Saturday, November 19, 2022

Big Cat Jokers

 There are pussy cats and big cats. The Big Cats now have their own section!  Hear them roar!

Tiger Joker Roaring

 Here's one stalking his prey...

Here's a lion, dressed for business?  What a joker!

And here are the ensemble shots of the big cat playing card jokers.  For clarity, this Big Cat section is a subsection of the feline section which is a subsection of the animal jokers. At the bottom of this article is a complete breakdown of the animal sections




What to see next? In the Animal Jokers category, there are...
Cats (the original article which combines big and small cats) and Dogs  
Flyers (Bees, Birds, Owls), Butterfly jokersDragons
Horses . There's also fantasy horses (centaurs, flying horses, and unicorns)
 Animal Jokers: Other: Monkeys!  including Bears, Bulls, antlers;  Swimmers reptiles shellfish and other squirmies, and animals with antlers, tusks, or horns.

And animal ensembles (ie cats and dogs on the same joker or as the same pair)!  Not listed here because they are not really animals: Mermaid jokers!

Sunday, November 13, 2022

American Political Jokers

 Cards featuring politicians are popular, here's some of the modern jokers. First, a few of my favorites. The first one is Walter Mondale, the Vice President of Jimmy Carter. 

 

Here's John Kerry, the Democratic Candidate for President against George Bush Jr.  He was also the Secretary of State for some years during Barack Obama's Administration

Al Gore was Bill Clinton's Vice President and was the Democratic Presidential candidate against George Bush. He also created the film: "An Inconvenient Truth". 
Here's George Bush Jr.

 

Here's nine more George Bush jokers.

In the next nine, the only two unlabeled jokers are Newt Gringich in the bottom left and ??? in the bottom right

There's George Bush in the top left here.  George McGovern (Democratic  in the late 1960s) in the middle.


 
It's Trump in the top left, Hillary in the top right.  Trump also in bottom left and right.  I'm not sure who it is the bottom row right.
 
Related groups of jokers:
 


European and Rest of World Political Jokers

 Here's a mixed group of contemporary jokers about modern non-US political figures.

Let's start with the Late Queen Elizabeth II.

 

Queen Elizabeth II Joker
And here's Winston Churchill.

Introducing the Lech Walesa of Poland joker.

And here's the complete set.










Related groups of jokers:
 

American Historical Jokers
TV Pundits, Standups, and Commentators
European (and other none US) Royalty, Politicians, and Dictators - this post
American Political Jokers
Old Europeans with Names

Friday, November 4, 2022

Bicycle Jokers

 The Bicycle Joker is among the most classic American jokers. It might be the premier American joker. Bicycle Playing Cards are a brand of the US Playing Card Company (The link goes to an article about the company. It has many other brands such as Congress Jokers). 

This bicycle section does NOT include Unicycle Jokers (check it out, there are almost 50 unicycle jokers!) but it does include all two wheeled and in some cases four wheeled cycles. More on that below.

Here is my personal favorite, the colored version of the classic Bicycle Joker. The Hochman Encyclopedia of Playing Cards says this type of image first appeared in 1905 (Page 90). It was a black and white image back then.  Details to notice on the joker. The intertwined U and S indices in the corner which is the logo for the company.  The 808 on the milestone. The tiny registered trademark just above the milestone.  These details matter when we start looking at what makes jokers different.

Bicycle Card Joker
Bicycle Card Joker

Lets do a little history of the bicycle. Before the modern bike with its gears and chain, there were bikes that looked like the one below.  Notice that this joker while it uses the word "joker", is also called the "Best Bower". This is a reference to how and why the joker was first created! The origin story of jokers is that the "Best Bower" was an extra card added for the game of euchre. There were two bower (or trump cards) from the deck and then it was more fun to add a super-bower or best bower.  It first came into being around 1863 in the US.  This card (the one below is a modern reproduction) is a relatively early example of a modern joker, it evokes its role in Euchre as the Best Bower, and shows the date of the introduction of the Bicycle Brand:  1885.  The Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards (Page 90) shows this design as originally published RMP, 1885. 


Below is another variation of the big wheeled old style bicycle on a joker but without the reference to the Best Bower or the date.  (I'm not sure it is even a Bicycle Brand joker).

These big wheeled bikes were developed in the 1870s because the larger front wheel made it possible to pedal and ride fast enough for people to balance. These bikes were either known as  "Penny-farthings", a "High Wheel", or a "High Wheeler" and were the initial format of two wheeled pedaled bicycles. They were popular for about 20 years in the 1870s and 1880s.  

My guess as to why they were called "Penny farthings" is that the British Penny coin was much much larger then the British quarter-penny coin and somehow, the visual of a big penny coin and the little farthing coin were reminiscent of the big and small wheels.  Can anyone correct or confirm?  

When the more modern bikes with chain wheel drives were developed in the 1890s, the new style of bikes were called "Safety bike" (since the fall wasn't from as high up) and the big wheelers became known as  "Ordinary". (There's also some history before the penny farthings with wooden bikes, bone-shakers, and veolicipedes which you can read about on Wikipedia.) Some early bikes were gliders where the riders would push off the ground rather than use pedals. Oddly, these are popular again today as the best way for people to learn to ride a bike! 


