Saturday, November 20, 2010

Vintage Dondorf Playing Cards No.150

Playing card collectors are quite familiar with the name Dondorf. The German company Bernhard Dondorf, from Frankfurt, was world famous for high quality playing cards and not surprisingly Dondorf playing cards are some of the most sought after among playing card collectors. I was fortunate to pick up a full deck, 52 plus joker, of Dondorf No. 150 Whist playing cards for a great price.

This vintage deck of cards is in excellent condition and it only cost me £20.00, plus £4.00 for shipping and handling.

This pack of cards was listed on eBay along with several other listings for Dondorf cards, all by the same seller located in Horley, Surrey, United Kingdom. This deck was described as being originally part of an extremely large collection of wonderful playing cards from many categories. What kept the price low was the fact that there were multiple listings for Dondorf cards at the same time, something not often seen on eBay. I've kept my eye on eBay listings for Dondorf cards in the past but the decks always went for far more than I was ever willing to pay for 52+1 pieces of paper. But this time I lucked out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Photo Postcard: German WWI Soldiers Cheating at Cards

Someone once said that the best eBay finds are the miss-categorized ones. This is an original photo postcard of German WWI soldiers cheating at cards. I picked it up for $12.05 plus $1.50 for shipping and handling, and I was one of three bidders. The seller would have definitely had more bidders if the listing title had some mention of card cheating, but his title was Germany -REAL PHOTO- Soldiers Playing Cards - several dogs. I say, who cares about the dogs?

What's particularly interesting about this photo is the setup with one guy handing off a card at the side of the table, for the benefit of the viewers. This is a setup that is reoccurring in numerous old photographs and even some very kitschy figurines that periodically pop up on eBay. But I've always wondered where this theme originated. Since this postcard was never used there's no date stamp on the back (bummer!) but if the picture was taken during WWI it would be between 1914 and 1918. And what I particularly like about this photograph is that, unlike many others with this theme, it is not corny because the people in the photo are not trying to overact their emotions. Unlike most other card cheating photographs where people are acting like clowns this one almost feels believable. If I didn't know better I could even believe it was a candid photo (but I don't really believe that).

Another rather nice photograph of card cheaters can be seen in one of my earlier blog posts Antique Men's Club Photograph with Card Cheater. Like the current photograph, the acting in the Men's Club photograph is also not exaggerated, but I think the German Soldiers postcard is still better.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Little Card Holdout That Never Was

If you've ever searched eBay for "card cheating" you must have seen plenty of listings for an odd looking clip, listed as a holdout device for card cheating. Many vendors describe the little gadget as an antique holdout device used by card cheats to hold an ace up the sleeve. Some even go as far to describe how the device supposedly works. One vendor said, "The small clip is used to smoothly slip a card in and out the sleeve."

This device is neither a holdout nor any other kind of card cheating device. It is simply an antique cuff holder, used to attach detachable cuffs onto a shirt. Those types of shirts have gone out of style but if you ever watch old black and white movies you might have come across an occasional scene where some gentleman is seen removing the collar and the cuffs from his shirt. That's the kind of old-fashioned shirt those cuff holders were used for.

The most common brand of cuff holders was Wizard. That's why most eBay auctions list Wizard "holdouts." But Wizard was not a crooked gambling distributor, it was simply a company that made cuff holders and possibly some other things. The Western & Eastern Treasures Magazine site has accurate information about the Wizard cuff holders (scroll to the bottom of page). I also included a description on the holdout devices page, on my main web site. And on my site I also included a picture of an original counter-top display. I believe this original display ad should be enough to prove what the true purpose of the little Wizard was.

I've had this description on my site for quite a while and it shows up high on search engines. But the little Wizards still keep popping up on eBay, listed as card cheating devices, every time I search for "card cheating." Some vendors go through great lengths to make their Wizards more appealing to potential buyers, like the one that said, "I suspect it made someone a lot of money and maybe a bullet hole or two, a nice original relic of riverboat and saloon wild west days and cultured parlor games in men's only clubs. The spring clip part holds to the cuff and the clip holds the card up the sleeve."

I've also recently come across are more modest description, saying, "Cuff holders were used to attach detachable cuffs to men's shirts. There are also card cheating devices called 'holdouts' that look very much like cuff holders and its a possibility that these were designed to keep a card up one's sleeve." Although this description is less sensationalized it still mentions card cheating for no other reason than to boost the interest. So, even if this vendor doesn't call it a holdout, the description is still dishonest because it is intended to deceive.

But the most honest description to date is from a recent eBay auction, where the vendor actually says what these gadgets were for and also discredits all the bogus claims that this is some kind of antique card cheating device. This one was for a pair of Washburne cuff holders:
These intriguing little clips are actually a gentleman's antique Washburne Cuff Holders from 1889. Back in the late 1800s, gents’ shirts came with detachable cuffs and collars so they could be easily replaced to give the appearance of a fresh clean shirt. This wonderful little gadget was designed to hold the cuffs in place.

Can you imagine what a wonder of modern technology this must have been!

Folklore suggests that the more imaginative of the Wild West poker players managed to use this gadget to hide an ace up the sleeve. With one end clipped to the clothing and the other end holding a hidden card.

I was actually tempted to buy this pair of cuff holders, just because the vendor is honest and because they came with the actual cuff from the era. It would make for a good demo piece. But then I changed my mind. I don't really collect this kind of stuff and I'm already running out of storage space, as is, so I don't need another thing to stash somewhere at the bottom of a drawer. So, I let the auction slip.

The reason I've decided to make this post is to set the record straight. I really despise how some people are changing historical facts just to make a quick buck. My job as a gambling researcher is to gather accurate information and publish what I think is true. If I ever make a mistake I make an effort to fix it. I've contacted many eBay vendors in the past and let them know in the nicest possible tone that their listings were inaccurate and also let them know where they could look up the information. Not one of them ever bothered to reply or to fix their listings. So, I can only conclude that their greed overpowers their sense of decency. Let's be honest, these vendors are deceiving their paying customers by deliberately misrepresenting an item. That is a form of theft. I know it's just petty theft and some might think I'm going too far to even think about it. But to me it's really more about distorting historical facts and spreading the misinformation. And while we're on the subject of theft, I really hate nickel and dimers. If you're going to steal, steal millions or something worth stealing.