BICYCLE PLAYING CARDS FOR COLLECTORS

This website was created by Joseph Pierson to share as much information as possible about the historic Bicycle Playing Cards produced by the Russell and Morgan Printing Company, and its successor, the United States Playing Card Company, from 1885 until approximately 1925. The numerical listings reference the assigned number for each back design in a scrupulously researched handbook published in 1955 by Mrs. Ruth Robinson: "Collector's Handbook of Bicycle Brand Playing Cards." 

Mrs. Robinson did much of what I consider the heavy lifting on researching Bicycle cards. She was the first (as far as I know) to catalogue each individual back design, and its respective colors. She also noted the date of first issue of each back, and even the subtle printing variations in the evolution of several of the designs. This website should, therefore, be considered an updating of Mrs. Robinson's fine work, rather than a newly executed original idea.

One area where I have been able to fill a gap in Mrs. Robinson's work is in the cataloguing of each of the aces of spades, the attending jokers, and the boxes that housed the cards when they left the factory. But even here, I had several predecessors. First was Gene Hochman who wrote the original Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards. His research paired the Bicycle aces and jokers and ascribed a range of dates for each. Tom and Judy Dawson have since lovingly and painstakingly updated the encyclopedia and have added innumerable details on scores of card companies and their cards. All that was left, then, was to inventory the Bicycle box designs.

The boxes that 19th and early 20th century cards came in were ordinary cardboard, sometimes coated, but as often not. Time has been their enemy; many were worn out and discarded, others defaced for USPC promotions that urged consumers to mail in the box top and flap. Many of those that survived suffer the wounds inflicted by cards being repeatedly removed and replaced for nightly sessions of whist, poker or solitaire and the non-archival tape that inevitably followed. As a consequence of the popularity of 52 cards, many decks survive today, occasionally in pristine condition, but most often thoroughly played and without a box. Fortunately, however, enough boxes have fallen into the hands of collectors to create a fairly vivid picture of the evolution of the original homes to these cards.

The miracle of the internet also allows me to render every image in full color, so that's an added benefit of being where and when I am.

I have added some current eBay auction prices for Bicycle cards to the individual card pages, for auctions of both singles and complete decks. This should not be construed as an attempt by me to ascribe a specific value to any of the cards shown on this website, it is merely a cataloging of prices realized. As I observe on various pages herein, the prices for Bicycle cards on eBay fluctuate wildly for no apparent reason. But, there is some reason to these peaks and valleys. There are a handful of serious Bicycle card collectors out there. If any one of them really wants a deck or single, he or she will likely put in a very high bid. If no other serious collector bids, the hammer price probably won't be quite so high. But, if one other collector with deep pockets also bids, the gap between the top two bidders and the rest of the pack can be quite large.

One final disclaimer: this website is not in any way associated with the present United States Playing Card Company. I admire the work they have done, and the many fine playing cards they continue to manufacture, including the venerable Bicycle brand.