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Joan Schepps

Playing card collectors often forget that card games, especially those of the past, required not only a deck of cards, but other highly collectible items like rule books, score pads, card tables, card shufflers, pencils, tablecloths, markers, and... trump indicators. In its day, a trump indicator was an important and fanciful accessory to the game of whist.

In whist there was no bidding, unlike our modern game of bridge. The last card dealt determined the trump suit. This was communicated to the players when the dealer turned his last card face up before adding it to his hand. This made it easy to forget the trump suit. So toward the end of the 19th cen-tury, whist players began to create trump indicators, devices to be placed on the card table to indicate the current trump suit, and the trump indicator helped the player remember what suit was trump.

What many collectors may not know is that many indicators helped the player in another way. A variety of trump indicators had a scoring table as well as the suit signs on their surfaces. Some looked like stop-watches with scoring information showing the bonus points for honors and for grand and little slams. There are card boxes with scoring tables, and table numbers with numbers on one side and a TI and scoring information on the other. An ordi-nary flip trump indicator was made less ordinary because each French ivory flip card had the proper score on the back of the card for each suit. As scor-ing was an important part of the game, it was a great convenience to have the scores so readily available.

The popularity of a TI as a gaming accessory waned in the 1930's when the game of bridge eclipsed whist as the popular card game.  However, through the indicators one could follow the development of the game of whist to Auction Bridge to contract bridge as the scoring changed.  These changes are reflected on the scoring tables on later trump indicators, and it is a fascinating way to date them.

Auction bridge came to a halt to be replaced by the exploding game of contract bridge, invented by Harold Vanderbilt on a cruise in 1925 when he added the concepts of vulnerability and having to bid to game. Bridge was exceedingly popular during the depression years as it was an inexpensive yet very sociable pastime. The rest is history and to this day bridge is still a leading card game with a national organization, the American Contract Bridge League. The ACBL sets all rules for both duplicate and rubber bridge, conducts bridge tour-naments, ranks bridge players in the United States, Canada and Mexico and awards Master Points.

 

Editor’s Note: Thanks Joan, what a wonderful collection you own. As a bridge player, I do delight in these charming TI’s that display the scoring tables.

Joan Schepps holds the rank of Silver Life Master. She founded the Holyoke Bridge Club in Holyoke MA, and wrote a bridge column for a local paper. Her collection of Trump Indicators is the foremost in the United States. This collection was on exhibition at the World Bridge Olympiad and is written up in the Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, as well as the American Contract Bridge League Bulletin and other bridge publications.


Trump Indicators: What's the Score?

Joan Schepps tells us about bridge collectibles, using examples from her own extensive collection.