The Ace of Spades, the Ace of Spades

Two Aces of Spades, from a vintage De La Rue deck and a somewhat recenter Piatnik deck respectively.

Above are two Aces of Spades from old decks of playing cards I bought a couple of years ago. The first is from a De La Rue pack which dates back to the late ’50s (if the information on this page is accurate). It bears the company’s name and the text “Duty Three Pence”. It had once (before 1862) been a legal requirement in the UK for Aces of Spades to be marked thus, but in a 20th-Century pack this was just an affectation on the part of the manufacturer. The other card is from a more recent deck made by Piatnik in Austria.

Playing cards were a constant presence through my childhood: there would be games of Switch (akin to Crazy Eights) with my parents and my sister; and hands of Whist with my grandparents and Aunt. I’d play Patience (i.e. Solitaire) on my own to pass the time. At school there were games of Phat and Black Maria (which we coarsely called ‘Bitch’). In adulthood I played less, though my wife and I sometimes played Cribbage. Card games seem at risk of becoming a thing of the past: I wonder if smartphones, and the multitude of games they can contain, may risk pushing many classic games to extinction.

The title of this post, by the way, comes from the refrain of a well-known song.

The front and back of a fold-out leaflet that came with a pair of vintage De La Rue playing cards.