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Panko Playing Cards information and price guide

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In the delicate tapestry of historical milestones, various artifacts and memorabilia serve as reminders of eras gone by. Among such artifacts, the ‘Panko Playing Cards’ stand as a unique intersection of leisure, art, and the Suffragist movement. Dubbed ‘Panko or Votes for Women’, this card game became a conduit for spreading awareness regarding women’s suffrage in the early 20th century, under a veil of engaging gameplay. We take a look at the Panko Playing Cards game and include a price guide of sold sets and related items.

Panko Playing Cards Panko or Votes for Women The Great Card Game Suffragists v Anti-Suffragists
Panko Playing Cards Panko or Votes for Women The Great Card Game Suffragists v Anti-Suffragists Estimate £300-£500. This complete set of 48 cards has illustrations by E.T. Reed of “Punch”, featuring a kaleidoscope of black, red, purple, and green hues, with a purple on white geometric design on the versos, published by Peter Gurney Ltd., around 1909.

Panko Playing Card Rules

The card pack is structured with four Suffragist and four Anti-Suffragist suits, each consisting of six cards. The gameplay, reminiscent of rummy, involves players exchanging cards to complete a suit. A clever utilization of color demarcates the allegiances, with the points on each card printed in red for Anti-Suffragists and green for Suffragists, creating a vivid visual representation of the political landscapes of the time.

A rare Peter Gurney Ltd Panko or Votes for Women Suffragette card game circa 1910
A rare Peter Gurney Ltd Panko or Votes for Women Suffragette card game circa 1910. Sold for £240 at Special Auction Services, June 2023.

Retailing at two shillings a pack, the game was propagated by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Advertisements emphasized the game’s ability to provide “intense excitement without the slightest taint of bitterness,” showcasing each card as an “interesting memento” of the era’s socio-political climate. The understated motive was to trickle down the propaganda into the domestic realms subtly, thereby igniting discourse within the relaxed setting of a card game.

The translation of the mechanics of the women’s suffrage campaign into board and card games was a masterstroke that originated from within the Women’s Social and Political Union. Not only were funds raised, but the message of the cause was brought into domestic circles where more rabid propaganda might not have been welcomed. (Crawford, E., The Women’s Suffrage Movement, A Reference Guide 1866-1928)

Examples of cards from the Panko game

First making its appearance in the ‘Votes for Women’ publication in December 1909, it quickly gained traction among suffragettes and their circles. Notably, suffragette and diarist Mary Blathwayt gifted a set to her mother during the Christmas of that year, marking the game’s social relevance and sentimental value.

Panko Playing Cards Panko with rules
Panko Playing Cards Panko with rules. Sold for £850 at Bonhams, March 2022.

The whimsical, yet earnest illustrations coupled with the game’s evocative narrative showcase a brilliant strategy of mingling awareness with leisure. It’s a wonderful exemplification of how the suffragette movement explored creative avenues to foster dialogues on women’s rights.

As we shuffle through the pages of history, the Panko Playing Cards remind us of a time when a simple card game could carry the heartbeats of a burgeoning revolution. And for today’s collectors, owning a set is akin to holding a small, yet profound fragment of the monumental struggle for equality.

Rare Suffragette Memorabilia Auction Sheds Light on a Stirring Era of Women’s Activism

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