|Samuel Hart Playing Cards|
|Samuel Hart got his start in the manufacturing of playing cards while working for his Uncle, Lewis I. Cohen, a stationer in New York City.|
Sometime in the year 1844 Hart left the family business and ventured out on his own taking with him Isaac Levy. Their first store, a stationary store, was located at 27 S. Fourth St. in Philadelphia.
In 1858 Hart built a plant at 416 S. 13th Street in Philadelphia. There, the very first Samuel Hart & Co. deck of playing cards were produced. The Ace of Spades reads arched across the top: No. 416 So. 13th / Philadelphia. Below the famous company Eagle logo and inside a ribbon held in the Eagle's talons read: Phila Card / Manufactory. Below the Ace of Spades reads: SAMUEL HART & CO. and below that: 307 Broadway N. York.
A picture of this Ace of Spades can be seen in Tom & Judy Dawson's book, " The Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards", pg. 52, NY24. These cards were made from pasteboard stock with square corners, single courts and no indices.
Single ended court cards were commonly associated with the game of Faro while double ended courts were used when playing poker.
(L)Single-Ended Court Card (R) Double-Ended Court Card
In 1871 Samuel Hart & Co. joined with the New York Consolidated Card Company and card decks were produced using all the various family members companies; Lawrence & Cohen, Samuel Hart and Jno J. Levy. It wasn't until sometime in 1873 that the N.Y.C.C. company's brands were introduced. Samuel Hart cards were still being manufactured as late as c1900.
The Dawson's note in there book that the Samuel Hart & Co. deck manufactured c188 by the N.Y.C.C. Company (NY42), page 56, came in both single & double-ended courts and has been reproduced.
c1885 Samuel Hart
It is this deck which is the focus of this article. Reason being, a reproduction deck may have a retail value of up to $19.00 whereas an original deck with paper wrapper could fetch a few hundred dollars, even more, far more if condition is exceptional.
For help with this article I contacted two friends and known reproducers of the Samuel Hart cards; Shay Maxwell of Parnell Playing Card Co. and Jeff Smith, great grandson of old west con man Soapy Smith and author of the book "Alias Soapy Smith". Both men reproduced the Hart cards for legitimate purposes. Shay, an avid card collector, reproduced these cards for Reenactors and Cowboy Action Shooters. Jeff and his father before him contracted reproductions for sale. Jeff had 3000 decks printed and his father had 1000 decks made.
It's these reproductions I offer as examples against actual originals so collectors can see first hand how similar & how different these cards are. That way the next time you are offered such a deck, as an original, you'll have a fighting chance of not getting swindled.
Shay Maxwell has reproduced this deck in a multitude of variations with different pattern backs and in different colors. Some decks have his company name, Parnell Playing Card Co., on them while other decks do not. Shay mentioned that he also has some examples of reproduced decks made long before he started reproducing them that date back to the 30's and 50's.
Jeff Smith indicated that back in the 70's his father reproduced an original Samuel Hart deck that was copied in Tan/Light Brown color (antiqued) on a thin stock. Two different style backs were used; one in red, the other in blue.
In 1988 Smith had his first deck reproduced, it was copied from an original deck with a blue flower design on the back. That deck was copied by others to the point that the market became saturated and Jeff never reproduced another deck.
Jeff points out that a sure fire way to tell his deck and those that were copied from his deck is the "PiP" on the left side border on the front of the box.
Other reproduction examples may very well exist and others may be reproduced in the future, so long as there is a demand for them, so always BEWARE!!!
New Information: 5/24/11 - The New Development Co. in 1954 reproduced this deck of cards printing the Ace of Spades in Black ink, the original was printed in blue. More recent repros have also been printed in blue but the shade of blue differs from the original cards i.e. brighter than the originals.
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