Rare American-made, Lenormand type fortune telling cards, with beautiful graphics, made by J.H. Singer c.1885.
At a “Mysterious Planchette” website, there is information on Singer, whose “Mystic Wanderer” planchette is described as “stunningly beautiful”:
“Jasper H. Singer's eponymous company was one among dozens of prolific New York game ‘jobbers’ in the 1880s through early 1900s that maneuvered the intricate landscape of toy manufacturing in the period. This era marked incredible leaps in printing innovation where hand-colored gaming materials gave way to cheaper but no-less-extravagant full-color lithography, and companies such as McLoughlin Brothers, Milton Bradley, Parker Bros, E. I. Horsman, and J.H. Singer flourished. The quality of these companies' products mark the golden age of American board games, with stout cardboard or wood boxes, bone dice, metal components, and turned wood tokens and pawns. Board games were finally departing from their educational roots and becoming more socially-acceptable recreational diversions for adults, and the result was an explosion in popularity and profits for those companies that produced them.
"In this environment, J.H. Singer flourished. The founder filed patents for games, including a toy theater stage and an early tabletop pinball game. One of the company's tabletop games was the first to use the phrase 'Table Tennis,' which other companies would later appropriate for Ping Pong. The company, like many other planchette manufacturers, were largely 'jobbers.' Deciphering the rather incestuous relationship between toy companies of this period is an exercise in futility, but competitors might print another company's boxes for a fee, as Singer did with Selchow & Righter. Or, the firm might have tokens or other components produced out-of-house, assemble them in their own warehouses, and then wholesale the finished product to their competitors for eventual sale to the retail trade. Such products produced in this chaotic free-trade environment included ‘Jumping Frog,’ ‘Cuckoo,’ and the paranoia-invoking ‘Where Do You Live?’ The year 1900 marked a decline in the popularity of board games, with only the healthiest firms like Singer rival Mcloughlin Brothers surviving. By 1902, J.H. Singer filed for bankruptcy.”
The set is complete with 26 fortune cards, numbered 1-26. The cards have square corners and plain backs. They are small, measuring approximately 71mm x 51mm, and come in the original box – a colorful box with beautiful graphics. The card measurements are approximate, because the cards have been cut by hand, and vary slightly in size.
The faces of all 26 cards are shown to help in evaluating condition, but I think it is fair to describe the condition as excellent given the age of the cards. There is very light soiling especially at the left edges, but the art work is still quite clean and vibrant, and there are no creases, corner problems or other issues. The box is structurally sound but with wear, some soiling/staining in places, and a large abrasion on the lid – a great old box, even with these issues. Reference: Dawson, The Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards, p.246, FT20
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