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It’s Thursday night in Paris, between the two world wars in what one day would be looked back on as cycling’s golden age. The cards are flying as a boisterous group of friends tell tall tales, drink copious amounts of Beaujolais Nouveau and all the while debating the upcoming racing season. The story plays out year after year—not only in Paris, but throughout Europe.
During that period—the 1920s and ’30s—Georges Speicher was the king of the road having won the Tour de France and the world road championship in the same year. France was in its glory years. At the Tour, the French national team lined up with more than half its riders as legitimate title contenders. Farther south, in Italy, Learco Guerra captured the hearts of the tifosi, piling up victories and extending the heritage of great champions from southern Europe.
In a tradition that was very trendy during the era, poker cards featuring the great sportsman of the day were extremely popular; and cycling-themed cards sat at the top. The challenge of today is finding a vintage set that is both complete and in reasonably good condition. Sadly, the sets are often incomplete or in really poor condition.
When we acquired this set, it was by pure chance. We bought a single lot, sight unseen, from a gentleman who no longer wished to collect cycling memorabilia. Imagine our surprise to find this set of cards. We contacted the seller to see if he wished to adjust the selling price of the lot to properly reflect the value of the playing cards. The collector chuckled, saying a deal is a deal.
He then relayed that he had purchased the set about 40 years earlier and was certain he did not pay more than the equivalent of a single dollar. Everyone involved in the deal was happy. Best part is we have a great set of cards that annually makes a brief appearance at our house for a spirited game of poker, all the while debating the upcoming racing season. Vive le cyclisme!