Absolutely no question that the European makers have consistently produced the finest cards with the most variety. The one gotcha about getting locked into "vintage and antique Bike" decks is that there is no variation amongst them. You have the Ace of Spades, Jokers (if they exist, and most were discarded - especially hard to find a 120+ year old deck with them because the first thing most people did when they opened the deck was discard the joker(s)), the backs and of course the tuck box - if IT exists.
Contrast this deck, ostensibly the finest ever made: the deck that killed Donforf in 1933 on their 100th anniversary: "Hundertjahrkarte" or Centennial, later reprinted by Waddingtons in Britain in the 60's and again in 1975 by A.S.S. the company that bought Dondorf and to this day still produces a few of their decks under that name.
These are the 1975 version. Waddington's sold under the name "Royal Gothic" - a red / blue pair. Both are distinct from the original 1933 printing which had A/K/D/B (German/Dutch) indices on the courts vice A/K/Q/J the English markings. I've seen a set marked "E/K/D/Kn" which is the Danish marks, probably printed for Wulff in Koebenhavn, since a lot (all?) of their cards were printed by Dondorf and some had "Enteret" on them, meaning 'exclusive' for them only.
These are the "28 stone" cards that beat them into bankruptcy. A deck with 16 color faces and 12 color backs, although looking at any of my three varieties I'd have to say that I'm clueless why it needed 12 colors for the back. The court faces are unbelievable, appear to be photographs of the people on them, and even the best of the others have the look where they are clearly identifiable as say 'Charlemagne' on the KoH ("Suicide King"), can see the color of his eyes on those 12 color decks, but - nothing quite like these.
I think I'll reproduce them and see how it turns out? (shhh... I didn't say that)