Sunday, December 10, 2023

My Matching Congress 606 Jokers

What is a Matching Joker?  A matching joker (or named joker) means that the joker image is a black and white version of the back design.  For example, here is the back and the joker of the Congress 606 Rookwood joker from 1899:

Rookwood Congress Joker and Back Design

These matching jokers date from 1898 to 1904. Then, Congress switched to jokers that featured the US Capitol building (see below for an example). I have an article on the history of the Congress jokers.

Congress switched to Capitol Jokers around 1906

This article - updated again in June 2024 - focuses on these Congress 606 Matching joker decks which were published for around 6 years starting in 1898. There were only 41 different images on these jokers. I have collected 37 of them so far.

 Here is a master list of the Congress 606 Matching decks known to exist and which ones I have and am seeking.

Number of different images on matching jokers*
41 -  Known to exist
37- In my collection. ONLY FOUR TO GO!

Number of different matching joker decks*
56 - Known to exist
43 - In my collection

What is this weird distinction that John (that's me) is making between images and decks?  In some cases, the same image, say of a spinning wheel, was used in slightly different formats. Here for instance, is the same basic spinning wheel image used on a joker with the word joker, on a joker without the word joker, and on a deck called Priscilla (rather than with the spinning wheel name used on the first two).  So one image - Spinning Wheel - but three different jokers and decks.

Same image but three different decks and jokers*

*I am aware that they are not exactly the same image and that the differences are more pronounced on the backs where there are differences in how the dress is colored, how zoomed in the image is, and how much foliage is shown thru the window.

Four Spinning Wheel Images on the back of Congress 606 Cards, from my collection

Why does this article get updated continually?  Several reasons: I am improving my overall inventory of what was published, I am slowly adding more jokers and decks to my collection, and I am adding related research about topics such as where did the artwork for these cards come from,  why was this art work selected, and how best to put these matching jokers into a few themes or categories.

The Matching Jokers that I most want:  
Chameleon, Clown,  The Cavalier, Holland, and Spinning Wheel (facing left, not right). And there are plenty of variations that I'm also seeking.

Here are the Matching jokers organized by theme as best I can doComments Welcome!

Exotic Mediterranean North African imagery: Oasis, Moorish, Tambourine, and Naples 
Native Americans: Rookwood and Sitting Bull
Greek Mythology: Diana, Berniece, and Moon Fairy. Perhaps Spring (could be considered Americana) 
Americana people scenes: Spinning Wheel (and Priscilla), Rube,  Knuckles Down, Mistletoe, Good Night, Anticipation,  Music Hath It's Charms, and Toboggan
Presidents and Royalty:  George Washington, Martha Washington, King Edward VIIth, Napoleon, Empress Josephine, Prince of Wales, and Princess of Wales  
Chinoiseries - Cheefu (not a matching joker)
Dutch / Belgian: Delft, Rotterdam Delft, Kaatje, and Kite Time
American Scenery:  The Mill, Fishers Return, The Bridge, and The Peaceful Vale
English Country Life: Yacht, the Hunt, The Minuet,


If you are interested in learning more about Congress matching jokers, here are some really incredible resources by wonderful meticulous collectors and reseachers:  

- The Congress Guy's Page on Congress Matching Jokers
- Matt Schacht's list with images of all of the Congress Matching Jokers


Three Generations of Matching Jokers.  I categorize the  Congress 606 matching  jokers in three generations. It is slightly different than CongressGuy's categories. His are probably more historically accurate but he is considering the whole deck, I focus only  on the jokers. Specifically, he makes distinctions based on which format of ace of spades came with the deck. My three generations of Congress Matching jokers:

Generation 1 (G1)- These are distinguished by the word Joker included on the joker and the image is always in an oval.

Generation 2 (G2) - The word Joker is not there and the frame is either oval or rectangular but without any fancy trimmings.

Generation 3 (G3) - The oval and rectangular shapes have fancy trim.

Let’s take a look at which jokers I have from each generation. Sometimes, I have only the joker. If I have the full deck, I'll mention it.


Generation 1 Congress 606 Matching Jokers - These jokers - as mentioned - have the image in an oval and with the word Joker.

Yacht, Diana, The Rube, and George Washington  (entire decks).  Diana is mythological, Rube is Americana, Yacht is "aspirational anglophiles", and GW is political leaders. The images of George and Martha Washington are probably derived photographs taken of the  Athenaeum portraits or the  copies Gilbert Stuart made of them.  They originals are in the National Portrait Gallery, on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. (Credit to Steve Bacon for these insights).   

Moon Fairy - joker only. This Moon Fairy joker has the word joker. There is another version that you can see below in the Generation 2 matching jokers that does not have the word joker.  She is a mythological one kept in the sitting on the moon section of the collection.

