Monarch Bicycles &
Hartford Safety Bicycles

Both of these lovely decks were designed to advertise brands of actual bicycles. The scarce and very desirable Monarch decks (ca. 1895, designated A12 in the Hochman Encyclopedia) came in eight known color combinations, all eight of which are pictured below. The first two shown are probably the most common of the Monarch varieties, but all eight are very rare. The elaborate court card designs featuring theater stars of the day were very likely the model for the Stage decks that USPC produced soon after (SE3 and SE4, ca. 1896). A sample of the Monarch court cards are pictured below, along with all of the aces, the joker and special Lee Richardson endorsement card. Lee Richardson was a trick rider or, as the card states, "the Premier Fancy Bicyclist of the World."

A collector friend wrote to me recently with this information: "I have 3 different Monarch decks, originally noting only the differences in the color of the back design but now, after further inspection, I find that they are different from one another in other ways. First, the color of the wheel on the flap of each tuck box corresponds to the back color of each deck. Second, the Monarch deck must have been issued for several years because two of my boxes are from the Monarch Cycle Mnfg. Co. which began in 1892, but the third is from the Monarch Sales Department of the American Bicycle Company which would date it to no earlier than 1899 when that sale took place. One of the three decks also has the Jessie Bartlett Davis endorsement on the box [shown below]. Lastly, one of my decks has all 4 queens as Lillian Russell, whereas, the other two have the image of Jessie Bartlett Davis on the Queen of Diamonds and the Queen of Clubs. It is also interesting to note that the two images shown of Lillian Russell and Jessie Bartlett Davis in the Monarch deck are different from their pictures shown on the Stage deck issued one year later. By the way, both of their pictures appear together on the Queen of Diamonds in the Stage deck."

The second of the decks pictured below is the Hartford Safety Bicycle deck, another great and rare bicycle advertising deck (not listed in my edition of the Hochman Encyclopedia). Scroll down to see examples of three different Hartford back designs. The most common of the three is shown in red and blue varieties. Also pictured is an ace of spades and joker.