Introduced in 1947 and discontinued in 1949.
Oak Leaf is a relatively common deck, at least in its generic form (read on).
This deck has caused considerable confusion among
collectors because it was first issued by USPCC as an unnamed deck for servicemen and women in
World War II under the brand name "Uncle Sam." Apparently, after the war it was then marketed as
a Bicycle deck with the name "Oak Leaf." But, probably due to excess inventory, many Uncle
Sam decks with the generic ace and joker were packaged in Oak Leaf Bicycle boxes. Some
collectors have returned such decks to sellers in the mistaken belief that they have been a
victim of some sort of fraud. In fact, it is common to find the generic Oak Leaf decks packaged
in a Bicycle box, so these pairings should be considered authentic.
On November 1, 2015, I finally found definitive proof that
this deck was produced under the Bicycle brand with BOTH a standard Bicycle ace of spades and the generic
"Uncle Sam" ace by steaming open my two mint sealed Oak Leaf decks, one red and one blue. I opened
the blue deck first and found the generic "Uncle Sam" ace of spades. I almost didn't open the red deck, but
decided I had better gather all available evidence--and I'm glad I did. The red deck had a US8e Bicycle ace
of spades! Interesting that both decks were sealed in identical boxes (but for the color), with identical tax
stamps. I also have one Bicycle Oak Leaf joker single, which provides further evidence of the formalized Bicycle
connection. Please see the first series of images, below (with apologies for the lousy flip-phone pictures).
in her pamphlet for Bicycle card collectors, inexplicably called this deck "Leaf," even though
it is always shown as "Oak Leaf" on the box. To add yet another layer to the confusion, Gene Hochman,
in his extraordinary Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards, called a newly discovered early
Bicycle deck with a similar motif, "Oak Leaf." The rival Oak Leaf deck can be seen
HERE, or by
clicking on "82" on the home page of this site. In an attempt to avoid further confusion, I
call the deck on this page by its original and correct name, "Oak Leaf," and the unnamed US8a deck "Leaf."
But, note that a two-toned version of Oak Leaf was released in 2014 as "Leaf" in a Kickstarter
campaign (see the last image, below).
And now, a bit of history. I came across a
scrapbook some years ago with many different designs of cards produced by the Consolidated
Card Company. Among the pasted-down card backs, there were many fantastic original drawings of the back
designs. One of these was the Oak Leaf design, dated August 16, 1897, along with two sample Oak Leaf backs
(see the second image below). I think it is reasonable to conclude that this back design was
originally produced by CCC and appropriated by USPCC in the 1940's.
Finally, thanks to Jon Randall, a dealer in the UK, I have added
yet another interesting foreign Bicycle-related back design to my collection. This one is a Chinese knock-off
of the Oak Leaf back. See the second to last group of images, below, for a comparison with a USPCC Oak Leaf ace
of spades. To visit Jon's eBay playing card store, click here:
Worldwide Playing Cards.