Berenice - Whole Deck. Berenice is a classic mythological type.

Berenice picture on playing cards

Martha Washington  - She is American political, in the American people section of the collection next to George. As described above, she and her husband, the images are derived from either the  Athenaeum portraits or the copies made by Gilbert Stuart. How do I know this?  Steven Bacon, of  Two for His Heels on RubyLane and a frequent writer for 52 Plus Joker, has provided me with this and other info.

Martha Washington

Good Night. The box and ace says 1899.  She is the Americana album, American people subsection. This section will soon be split up and she'll go with a few pages of old images of American children. Note that my Good Night is a brunette. There is also a blond version of this girl. She's in the Americana section.

Good Night
Delft and Fishers Return
Delft and Fishers Return
While we are looking at these, one of them - Delft - which is typically Dutch. I notice from the back that there are three Dutch/Belgian images and potentially a fourth. I'm now on the hunt to figure out the artist. 
Mill, Rotterdam Delft, Delft

Peaceful Vale

The Rookwood. Generation 1 (with the word joker) joker and deck. There is also the Rookwood G2 without the word joker which you can see when you read further. "Rookwood" is the name of a pottery company based in Cincinnati OH, a city where the US Playing Card Company was also located. The Rookwood Pottery Company had a fascination with the portrayal of the American Indian. A book was written on the topic: "It involves the interplay of a female entrepreneur, her business manager and premier artists and educators–all entwined in the nation’s policies that reflect a contradictory attitude of exploitation and sympathy toward the first Americans. In the end, masterpieces of art pottery depicting noble Indians were created.” This quote is from the State House website promoting and selling the book.

Generation 2 Congress 606 Matching Jokers - These jokers have the image  either in an oval or rectangular. If oval, the word Joker is not there.  And there is no fancy frame around the image.

Diane, Moon Fairy, and Music Hath Charms. 

This is one of my three Diana Congress decks, each one different in some ways. The box  and ace are dated 1899. In this one, the joker image is in an oval frame without the word joker, above was one with an oval with the work joker. I also have one with a Capital joker which is not a matching joker. BTW, none of these Dianas are wearing a shirt. Or a bra. Just saying... Diani is the fighters section of the joker collection.
Moon Fairy. This is a complete Moon Fairy deck and unlike my other matching Moon Fairy joker (which was Matching Early Period with the word Joker), this is Late Period Matching. Both the box and ace are dated 1899. The joker image is in an oval frame.  The two moon fairy jokers are in the collection in the sitting section, crescent moon subsection.
Music Hath Charms. The box is undated but the ace cites 1902.  The artwork is by Eugenio Zampighi whose art is also on Anticipation. Since he is playing a wind instrument, he is in the collection in the music section, wind subsection.   This name - Music Hath Charms - is part of a  quotation from a play be William Congreve (1670-1629) called The Mourning Bride: "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast. To soften rocks, or bend the knotted oak."   A musical comedy film named Music Hath Its Charms was produced in 1935 in Britain.  

The Rookwood Joker

Rookwood Congress 606 - 1899
The Sitting Bull Joker

Sitting Bull Joker - 1901

Anticipation. Note that Anticipation and Naples have simple rectangular frames like Music Hath Charms above.  The artwork is also by Eugenio Zampighi but the original, which has been modified, is titled: "Opening the Wine".


Naples Joker
Naples Congress 606
The Mill
The Mill 1898
The Hunt (joker only)
The Hunt Congress Joker

The Minuet (2 copies) 
The Minuet - Congress 606 (joker only)

I have two copies of the Minuet Joker (no decks). The backs are very slightly different. I'd say this is a print run difference. I'd also be pleased to trade either one for another one to build this collection.

Two Minuet Congress Jokers
Fishers Return - This is the second of my Fishers Return jokers. I have both this one without the word joker and the one in the first category with the word joker.
Fishers Return Joker without "Joker"

Below are the back of my two Fisher Returns. The one on the left is the one without the word joker. The purely gray one on the right is the back of the joker with the word joker.

The Peaceful Vale
The Peaceful Vale Congress 606

Rotterdam Delft
Rotterdam Delft

Priscilla and Spinning Wheel. The image on Priscilla and Spinning Wheel seems to be identical. But the corner index on Priscilla is bolder and they have different names.  The backs also have the same images but the colors on the lady's dress and the table cloth are reversed. And the back border is slightly different. Weird?

The Bridge
The Bridge

Napoleon and Empress Josephine.


Generation 3 Congress 606 Matching Jokers - These jokers are distinguished by the fancy decorated frame around the image. The image can be in either  an oval or rectangular. 

