Outstanding set of "Snap" cards, designed in England and hand colored by Spear of Bavaria, c.1880s, in the original box. The box says it all: "SNAP: A Most Diverting Game: Beautifully Coloured Cards of Grotesque Characters." The designs are delightful, and the artwork is vivid and beautiful. Spear was founded in the late 1870s by Jacob Wolf Spear, and would become J.W. Spear & Sons in 1884. Spear is perhaps best known as an early producer of "Scrabble," introducing it into the U.K. market. The company is now a subsidiary of Mattel.
Because the box states that the cards were "made at the Spear works Bavaria," rather than J.W. Spear & Sons, I infer that the set may precede the 1884 name change. Research discloses that in 1888 the plant in Bavaria underwent certain changes. From the website of the Museum of Childhood in London:
"The German factory was expanded and modernised in 1888. Hand press and cutting machines were exchanged for steam powered machines. Spear also introduced a new process using oil which involved card being cut, pressed and formed, soaked in raw or boiled linseed oil before being baked in a drying oven on racks at 100°C. The card would then be painted or varnished and dried once more in a drying room."
These cards were not made by this process. Accordingly, I have dated the set to the 1880s.
There are 40 cards total in the set – 4 each of 10 different designs – and while there are no instructions, from the fit of the cards in the box it is certain that the set is complete. The cards are large, measuring 96mm x 68mm, and the box is telescope type, with an inner box that slides into an outer box that features one of the card designs against a blue background.
The cards are in exceptional condition, with very faint foxing/staining in places, but otherwise without issues of any kind. An example of each of the 10 designs is shown in the photos, and collectively they are a good representative sample of the cards as a whole. Again, the artwork is undisturbed, and very bright and clear. The box is in remarkably good condition, although there is a slight tear to the outer box at the bottom of the pasted card, and noticeable wear to the bottom of the inner box.
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