BTW: I have worked in education, particularly homeschooling, for the last two decades and one thing that I've come to believe is that through any real vein of interest, people can learn vast amounts. This is called interested driven education and is sometimes called Unschooling. So in this case, from jokers, I've learned about a lot about art, different parts of the world, and in this case, the history of bicycles. (By day, I'm a leader in providing curriculum to homeschoolers.)

 This 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.


Here I'll note that I consider this a bicycle section which covers all two wheeled (or more) jokers, whether Bicycle brand or not. For instance:

The next jokers might appear at first glance to be the same. Take a look at look at them. Can you identify the differences?  They are numbered with a key just below. CREDIT for this little section goes to Allen Potter of the FB Jokers Collector Club. He did a series of 10 posts about Bicycle jokers in Nov 2022 which led to me seeing my Bicycle jokers with greatly enhanced ability to pay attention to details. BTW, please leave a comment at the end about your thoughts on this little game.

    
Joker 2
Joker 3
Joker 4
Joker 5

Jokers 6


Jokers 7

Jokers 8


 

Joker 1 is cool in a few ways. The enlarged indices are part of it but so is the US address which predates the modern Zip code system (introduced in 1963).

Joker 2: The king has been replaced by Santa Claus with a sack on his back full of toys. Allen pointed this out and I found one with Santa in my collection that I hadn't noticed. He says that it was published as part of a special Christmas Edition 1993/1994.  There are full sized images of this which I am now looking for. Some other differences to notice between 1 and 2 include the size of the corner indices, the font used for the word Guarantee, the wording of the Guarantee, and the address of the Guarantee.

 Joker 3: The king is wearing a jester hat.

Joker 4: The milestone has 88 on it which is less common. Usually, as on #3, it's 808. The 88 refers to the enlarged corner indices. It also was there on 88.

Joker 5. The king has been replaced by a queen. And the milestone marker says 1850, the date of the launch of the first Bicycle Playing Cards. 

Joker 6. You'll need to look closely at the pictures to catch what's special about those three. Right above the milestone where this often nothing but usually a registered trademark (a little R in a circle), there is instead a registered copyright notice (a little C in a circle). Very unusual. No idea why. And don't get me started talking about the difference between the two, I sort of understand it.

Joker 7 has a little manufacturing number at the bottom, tiny text

Jokers 8 have different markings on the milestone:" one is blank, the other is 808.

Maybe now would be a good time to click through and see how the whole collection is organized?
Or, if you'd like, keep scrolling and get a comprehensive look at my collection of bicycle jokers. This first page is just the king on a bicycle with different colors, fonts, and corner indices.

This next page is all small bicyclists with guarantees. While they look the same, there is great joy in noticing the different details. In the top row right, there is a Santa Claus replacing the king. Other changes have to do with the wording of the guarantee, the address, and the corner indices.
More variations in color of the rider.
Here's variations of the joker and the background. Plus one more guarantee that couldn't fit on the page with the others.
One is shaped differently. NONE of these are dirty, they just have old-looking finishes on them. They're not old, they're all reproductions. The king in the bottom row middle is wearing a jesters hat instead of a crown. There are two in the middle row where instead of corner indices with the US, there are the stars in circles. And the top row middle has the word I on it.
More variations. I won't provide commentary here: You can figure out the differences for yourself. (Thank you Maria Montessori).
This next set has the Queen!
And we are onto background variations plus a skeleton on a bike. No idea why.
Penny farthings and some scifi flying bikes.
Now we're getting wild. One even says wild.  BTW, if you are wondering about what the lady is doing in the top row right. Ir you are wondering about the crazy guy in the bottom row left... They are here since a foundational principle of joker collection organization is to never, ever ever ever break up a pair or set of jokers that came from the same deck. so the gal on the top row right is the partner to the one on the top row left.  And the bottom row left is the partner of the bottom row right.   Remember, do not EVER break up a pair of jokers just to satisfy some arbitrary or aesthetic joker principle.


Would the top left joker below be called a quadracycle? A bibicycle?

And lets finish big with two particularly bizarre bicycles which are in the next set.


I'm putting up the unicycle jokers as a separate section. They're grouped with the skaters. Check them out now! What to see next?
 
Learn More about the Bicycle Brand?
The World Of Playing Cards website has a great article on the early Bicycle decks. Mouthwatering!
Here's the Bicycle and USPCC history as written by themselves!
An article on the Bicycle 808 (versus 807). Key point. The 808 was an early USPCC manufacturing code. The first deck produced was 101, the second was 202, and the eighth was coded 808. It was the Bicycle brand which was such a hit that it survives to this day.


Want to see the Cat JokersAlice in Wonderland JokersPretty Girls in Bikinis Jokers?  Overall organization of the joker collection?
Or, go read about the history of the   US Playing Card Company  or another popular historic US Playing Card Company Brand: Congress Jokers).

Now might also be a good time to read about the overall joker collection taxonomy or organization

BTW, thanks once again to Allen Potter for helping me understand some of the fine differences between the jokers. Here's a piece of a post of his pointing out what to look for and a response by me.