Monday, May 4, 2020

Fifty year old Nintendo Playing Card sample book

In the 1960s, Nintendo produced and sold hundreds of different playing card designs. When pitching these to prospective wholesale buyers and toy shop owners, the Nintendo sales departement used sample books that showcased the range of cards available.

While in later years Nintendo used printed brochures and leaflets to advertise their cards product - like this one from 1983 - the sample books used in the 1960s were more like albums, containing actual cards.

Not only did these show the cards in exactly the color, size and shape as they would be delivered, but it also provided a flexible sales catalogue, that could easily be changed to stay up to date as the product range evolved. This was vital in these playing cards heydays, when new designs were constantly added.

For Nintendo collectors and playing card enthusiasts, finding such a sample book is much like a holy grail. Not many were made, let alone survive fifty years on. They were intended for internal use by Nintendo only, and they are as rare as hen's teeth.

Some time ago, I was lucky to acquire two copies, with different content. In this post we will take a look at one of the two, and in a future post I will cover the other one.

This sample book dates from a time when Nintendo was still branding itself as Nintendo Playing Card Co., Ltd. Although no exact date of origin is known for this item, based on the contents these copies must be from the late 1960s.

It is possible that this particular sample book design was introduced some years earlier, and used for multiple years, changing the content over time.

Nintendo playing card sample book - front cover

The book measures 34.8 by 23.6 centimetres. It contains eight thick pieces of paper that hold cards on both sides, making a total of 16 pages.

The book contains real specimens of playing cards, which are glued to the pages. Most of the pages include eight cards, while some contain between five and seven cards. The total number of cards included in this sample book is 121. All cards are different.