ABTA: Home of the American Bridge Teachers' Association

“To help those who teach bridge to do it better, more effectively, more knowledgeably, more professionally.”


Ray Lee

Originally published on November 29 at Ray Lee's Blog.


Both Linda Lee and Nick Fahrer have blogged recently about bridge ephemera – curiosities and collectibles related to the game in some way. One of the first things I saw when we arrived here at the Nationals in Boston was a display of trump indicators.

Trump indicators date back to whist, a game in which sometimes the last card dealt was turned up as trumps, or in some forms of the game the deck was cut to decide trumps before the deal. The result was that it was quite easy to forget what the trump suit actually was. In early forms of bridge, trump indicators continued to be useful too.

Trump indicators were little mechanical reminders – usually one would be on the table during your whist game. They came in an incredible variety of shapes and sizes – everything from little boxes to cartoon figures, athletes, buildings, witches and devils. What they all have in common is that somewhere each of them displays the four suit symbols, and includes either a movable pointer or some other means of ‘indicating’ the trump suit for the deal.

Usually they are hard to date, but they were very common from the late 19th century to the early 1930s, when contract bridge was starting to take over. Early ones have only the four suits, but around the beginning of the 20th century trump indicators with ‘notrump’ included began to appear, for use in bridge games.

The display here in Boston is from the 650-piece plus collection of Joan Schepps, of Boca Raton Florida. Her collection has been exhibited around the world, as well as being featured in magazines and on national television. According to Joan, who purchased her first indicator at a flea market 25 years ago, the little curiosities have become a real collector’s item, and can be found on occasion at major auction houses like Sotheby’s. But you can still get bargains if you keep your eyes open.

Here are some photos from Joan's collection that we saw in Boston this week: