Introduced in 1892. Discontinued in 1943. Most other
decks with a one-way back were long since revised to be symmetrical or discontinued. Emblem endured
as a simple yet elegant one-way design. Decks and singles are easily found in red or blue but are extremely
rare in green and brown. I have never seen a brown Emblem card or deck, and the only green card I have ever
seen was a throw-out card from Herrmann the magician which was offered on eBay several years ago. It was
paired with a matching Herrmann card with an Old Fan back. The pair sold for in excess of $500.
A curious aspect of Emblem is that while the design is
decidedly one way (meaning that the back design has a distinct "top" and "bottom"), the
background graphic is almost perfectly symmetrical. This is easier to see with the bicycle removed; please
see the modified version of the design, below.
The second image, below, is of a Canadian pinochle deck that
was issued with the Emblem back. Some Bicycle card collectors scorn the pinochle decks, and I suppose from a
purist standpoint, they are not standard issue 52 + joker decks, and therefore do not fit in the pantheon of 82
standard back designs. I do consider them a worthy adjunct to my collection. The deck below is an excellent
example of an uncommon combination: a back design that was rarely offered in a pinochle
version (almost all Bicycle pinochle decks are Rider or Racer), and a scarce Canadian issue. That the deck is
also sealed in its inner wrapper is a welcome bonus.
The last image, below, shows a very interesting knock-off of the
Emblem back manufactured by the Weinberg Bros. in Cape Town, South Africa. While the Emblem back is faithfully
reproduced, the deck is poorly printed, and generally very cheaply made. The box features a fanciful image of
a queen riding a tricycle, and the famous Bicycle milestone reduced appropriately to "303" instead
of the usual "808." Just when I think I have seen all of the variations of Bicycle playing card
adaptations from around the world, something like this shows up and completely surprises me!