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  • Writer's picturePete Berthoud

A Pepys Tarot?

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

I recently purchased a mysterious Tarot pack and case labelled "Pepys of London". Nobody I have spoken to had ever heard of a Pepys Tarot before and even Rex Pitts didn't mention one in his encyclopaedic Pepys: The Story of The Company and its Games.

Red Plastic Case embossed with TAROT

The hard plastic case is made in two parts.

Hard plastic case in two parts.

On the base is the maker's mark:


AGM

AGMÜLLER

NEUHASEN MADE IN SWITZERLAND

Base maker's mark:  AGM AGMÜLLER NEUHASEN MADE IN SWITZERLAND

But on the top of the box is this gold and black sticker, reading: Pepys of London TAROT.

Top of the box is this gold and black sticker, reading: "Pepys of London TAROT"

The style of this sticker is almost identical to those used by Pepys on the packaging of their stationery and leather goods products in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"Pepys of London " very similar sticker used by Pepys on the packaging of their stationery and leather goods products

Inside the case I found these cards, a slightly faded and yellowed pack of by Tarot Classic, published by U.S. Games Systems Inc. and produced by AGMüller in the early 1970s.

Tarot Classic - Sample cards

I have seen several other red plastic cases of the same design, all with the AGMüller mark but without the Pepys sticker. Some include packs of Tarot Classic, others hold Swiss 1JJ packs also by U.S. Games Systems Inc. and AGMüller. I have also seen a couple of black plastic boxes of the same design by AGMüller with Swiss 1JJ cards.

Swiss 1JJ Tarot - Sample cards

I can't find any evidence to show what cards my box originally held.


Steve Winnick has written a good account of how Stuart Kaplan's U.S. Games Systems Inc. and AGMüller came together in the early 1970s to produce a series of Tarot decks - visit his website. According to this site, Tarot Classic, the deck I found in the Pepys labelled box, "first came out in 1972, and was published by Kaplan’s company U.S. Games Systems in the U.S., and by AG Müller in Europe.".


It is plausible then that the deck and box I found were just as originally sold circa 1972, with Pepys presumably acting as a UK distributor for AGMüller. Perhaps Pepys sold them alongside their stationery and leather goods lines rather than their games, possibly even without cards. It could also be that many "Pepys" boxes have lost their stickers over the last 50 years.


Another intriguing, if remote, possibility is that Pepys worked with AGMüller to produce their own distinct Tarot deck and that AGMüller supplied them in their stylish but generic plastic hard cases. I live in hope!


As I say I have been unable to find any evidence to show what cards the box originally held. If you own a pack with a Pepys seal, or know of any catalogue listings, advertisements or press reviews relating to the "Pepys of London" Tarot please do get in touch.





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