Skip to main content

Tom and Judy Dawson Collection of Playing Card Ephemera

Call Number: GEN MSS 1608

Scope and Contents

This collection contains playing card-related material collected by Tom and Judy Dawson over 35 years. Its focus is on the playing card industry but also explores the popular culture of playing card imagery and its social impact. A highlight of the Dawsons' collection is early standard American and Canadian playing cards and ephemera related to the cards and their makers. Ephemera includes sample books, billheads, correspondence, advertising materials, trade cards, calendars, invitations, postcards and many other objects with playing card interest. Printed material in the collection includes books, booklets, and catalogs. The bulk of printed material are catalogs for card games and playing card culture, and booklets featuring playing card manufacturers.


  • 1650 - 2014


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 33 (born digital): Restricted fragile material. Access copies of digital files may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Tom and Judy Dawson Collection of Playing Card Ephemera is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Tom and Judy Dawson on the Mary Flagler Cary Fund, 2017.


Organized into six series: I. Advertisements, 1812 - 1996. II. Ephemera, 1650 - 2009. III. Posters and artwork, 1835 - 1999. IV. Instruction and rule booklets and publications, 1861 - 2014. V. Objects, 1750 - 1938. VI. Computer media, undated.


58.58 Linear Feet ((51 boxes) + 5 broadside)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

Tom and Judy Dawson

Tom and Judy Dawson are collectors of antiques and playing card ephemera. They have been collecting for over 40 years. Early on, the Dawsons were influenced by Gene Hochman, an avid collector and playing card enthusiast. Hochman was the author of the original Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards, which was re-written by the Dawsons in 2000. Before his retirement as a Certified Public Accountant, Tom was a senior partner at the accounting organization Deloitte. Judy pursues her interests in the areas of antique collecting, gardening, and home design, in addition to having raised their six children. In addition to caring for their collection, Tom and Judy serve as officers of 52 Plus Joker, a club for those interested in antique American and International playing cards. Judy also edits the club's quarterly publication, Clear the Decks.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection or revisions in arrangement and description.

Information included in the Content Description note and Collection Contents section is drawn from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents. Portions of description for this collection have been directly repurposed from description supplied with the collection upon its receipt. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are often based on those provided by the creator or previous custodian. Titles have not been verified against the contents of the folders in all cases. Otherwise, folder titles are supplied by staff during initial processing.
Guide to the Tom and Judy Dawson collection of playing card ephemera
by Jessica Tai
May 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977


121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.