Kaatje - Kaatje is a girl's name in Dutch. I guess someone was inspired by her while getting the picture for the Rotterdam Delft.

King Edward VII of England (entire deck)
King Edward VII

Kite Time Americana. The art work is by Frantz Charlet, The deck is copyright 1903. Frantz Charlet (1862–1928) was a Belgian painter, etcher, and lithographer. (thanks to Steven Bacon  of Ruby Lane for the artist info).

Toboggan (entire deck).  Americana. 

Mistletoe (entire deck). 1903. Americana

Spring  (entire deck). 1903. Americana

Moorish. This might be my favorite of all of the matching decks!
Congress 606 Moorish Joker

Tamborine, Prince of Wales, Princess of Wales (entire decks)


A Listing of My Matching Jokers  - Click to see the master list of the Congress 606 Matching decks in a spreadsheet format

Anticipation - rectangular frame (entire deck) 
The Bridge - oval frame without word joker
Delft  - oval frame with word joker 
Diana white border - oval frame with word joker (entire deck)
Diana red border - oval frame without word joker (entire deck)
Empress Josephine - oval frame without word joker
Fishers Return - oval frame with word joker ( gray colored back)
Fishers Return - oval frame without the word joker (green septome colored back)
George Washington - oval frame with word joker (entire deck)
Good Night  - oval frame with word joker (entire deck)
Holly -  fancy oval frame
Hunt - oval frame without the word joker
Kaatje - fancy rectangular frame 
King Edward the Seventh -  fancy oval frame (entire deck)
Martha Washington - oval frame with word joker 
The Minuet - oval frame without the word joker (2 copies)
Mistletoe - fancy oval frame
Mill - oval frame without the word joker (entire deck)
Moon Fairy white border - oval frame with the word joker.
Moon Fairy orange frame - oval frame without the word joker (entire deck)
Moorish -  fancy oval frame
Music Hath Charms - rectangular frame (entire deck)
Napoleon -  oval frame without word joker
Peaceful Vale - oval frame without the word joker (entire deck) 
Priscilla -oval frame without word joker
Rookwood 1899 - oval frame with the word joker (entire deck)
Rookwood 1899 - oval frame without the word joker (entire deck)
Rotterdam Delft - oval frame without word joker
Rube 2 - oval frame with word joker (entire deck)
Spinning Wheel facing right -oval frame without word joker
Spring - rectangular fancy frame (entire deck)
Sitting Bull - oval frame without the word joker (entire deck) 
Toboggan - fancy oval frame   (entire deck)
Yacht  - oval frame with the word joker.(entire deck)

The Matching Jokers that I most want?  
Chameleon, Clown,  The Cavalier, Holland, and Spinning Wheel (facing left, not right).

The ones that I want also but I have in some form:
GW - G2
King Edward G2
Naples - G3
Peaceful Vale - G3
Prince of Wales - G2
Princess of Wales - G2
Rotterdam Delft - G1
Spinning Wheel Facing Left - G1
Yacht - G3

Congress 606 Matching Joker Themes

I think there are a few interesting themes of Congress cards. My favorite theme might be the exotic Mediterranean North African imagery of which I have Oasis, Moorish, Tambourine, and Naples. Are they all by the same artist? (Oasis doesn't have a matching joker and )

BTW: I need more. If you have any of these as decks or as single jokers, contact me. thanks.

 Related articles:
- All of my Congress jokers (most of which have the Capital)
My purchase of 19 Congress decks from around 1900
- The Congress Guy's Website
- The World of Playing Cards article on Congress Cards by Simon Wintle

Playing Card History.  The Congress 606 jokers were the top of the line decks back in the late 1800s. Normal people bought decks back then for $0.02. But the super wealthy, the Astors, Vanderbilts, Morgans, Rockefellers, and Flaglers, they bought the highest end decks. When they played in their fancy mansions, exclusive clubs, or summer homes in Newport, the decks came in ornate leather cases and the cards had golden edges. They were most likely Congress 606 cards.

Art Rights and Royalty. I'm very curious about how the rights for the fancy proprietary artwork on the back of the decks of cards were acquired for use. Were royalties paid?  One of my aspirational projects is to identify the artist for each of the matching jokers decks and then, perhaps, to get info on whether the right to use was free under some fair use clause, paid for, or what. Anyone know anything about this?

Matching Jokers from other Brands: I learned from Matt Schacht that there were two other brands that had matching jokers:
Parker Bros Rembrandts (made by SPCC)
SPCC Peerless
So far, I have not  focused on collecting them. 

The other intense highly focused joker-collecting effort by me is to get all the jokers from the USPCC Joker Poster.