Friday, June 10, 2022

Nintendo "Venice" playing cards from 1950s

In today's post, we will take a look at a pair of vintage Nintendo playing card sets dating from around 1953.

The cards come in clear plastic cases. At the time, plastic was a modern material, and using plastic for this kind of purpose was still relatively new.

A Nintendo logo and the company name ("Nintendo Playing Card CO.") are embossed on the front.

On the back of the case, an image is embossed that depicts the four card suits (clubs, hearts, diamonds, spades).

The case opens with a hinge.

Inside we find the card deck and a little booklet.

The image on the back of the cards shows a painted view on the Grand Canal in Venice (Italy), with the famous gondoliers and the church of San Geremia in the back.

The sides of the cards are painted in a shiny gold colour.

As you can see, the pack is still sealed. I am not sure yet if I will be the first to open them after almost seventy years, or if I should keep them like this...

The tax stamps are still present. For most of the 20th century, playing cards were taxed, under the Japanese gambling laws. The tax on these cards was 60 yen.

The cover of the mini booklet shows a playing card submerged in water. 

These cards are some of the earliest examples of Nintendo's NAP cards, which is short for Nintendo All Plastic. This type of washable cards were introduced by Nintendo in 1953. More on that in this post.

Inside the booklet are some more images that illustrate the waterproof nature of the cards, like this pair of divers playing a game on the bed of the sea.

Another picture shows a card placed inside a fish bowl.

The second deck includes a different booklet.

The cover of this booklet shows an advertisement for another set of Nintendo playing cards, with famous actresses from the time.

Both booklets provide rules to various card games.

The games explained include poker and a game called 'thirty one', amongst others.

Less than ten years after Japan's defeat in World War Two, money and materials were still scarce, and playing cards were a popular way to spend some leisure time. As shown by this group of people out camping.

The booklet also includes a prize draw, linked to Nintendo's "No. 100" playing cards: Nintendo No. 100 playing cards special sale news!! (任天堂 NO.100トランプ特売ニュース!! )

The draw runs from December 1952 (Shōwa 27) to January 1953 (Shōwa 28), with prices delivered throughout February of 1953.

Prices include:

  • 1 special price of 100,000 yen
  • 5 first prices of 10,000 yen each
  • 20 second prices of a luxury watch (value around 5,000 yen)
  • 400 third prices of a fountain pen
  • 8000 fourth prices of games like playing cards and mahjong 

(100,000 yen in 1952 compares to around 600,000 yen in 2022).

The Nintendo playing cards No. 100 are advertised as:

  • Great durability
  • Beautiful and non-slip
  • The price is low (250 yen)

The final page of the booklet has another ad for Nintendo playing cards, endorsed by Takarazuka revue star Kaoru Yachigusa.

More on these Takarazuka cards in the next blog post as well as this one. Also, check out these Nintendo magazine ads from the same era.

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