Manufacturing of playing cards in New Zealand started in the 1880s. Despite this early start, there have not been many manufacturers of playing-cards.
The main “lines” of manufacturers are (or were):
Playing cards imported into New Zealand were taxed from 1860, and stamped from 1880 until the tax ended in 1930.a All examples I have seen have been stamped on the .
John Dickinson was a stationery company based in the United Kingdom that opened a New Zealand branch (“John Dickinson & Co.”) in 1920.b “Croxley” was their public brand of stationery products in New Zealand (the UK company originated in Croxley Green), under which they also published playing cards. As far as I know, the UK company never manufactured cards.
In 1966 the UK company merged with E. S. & A. Robinson to form “Dickinson–Robinson Group”; the New Zealand firm was renamed to “The Dickinson Robinson Group” for a few months from 19 Dec 1968 – 26 Mar 1969, and then “DRG (New Zealand) Limited” until they were liquidated in 1994.c
Croxley remained around as its own company, but closed its last manufacturing plant in 2005.d The brand itself still exists, being owned by OfficeMax. However, it may soon disappear forever as OfficeMax closed all of its New Zealand stores in late 2020,A victim of Covid-19. and is now online-only. Current Croxley cards appear to be made in China and only retain the Ace as a nod to the Dickinson line.
The aces have changed over the years to match the name of the company; the later aces are often poor copies of the earlier ones, where detail has been lost.
The earlier (pre-DRG) cards are most easily identified by aindex which has a turned-in tail, but this feature is lost in the DRG cards which shifted to a sans-serif index.
The curled-index on the pre-DRG cards is useful in identifying tourist pictorial decks where the card images are replaced by photographs of scenic locations, so that the Ace gives no identifying information. The following cards are from a deck produced before 1958:
The Dickinson and DRG cards are probably most often found with backs designed for tourists, depicting locations around New Zealand, or New Zealand wildlife:
#A. D. Willis/Weeks Ltd./United Empire Box/Amcor
Archibald Dudingston Willis was a very early manufacturer of playing cards in New Zealand, who operated in Wanganui from the 1880s. In 1951 the company was sold to Weeks Ltd, which kept A. D. Willis as a subsidiary, and the business was sold in turn to United Empire Box (UEB) around 1964.e In the late 1980s the design was taken over by Kiwi Packaging (part of Amcor). This line of designs now appears to be out-of-print, as Amcor no longer manufacture playing cards.
UEB also produced pictorial souvenir decks, such as the one below.
#Strong & Ready/Tanner Couch
Strong & Ready Ltd. was registered from 1948–1974.
In addition to cards manufactured in New Zealand, cards featuring New Zealand scenes were manufactured in other countries, such as the United Kingdom.
Endebrock, Peter (). ‘Playing-Card Tax Stamps from New Zealand’. Peter Endebrock’s Playing-card Pages.
Croxley Stationery (). Croxley Stationery. Croxley Stationery.
New Zealand Companies Office (). ‘Companies Register: DRNZ Limited’. New Zealand Companies Office.
1 NEWS (). ‘Croxley confirms factory closure, 100 job losses’. 1 NEWS: New Zealand.
Black, Sandi (). ‘Museum Notebook: Whanganui philanthropist also an astute businessman’. Whanganui Chronicle, February 15, 2021.