Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hungarian Playing Cards

A reader in Budapest, Hungary noticed the US-made Hungarian playing cards I featured in a previous post, and so he very kindly sent me some Hungarian card decks. Thank you very much, Tamás! It was very kind of you.

Here are some photos of the beautiful cards Tamás sent me, along with notes in which I draw on his explanation of these cards:

regular hungarian cards
Fig. 1  Regular Hungarian cards, a 32 card deck. Cards measure about 4"x2½". These cards are used for skat, bézique, klaberjass, and other Hungarian card games.

The suits are red (not "hearts"), green (not "leaves"), acorns, bells. If there is a rank among suits, red is the highest. Notice how many of the cards, including pip cards and aces, have pictures or scenery on them.

hungarian tarokk cards
Fig. 2a  Hungarian Tarokk cards, uses a 42 card deck in Hungary but 54 cards in Western Europe. Cards are quite large, measuring about 5"x3", and the cards have no indices in the corner. This deck contains 54 cards, from which 12 pip cards can be discarded to yield the 42 card deck. Tamás says that Tarokk is a very popular card game in Hungary; I find an account of the rules here, looks like an intricate and fascinating game, and quite unlike any other card game I'm acquainted with.

The 42 cards in the Hungarian game include five cards in each suit: in spades and clubs the cards rank king (high), queen, rider, jack, ten (low); in hearts and diamonds the cards rank king (high), queen, rider, jack, ace (low). The deck also includes 21 numbered cards with Roman numerals ranking from XXI (high) down to I or pagát (low), plus an unnumbered card called skíz which looks a little like a joker and is the highest card of all. The skíz, XXI, and pagát are known as honors.

hungarian tarokk cards
Fig. 2b  As you can see, the numbered cards have very curious designs on them. Tamás tells me these designs date back to Hungary and Austria in the early 19th century.

1860s reprint hungarian cards
Fig. 3  A reprint of Hungarian cards from the 1860s. 32 card deck, quite small, with the cards measuring about 3 5/8"x2 1/8". The box is labeled in Hungarian Tell Vilmos, or as we would say in English, William Tell. The original manufacturer is given as "Salamon Antal, Keczkemet": Tony Salamon, in Keczkemét, which is about 60 kilometers east of Budapest.

The designs on the cards are very delicate and old-fashioned looking. Tamás mentions an interesting point: the Red Lower (what we would call the Jack) wears a red rounded cap. In cards designed after the 1920s, this was changed to a green cap, since the red cap was called a "Jewish cap" at that time.

Three beautiful card decks from Hungary, and they make a wonderful addition to my playing card collection. Once again, thank you, Tamás! As I've remarked before here on my blog, one of the great things about the Internet is the way it brings together individuals from around the world.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

quaint curious cards that whisper of a land far away...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 1:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

This is wonderful!!! You will be amazed how many people are actually playing games with this cards... we are in Canada and we love to play 66. I remember my grandfather taught me when I was little and after 30 years I just wanted to try again hahaha and I didn't forgot a thing.. it was hard to get the cards but eventually eBay comes in handy..and I've got the miniature ones too for when we are on the road... oh my this is fantastic...
All our neighbors here in London they just love the cards and the game! Saturday nights are so bright now... rummy and Hungarian cards... oh canada... we love you.

Sunday, December 06, 2009 2:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Evelyn Ward de Roo said...

I just listed a set of these Hungarian Playing Cards on my Etsy site and mentioned your blog.

Saturday, May 01, 2010 9:34:00 PM  

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