Saturday, September 10, 2022

Nintendo's oldest playing cards? Marufuku No. 1

Nintendo was founded in Kyoto back in 1889. This means that the oldest items the company produced are now well over a century old.

Some of the oldest items in my collection, possibly the oldest, are these pieces of paper.

They are the remains of a box of one of the earliest sets Western style playing cards manufactured by Nintendo, from the early 1900s.

Five of the original six sides of the box remain. The top side, that functions as a closing lid, unfortunately is missing.

The bottom of the box shows the company address, now the site of the Marufukuro Hotel.

It is hard to image now, but at the time having "round corners" was a playing card innovation worth displaying prominently on the box.

As you surely can imagine, these pieces of printed paper are a treasured item in my collection.

They show how the company presented itself in this early era, on their Western style products, as "Marufuku Nintendo Card Co.", with a central place for the Marufuku logo.

A small mistake was made on the front. The "Registered" of the trademark is misspelt as "Registfred".

Although it does not say on the remains of this box, we know that this is the "Marufuku No. 1" from a similar one that is part of a collection of vintage playing cards.

Bill Harrah, the founder of Harrah's Hotel and Casinos, was we well known collector of cars. He also collected old decks of playing cards. And that collection was bestowed to the University of Nevada in Las Vegas (UNLV). The pictures of the red deck below are from his collection at UNLV.

The deck in the Bill Harrah collection is in very good condition, including the box. The "No. 1" label is included on the front of the closing flap.

The pictures below provide an even better view of the box.

These were recently provided by the team at UNLV

You can see how the box was closed with the top flap, that inserted into an opening on the front.

Like the blue box version, the text on the back includes an English spelling mistake, where it read "registfred".

The red version has an additional one: in the center rings it says "uapan", instead of "japan". For modern day Japanese readers likely easy to spot, but back then this apparently slipped through unnoticed during production.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into Nintendo's earliest days. If you are interested in this period, check out these previous posts about a promotional calendar from 1915 and a product catalogue from the 1930.

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