he joker can be found only in the games which require cards with the French suits (clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades) and mostly 52-card games. If there are any jokers in packs of Spanish-, Swiss-, or German-suited cards, or 32-card games, they have no bigger influence on the course of the game and are rather a kind of cartoon-like addition or attachment. We know the meaning of the joker in such games like canasta or rommé, in which it is a sort of "universal" card that can replace any other. The joker descends from "the madman" of the game called tarok. In 1459, a Franciscan monk from the north of Italy wrote: "There is nothing in this world that deserves God's hate in a greater degree than the trumps of tarok, for everything what is low in the eyes of the Christian faith, is reflected in trump cards. The trumps were to be given their name after their inventor, the devil, because there is no other game in which they triumph over the other cards so often than tarok." In this "devilish" game the madman is the card number 78, zero or 22.

This trump is usually referred to as "madness", "le fou", "il matto" or "the fool". Later, when the game became popular in Switzerland, Austria and in the south of Germany, this trump became "the skys", although it is still presented as a jester. In tarok it is regarded as the card of the highest value - the skys triumphs over the other trumps. The word "joker" propably origins from the Latin word "joculator" (jester, comedian, clown). In England it was long called "the jester" (the comedian in the court of a king). In the U.S.A., the country where joker was "born", the word "joke" was thought to correspond with with German "jux" (joke, trick). No jokers had been noticed before 1850. In that time a new game called euchre (which developed from a French game named ecarte) was invented in the U.S.A. In ecarte, the trump knave or jack was called "bower", but in the modificated American form of the game (euchre) a new card was added. This card was regarded as one of the most valuable and thus "best bower" came to existence.

This is how in "the country of unlimited opportunities" the boundary of 52-card games was extended by adding the 53rd card. The first American joker was attached to the deck for the game "London Club Park" in 1857 in New York by Samuel Hart, a producer of playing cards. The first step was taken. Since that time jokers have been attached to almost every new card game. The first Canadian joker was introduced in 1887 by Montreal's Union Card and Paper Company. In Europe, the joker came into fashion in about 1880. The first Belgian saw the daylight on June 14th 1882 in the Mesmaekers company. In Belgium it was called "little joker", in England "the jester", in the U.S.A. "best bower" or "joker", but in Germany, France and Austria it was nicknamed "jolly" (as for someone extremely joyful and fun-loving).

f one wants to take a joker into his or her collection, the basic thing is its being unique. As you can figure out, collectors of jokers aren't interested in the back side of the card, but only in the front side. Even if the back side is unique, but the figure of the joker itself is the same as that of another joker already owned, it should be regarded as a duplicate.

Jokers may be similar, or may even seem to be the same, but they may have different details, like different colour of the shoes or the bells on the joker's cap.

Even the inscription "joker" is important. It can be red or black.

There can also be a star instead of the inscription or both the star and the inscription.

In the decks which contain 3 or more jokers, there are jokers with the black and the red inscription together with the green, blue or yellow.

You also have to pay attention to the fonts, which have been used to create the inscription

and even to the way the stars are located on the card (usually they are five-pointed stars). Sometimes the stars can even be slightly turned at an angle.

It is often necessary to take a thorough look at a joker to know if it's the same or different from one of those that one already has. The differences are often very slight and it may be difficult to notice them. a very small difference may sometimes decide if a joker should make its way to the album or to the box with duplicates for exchange. Let's take a joker, which depicts a man or figure holding a glass of beer in its hand.

These are two such jokers and they seem to be alike. But having taken a thorough look at them, you might notice that one of the jokers has foam in its beer while the second has no foam at all. And yet it's quite easy to notice it. It's much more difficult with a couple of jokers, which pour down cards.

Such jokers can be different, too!

There's no space enough here to describe all possible differences; some people would even look for printing mistakes in order to state if the joker is unique or not, some won't even pay attention to this. Anyway, it is the collector who decides if his or her collection will consist of jokers which differ from one another in the thickness of their eyelashes or if it will consist of the jokers that are enriched with nice graphic pictures.

Being in the society of collectors around the world, traveling to distant places to get new jokers, exchanging them at any place and in any time, buying new decks of cards with jokers - in my opinion, this is the most beautiful and exciting way to growing joker collection and become somebody cognoscible in the society of jokers collectors. This way makes you have strong emotional ties with your collection and allows you to be proud of it. Having reached the barrier of 1000 pieces, the collector must put more and more money and effort into getting a new one. Other collectors, whose addresses can be found in the net, may be very helpful. The exchange usually takes place via e-mail by sending scans of the offered jokers or links to them. Then the real exchange takes place by sending the jokers via usual mail. And here the costs of delivery must be taken into account.

Such a delivery may contain a lot of jokers, but sometimes only a few. It's also often very hard to satisfy an owner of a big collection who won't even choose any joker of the 800 offered. You can also buy jokers via the Internet, i.e. on eBay. This big internet market place offers plenty of jokers which are sold in packets containing a few pieces for a few dollars per packet, some single jokers may cost even more than $20. If you have a bigger cash, you can buy really valuable and precious jokers on eBay. Such jokers are usually offered by those collectors who want to get rid of their duplicates or their whole collections.

ollection of jokers doesn't require as much space as a collection of tankards or old TV sets. Jokers are easy to store and it is good to have an easy access to them. I know people, who keep them in albums for storing post stamps and people who store them in photo albums. The second way is cheaper, but the most frequent one is keeping them in phone cards albums with transparent sheets. Such a sheet has 8 pockets and there can be up to 40 pages in one album.

In countries, where collecting cards and jokers is more popular than in others (Belgium, Netherlands, USA), special sheets for storing cards and jokers are produced. Such a sheet has 9 pockets and there can be up to 100 pages in one album. Jokers in the albums are usualy sorted by countries or by theme on them.

enerally saying, being a collector is expensive. In other words, almost every collection has some material value. The value can be objective (commonly admitted or that from a catalogue) or subjective (the owner's evaluation). Usually, the subjective value is bigger than the objective, nevertheless there can always be an absurd price, that would make a collector want to sell his or her lifetime's collection, but the subjective value can be endless as well. This may be explained by the emotional attitude of a collector towards the collection, especially when the collector has devoted a lot of time and effort to make it bigger, to take care of it and to enjoy it. Something which is worthless for a non-collector may be extremely valuable for someone who is a collector. In Belgium, Netherlands or USA it's easier to find a person who goes even further and collects, for instance, cards with interesting patterns or aces of spades as well as jokers.

But this also means decompleting the pack in a greater degree than when collecting jokers only. We can play a lot of games without the joker, but very few without the ace of spades. A collector of aces, which are (after jokers) the most interesting cards in a pack (the picture of the "black leaf" in the middle of an ace-of-spades card can be very interesting itself), has usually much more trouble with getting a new ace of spades than with getting a new joker.

At the beginning of year 2009 in my collection there are almost 5000 jokers. Maybe just thanks to you my collection will grow up?