For other issues, related links, the catalog of my entire collection, and other administrative or trivial issues, please jump to the end of the page.
To see the individual pages about each deck, click on the small images on this page. To see full-size images of the cards themselves, click on the small images on the individual pages.
"Any team can win any game on any day." Sports has always been a curious mix of superior ability and divine (or diabolical) intervention, inspiring fans as obsessive about their sports as they are about its memorabilia. Sports trading cards may be big business now, but playing cards are an older form, and by no means underrepresented in the legions of sports souvenirs. And in some sense, playing cards are a most appropriate form of memorabilia, sharing many of the virtues, and vices, of the sports themselves. The truism that led off this issue is no less true of cards than of sports, with the shifting fortunes of random numbers often at least as important as skill in the game. And while trading cards may mirror the back-office wrangling of salary negotiations and player trades, in the end, the play of the game is all that that matters.
Like trading cards, playing cards can be used as poor-man's portrait galleries, a simple collection of images of the heroes (like Cal Ripken Jr., from Baseball Aces 1993). Many decks are little more than this, the ranks of the very best players of a sport for a given year. But playing cards can be much more than this. In my collection I have historical and commemorative cards, as well as the humorous, instructional, and even simple celebrations of particular sports. Golf, football, fishing, baseball, and any other sport you can think of is represented on some deck somewhere. Well, perhaps not bungee jumping, but give it time. It'll be here soon.
This issue, I present one standard deck of pictures of the best of this
season (Hockey, in this case), a historical educational deck, a historical
commemorative deck or two, a humorous golf deck, and an instruction manual
on the subtleties of football. A fair cross section of my collection, it's
still only a part of the wide variety of sports-related playing cards that
can be found in the world. Enjoy.
first deck is a good example of the classic deck of sports cards. A portrait
gallery of the biggest names on ice, the NHL Hockey Aces,
1996-1997 isn't a whole lot different from a collection of hockey trading
cards. All that's missing are the statistics on the back of the cards.
This deck, and many more like it, are published by the U.S.
Playing Card Co., the undisputed leader in merchandising tie-ins. The
requirements for appearing on the deck aren't mentioned, but it appears
that they took the best players from each team, and filled in the remaining
space with the winners of the league's player awards.
other major approach to sports cards is the historical, educational deck.
And no one does "historical and educational" better than U.S.
Games Systems. One in a sizeable series of similar educational decks
produced by them, the Baseball Legends card game takes
advantage of their tried and true format, featuring thirteen major figures
in baseball history, each given four cards each of historical information.
From "Honus" Wagner to Roberto Clemente, this deck is full of interesting
facts spanning the history of the game.
in the historical/educational set is this deck from Hoyle.
The NASCAR Collector Series 1947-1959 is actually
the first of a set of three decks, covering the whole history of the organization
from 1947 to 1993. In each deck are pictures of races, diagrams of tracks,
historical trivia and statistics from the years covered. For the racing
buff and the automobile enthusiast, this deck provides lots of great pictures
and interesting information.
the Atlanta Committee of the Olympic Games wanted to publish commemorative
decks of playing cards, where do you think they went? To the U.S.
Playing Card Co., of course. Quite a wide array of decks were produced
for the Centennial Olympic Games, from cartoons
of Izzy, their unusual mascot, to historical posters, to simple souvenir
decks with only decorative backs. This deck is an amalgam of these, containing
the historical poster collection featured in other decks, and including
historical trivia about the modern Olympic Games.
deck falls on the lighter side of sports. It's not a true joke deck, but
as a deck with novelty suits and the occasional tongue-in-cheek caricature,
it's humorous nonetheless. Produced by the appropriately-named Novelty
Playing Card company, Golf Playing Cards is
a straightforward alternate-suits deck. featuring Clubs, Sand Traps, Bags
and Balls, it also has regular suits shown next to the fanciful ones, so
that the deck is perfectly usable in regular card games.
very different sort of sports playing card deck is the Football
Widows deck from U.S.
Games Systems. The deck forms a decent introduction to the sport of
football, including terminology, signals, plays and the rules of the game.
It's intended precisely for the people from whom it takes its title - the
widows (or widowers) who lose their spouses to football every Sunday. With
careful application, this deck can help these people understand and be
with their spouses during these dark hours, by making them conversant in
I thought about doing the standard Net thing and assembling a list of useful links surrounding playing cards, collecting and such, but no effort I could produce could possibly rival The Bob Lancaster Gallery of Unusual Playing Cards. He has a monstrous list of collectors, artists, manufacturers and just plain interesting sites about playing cards. And so, in deference to his monumental efforts, I provide only a link to him. I hope he doesn't have to pay by the hit...
And people are always asking me where to buy cards. There are plenty of places throughout the net that sell them, from little theme sites that happen to have a deck or two to enormous cards and games superstores. Bob's site lists many of them, but I have to confess - I just like Newt's Playing Cards. And they've got a heck of a selection.
Issue 8, 11/98 - 12/98: Playing With Cards
Issue 7, 10/97 - 12/97: Sports Cards
Issue 6, 8/97 - 9/97: A Game of War
Issue 5, 6/97 - 7/97: Playing Cards As Art
Issue 4, 4/97 - 5/97: Court Fashions
Issue 3, 2/97 - 3/97: A Fortune in Playing Cards
Issue 2, 12/96 - 1/97: Literature on Playing Cards
Issue 1, 10/96 - 11/96: Handmade Playing Cards