March 22, 2009

Ace of Spades Tattoos

The ornate design of the Ace of Spades, common in packs today, stems from the 18th century, when certain duties on playing cards were exacted by the monarchy. Stamp duty, an idea imported to England by William III, was extended to playing cards in 1711; this taxation lasted until 1960.

Over the years a number of methods were used to show that duty had been paid. From 1712 onwards, one of the cards in the pack, usually the Ace of Spades, was marked with a hand stamp. In 1765 hand stamping was replaced by the printing of official Ace of Spades by the Stamp Office, incorporating the royal coat of arms. In 1828 the Duty Ace of Spades (known as 'Old Frizzle') was printed to indicate a reduced duty of a shilling had been paid.

The system was changed again in 1862 when official threepenny duty wrappers were introduced and although the makers were free to use whatever design they wanted, most chose to keep the ornate Ace of Spades that is popular today. The Ace of Spades is thus used to show the card manufacturer's information.
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