Internet has changed the world and of course our hobby world isn’t an exception. Our fortune was that we had only just begun with seriously collecting playing cards, when the internet started to blossom and auction sites appeared everywhere. So we witnessed the changes: from being dependent of only a few collectors meetings each year or mail auctions by fellow collectors to see all kinds of interesting decks, a growing and seemingly everlasting stream of decks started to show up at Ebay and other auction sites. It turned out to be a great education in cards too. The most amazing decks have passed on screen ever since and even if we couldn’t afford them, the pictures were etched in our minds and the very special decks stored on the hard disk.
We found this deck on Ebay and when we first saw it there, the court cards didn’t look familiar to us in any way. After receipt of the deck we took out the excellent books about the Waddington Collection by John Berry and started turning pages and looking at all the pictures. But nor in the text nor in the pictures we could find any reference to this clearly non-standard deck. It was obviously made by Waddington, because the Ace of Spades carries the company’s name. By the time that Waddington entered into the playing card manufacturing business (1922/23), they had already acquired premises in Leeds and London. As there was no reference in the Waddington books, we researched the company that had commissioned the deck, the Scandinavian American Line from Copenhagen, in order to put a rough date to this deck.
December 2015: Paul Symons has send us a back design with slighty different coloring (court cards are the same).
The Thingvalla Line, founded in 1879, maintained a direct line between Scandinavian ports and America. The line was successful because it gave Scandinavian emigrants the opportunity to start their journey to the US without having to go to Germany or England. In 1898 the DFDS (Det Forenede Dampskibs Selskap / “The United Steamship Company”) took over the Thingvalla Line and the passenger line was continued under the name Scandinavian American Line. Their route started off in Copenhagen, Denmark, where –according to the box of the deck- the company was situated, and then called on Kristiania (Oslo) and Kristiansand (both in Norway) before crossing the ocean to New York. The passenger service was discontinued in 1935.
At this point the dating of the deck had been narrowed down to somewhere between 1923 and 1935. In an attempt to further pinpoint the date we took a closer look at the only clue left: the ship that was depicted on the back of the cards.
The original 4 ships of the Thingvalla Line were small and older vessels, made between 1873 and 1884. The fleet was expanded with another ship in 1897, just before the take-over by the DFDS. After the take-over it was still found necessary to further modernize the fleet and new ships were ordered. In 1901, 1902 and 1903 the sister ships SS Oscar II, SS Heilig Olav and SS United States were added and in 1913 the SS Frederik VIII completed the fleet.
-2- -3- -4-