021, I acquired Perfection! (Row 5, Column B). This is one of my favorites! I found that to get some of the most interesting jokers, like him, I had to buy some entire old decks of playing cards.  He's the Hartford Safety Bike. Perfection Playing Card Co. c 1895.
This deck is listed in Hochmans's  PU2 Top-Top #350, page 118. Philadelphia, c 1887. And I quote: The cards in this deck look slightly later than PU1. It came with at least three different Jokers. We have found several Perfection decks in special boxes for R. H. Stearns & Co., Engravers and Stationers, Boston, with the Perfection brand name and number on the ends of the boxes.

5E. I have the Adobe joker, published by Adobe Systems in 1988 to show off the power of Postscript and Display Postscript. Click for more info on Adobe Playing Cards.

Because this deck is a collectors item, I keep the jokers with the deck. I’ll put a photocopy of these jokers in my collection. Where? They’ll go in the garage art section, digital subsection. 

Row 6
I need B, C, D, & I.

Row 7
I need D, E, & F.

7A - Got it. Sitting Cross Legged Joker section. You can see him pretty clearly in the row above
7B - This jokers is from as of yet, unknown American publisher (per the poster key) c 1935. It's in the joker about cards section.

7C - Just got "Fact & Fancy" 3/6/21 from Matt (thanks!). He will go in the Jester Jokers with No Wand (standing or walking) section. He's circa 1961 designed by Dick Martin for the Chicago Playing Card Collectors, Inc. 
7D - need him
7E - Need him
7F - need him. He's a Justin Rodero joker (thanks to Steve Bacon of Two For His Heels for this info).
7G - He is the jokers with weapons section
7H - He's in the Topsy joker section, clowns and jesters subsection
7I - He's in the Heads and Busts section, subsection Jesters on a stick, page of Jack in the box Jokers.

7G Image below


Row 8

Have A, B,C, F, G, and H. Need D, E, and I.  *** NOTE need to add links***
A is standing not jester.
B is head with hands and cards. 
C is jesters dancing.
G is jesters standing.
H is jesters standing.
D, missing, is FairPlay from Dougherty, c1910. A juggler
E, missing, is a Piatnik c1949. He’s a small sized head with hands.
I is Clown Cigarettes, USPC, c1925. A clown in a horse costume

Would it be too much if I lined up my  jokers like the row above leaving blanks for the ones that I don't have?

Here's the published key (anybody have a higher resolution scan for me?).

updated list of the 18 jokers that I’m still looking for. 


Here is the poster with the ones checked off but it hasn't been updated since April 2021.



  1. Hi Johne,
    First can I congratulate you on your site. Although I gave up joker collecting some time ago, I’m still amazed and fascinated by both the individuality and abstract beauty of the joker. I recently came across and joined a Facebook Joker Collectors Club and its reawakened my interest.
    The Joker poster (above) was one of the topics up for discussion. It’s a fantastic poster, a joker collectors dream! I have one framed and behind non-reflective glass. I got it while at the CCPC Convention in Chicago. I believe I have the key somewhere but it has been 23 years so I need to look for it. If I can locate it how can I forward it?
    All the best to you
    Stay safe. Keep well
    A Potter

  2. Interview with Tom & Judy Dawson


  3. Good article on the history of the joker that wrestles with the Best Bower Euchre concept and the relationship with the Tarot Fool: https://hobbylark.com/card-games/The-History-of-the-Joker-Card

  4. I see you don't have my favorite joker. It's the only one I've ever saved, it's the cute little joker standing on th back of a bee.


Thanks for your input and for reading and thinking about jokers.