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How to date a deck of cards
This article is not written by me (Chris). It was originally posted on decknique by the member CardConjurer. So all rights and credit goes to him. I copied it to here because I don't want this information to be lost with the closing of decknique. Update: CardConjurer is now a member here.
"Here is most of what I know about dating a deck of cards. This goes mostly for American decks and especially for USPC decks, but it pertains to others as well. A lot of this stuff I have been holding on to for a long time, but I feel like it would do some of you a lot of good. Anyways, if you have anything to add, please feel free to. Also, I know this isn't an extensive guide; I'm basically including what I think people here might actually use to date a deck.
In the United States, there was a federal tax on playing cards until 1965. So basically if your deck has a tax stamp on the box, it was made before 1965. Also, to help you date the stamp beyond this you can use Peter Endebrock's Website for stamps in the United States. If you know the deck was not produced in the United States, here is another part of his site for stamps in all countries. Also, here is an extra link to information regarding the tax stamps.
Keep in mind that a tax stamp may not be an absolutely accurate way to date a deck. Usually decks were stamped when they were marketed as opposed to when they were manufactured. So it is possible that the deck was produced years before the tax stamp was even applied. Also, if the deck is open than it is possible for deck to be in the incorrect box, in which case the tax stamp offers no insight into the date of the actual deck.
This is really only relevant to decks in the United States. Zip codes were introduced in the United States on July 1, 1963. Usually on the outside of the deck's box, or even on the ace of spades there is a manufacturers address. If the address does not include a zip code than it was most likely made prior to 1963.
Bar codes were introduced on USPC decks in the early 1980's. So, usually a deck without a bar code can be considered to have been produced prior to this time. You can assume most companies started using bar codes at this time as well.
USPC & OTHER COMPANIES
USPC has acquired many many playing card companies over the years. Here are some acquisition dates of companies by USPC. If you see a deck was produced by one of these companies, you know it was produced prior to the acquisition date.
The Standard Playing Card Co. 1892-1895
Perfection Card Co. 1892-1895
New York Consolidated Cards 1892-1895
Andrew Dougherty 1907
Russell Playing Card Co. 1929
Heraclio Fournier, S.A. 1986
Arrco Playing Card Company 1987
called Arrow Playing Card Co. (1920's-1935)
Hoyle Products 2001
USPC DATING CODE
An awesome way to date decks made by USPC is the dating code printed on the ace of spades at the time it was manufactured. The code is helpful in dating decks after 1904, the year it started. The code consists of a letter, and a 4-digit number. The letter is really the only thing helpful to collectors; the numbers mean nothing. National Playing Card Co. and New York Consolidated Co., at the time subsidiaries of USPC, also used these same codes. As Andrew Dougherty and Russell Playing Card Co. became part of USPC they also began to use the codes. Use this chart to determine the year the deck was printed. Since there is many dates for each letter, you should use the rest of this information to select the correct year for the deck.
The letter Q was also used in many decks made in 1991 or 1992. This chart is reproduced from the Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards, an EXTREMELY helpful book for any avid playing card collector. Also, if you are interested in the company history of the United States Playing Card Company, here is a GREAT article.
Anyways, that's about all I can think of to include at the moment."
- Thanks for the information Chris!