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The First Playing Cards by USPC

Posted on June 01, 2012 in Articles

The United States Playing Card Company has manufactured the world’s finest playing cards since 1885, but where did it all begin? Which decks were first off the printing press?

Bicycle® Playing Cards are the most famous brand of playing cards in the world today. Although we know what year the first decks rolled off the presses, we don’t know which exact back design came first.

For years, experts and historians seemed to agree that the most likely candidate was the “Old Fan” back design. It was released in 1885 and remained in production for many years afterwards.

If that’s true, then the famous “Rider back” design, which has remained in production for over 120 years, was likely the second Bicycle® design. We know it was released in 1887. So where’s the controversy?

It’s possible that a little known back called the “Oak Leaf” design was printed sometime in 1885 along with the Old Fan back. At least one Oak Leaf deck has surfaced with the earliest known Ace of Spades, which would appear to date the deck to 1885, along with the Old Fan back.

The question is, did the Old Fan back design come first and Oak Leaf second, or is it the other way around? Or, is it possible that the Oak Leaf back with the original Ace is simply a fluke and wasn’t actually in production that early? We will likely never know the real answer. This mystery might never be solved!