Bank of Lithuania and cards

   In interwar Lithuania, one of the most popular table games was cards. They were designed for both games and fortune-telling. In 1924, a monopoly of cards entered into force in Lithuania – only the state could produce them, and only those who had the permission of the state could distribute them. It was forbidden to bring playing cards from abroad and the activities were strictly controlled by state institutions. In the interwar history of cards, the Bank of Lithuania also played a significant role.

  In Lithuania, cards appeared and spread during the Renaissance era. One passionate cardholder was the King of Poland and Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Žygimantas the Old. At the same time, the first craftsmen’s workshops were formed. Later, the gaming cards workshop, established in Varėna in 1777, became famous for its activities. Its founders and owners were Karolis Pranciškus Perlius and his son Juozapas.
  Examples of ancient cards are rare and expensive. More knowledge about the creation and production of cards comes from the interwar period. In museums, both drawings of cards and already printed decks of cards are stored. There are seven known variants of Lithuanian cards.

  At the beginning of the 20th century, the government announced competitions for the creation of cards, which were attended by several famous artists of the time – Vilius Jomantas, Jonas Buračas, Barbora Didžiokienė, Adomas Varnas, and others. The artists who won the contest received awards.

   Lithuanian gambling cards have distinct features of nationality: kings – Dukes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, valets – ancient warriors, ladies – priestesses or the wives of dukes. Ethnicity is reflected in the figure’s clothing and through certain details: armour, weapons, shields, plants, patterns, colours. The card drawings are romantic, idealising Lithuania’s past. 

   The monopoly on card production and distribution entered into force in Lithuania on 1 January 1924. On 1 March 1924, in issue 152 of the “Official journal,” the rules for the implementation of the Law on State Monopolization of Gambling and Solitaire Cards, signed by Vytautas Petrulis, Minister of Finance, Trade, and Industry, were published. The following provisions can be distinguished: “2. The right to sell all kinds of cards is transferred to the Bank of Lithuania;” “6. Monopolised cards are sold in all branches of the Bank of Lithuania at the same price set by the Minister of Finance, Trade, and Industry and announced to the public. Selling prices are not regulated for other sellers,” “9. Institutions that allow the public to play cards must register monopolised cards and deliver used cards to the Bank of Lithuania for destruction. For non-delivered cards, institutions where it is allowed to play in public pay the full value of the cards. The registration book shall be issued by the Department of Taxation;” “12. The Bank of Lithuania leads the registration of cards sold to institutions.”

  The text shows that the Bank of Lithuania played a significant role in this interwar card history – it was responsible for the sale, maintenance, and destruction of cards. Thus, not only money, but also playing cards were destroyed in the furnace of the Bank of Lithuania building in Kaunas.