Saturday, December 12, 2020

ARRCO and Arrow

I'm trying here to write the definitive article on the jokers of ARRCO cards. It's still a work in progress and any contribution would help. Since my joker collection is organized by visual themes, not by country or publisher, these jokers are kept in many different sections of the collection. For each joker, I'll mention where it is in the collection.   First, a little background on the ARRCO company (Originally called Arrow).
ARRCO Cards History - The ARRCO Playing Card Company was started in 1927 (or 1930) in Chicago and was independent until 1987 when it was purchased by USPC.  ARRCO started as Arrow Playing Card Company by Theodore Regensteiner, who also invented the four-color lithograph press.  In 1935, it became ARRCO and became a national leader in quality playing cards.  ARRCO cards were a major brand into the 1980s when it was folded into USPC. To this day, stop by any drug or other store, and you're likely to find ARRCO for sale as a bargain brand. 
My primary source for this is an article -  the history of ARRCO by EndersGames published on about Other sources are the Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards and an article by Simon Wintle on the World of Playing Cards.

ARRCO Jokers. I'm not sure which was the original joker but their first massive hit was the deck and joker  published as a souvenir deck for the 1934 Chicago World's Fair.

A Century of American Progress. 1933. Chicago. When the World's Fair came to Chicago in 1933, ARRCO launched this deck which was a huge marketing coup. It echoes the success of marketing at the Paris World's Fair in 1989 by the New York Consolidated Card Company commemorated and promoted by their Gold Medal joker. He's in the Americana section with the other world's fair joker.

Below are the first jokers mentioned in the Hochman chapter on ARRCO (P151 is MSN1a ARRCO Playing Cards, c1935).  I have my three variations of him in the Jokers (not jesters) Standing section.

And for those of you who track such things, the one on the far right mostly closely matches MSN1a although mine is coded: "Made in U. S. A. 8648-531": Hochman's is coded: "Made in U. S. A. 8505-3036".

The other joker pictured on P151 is MSN1d Arrow Playing Cards Co. c 1925.She is also found in the  Jokers (not jesters) Standing section. Mine has a code, Hochman does not.I also have a B&W version. 

On P152, the first joker is Arrco c1943, MSN2. It features a clown head and is a wide or narrow deck produced for sale in USO canteens during WWII. I don't have him: I did accidentally buy a cheap knockoff of him I keep in my FAKES section. 

Next is MSN3 Centaur, ARRCO C1940.  I have him in the horsey or equestrian joker section.

The Clown Head Joker - one of the most emblematic American jokers. The last joker pictured on Hochman P152 is Head. MSN4a Enardoe.  By Edward Drane & Co, Chicago. c1932.  Could this be the origin of this now very popular Clown Head joker?  Here's the Hochman entry which says it was "almost surely made by Arrco". I have this Clownhead in my heads section.

I have about 20 variations of this joker in my collection.

Known as "Throwny", this ARRCO joker is in the sitting jokers front facing section. I have at least five variations of him.

These ARRCO standing jokers are in the standing jesters with wands section. I have five variations.

Hochman on  P153 mentions two jokers that I have in the collection.

MSB14 Remembrance, Brown & Bigelow, c1935.  Now what does that mean? Was there a relationship between Brown & Bigelow and ARRCO?  I have him in the Topsy Jokers of Things (not People). Brown & Bielelow of St Paul, Minnesota was a big card publisher from the late 1920s to the 1980s. 

The ARRCO Redislip joker celebrated the slick finish on ARRCO cards with a humorous twist on slipping showing a person falling onto their butt. The original of this are shown below in row 2, columns 1 & 3 below.  They were echoed by the gals falling on their bum but I don't know if they are also by ARRCO. The original is listed in Hochman on P153 is MSN15, Brown & Bigelow. St Paul, c1945. I have them in my Illustrated Erotica section (which is maybe not the best categorization but I do like having all the people slipping onto their bum together). She's cute but I'm not so sure she belongs there.

(I have many more ARRCO jokers to photograph and collect...)
On P154, three jokers listed. I have Antlers and Luxor, not Monte Carlo.
P 155: I have Criterion and Permantite, not Carlotti. 
P156. I have both KEM and Gibson.
P157: I have Classique, Minerva, and Diana from Gibson (currently in my American people section) I also have Bigson  
P158: High Stepper. I don't have Finesse or Scottie.
159-62: Over 50%

Another ARRCO joker  in the collection (but not mentioned in Hochman) is Throwny who was mentioned above.

Resources about ARRCO jokers.

Hochman is where I always start. There's a chapter of the Hochman American Card Encyclopedia entitled "Narrow Cards" which focuses on the Bridge Era of card playing in the 1930s. Unlike poker and other games where players had around a half dozen cards in their hand, with bridge, players started each round with 13 cards in their hand so it was preferred to have narrow (not wide bridge-size) cards.   

I'm confused by this "Narrow Cards" chapter of Hochman because it reads a like a history of Arrow and Arrco cards. 

The World of Playing Cards and an article by EndersGames published on about the history of Arrco


 Here are the other articles about my early American manufacturers jokers. Note that this article, like a number of them, is a work in progress in which I'm looking at my joker collection which is organized by visual themes and look at it by manufacturer and history.

NYCC jokers
USPC Jokers including Bicycle, Congress  

National Card Company and Perfection too 
Kalamazoo and Russell 

The History of the Joker, the Ace of Spades, and the Stamp Act

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