Introduced in 1891. Discontinued in 1931. One of the most enduring and common of the Bicycle back designs. Examples can be easily found, even in its earliest US8 version.

Based on cards found in salesman's sample folders, the earlier version of the Thistle back with a grass background, shown in the first two cards above, was discontinued sometime around 1899, and replaced by the version with a brick background. Most US8b decks have the brick background, but I have a US8b Thistle deck with the grass background, so the transition likely took place during the early US8b years. See a comparison of the two different versions of Thistle, below.

The Thistle back is unique in that it featured cartoon characters that were presumably licensed for use on the cards: the Brownies, created by Palmer Cox. According to Wikipedia, Palmer Cox (1840 1924) was a Canadian illustrator and author, best known for the Brownies, his series of humorous verse books and comic strips about the mischievous but kindhearted fairy-like sprites. The cartoons were published in several books, such as The Brownies, Their Book (1887). Due to the popularity of Cox's Brownies, one of the first widely distributed handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera. A postcard image of the Brownies in action is reproduced, below.

A red Thistle sample card sold on eBay for $34 on February 19, 2017. A blue US8c Thistle ace of spades sold on eBay for $13 on April 18, 2017. A VG- blue US8b Thistle deck with the grass background (with joker, no box) sold on eBay for $123 on May 1, 2017. A G red US8d Thistle ace of spades sold on eBay for $4 on May 22, 2017. A VG/EX blue US8d Thistle deck with joker sold on eBay for $58 on December 5, 2017.

  73. Tangent No. 2                                       75. Tri-Plaid  

A comparison between the first version of Thistle (left) and the revised design.

A large grouping of Palmer Cox's mischief-makers.