History of Top Trumps

The game of Top Trumps originated from the game of Quartetts that was originally designed for children as an educational activity that could be played anywhere. The Austrian company Piatnik (est. 1824) introduced the game of Quartetts sometime during the 1960's as a branch from their already solid roots in the mastery of card artwork which was handed down through the family. Piatnik was established in 1824 under the name of Wiener Spielkartenfabrik, Ferd, Piatnik & Söhne and for around 170 years they dominated the card world, but Spielkarten was a producer of cards that span back to as early as the 12th century with examples of playing cards being discovered in China and Korea. An ordinary pack of cards consists of 52 cards, shared between 4 suits, sub-divided into 13 cards, but Quartetts had only 32 cards consisting of 8 groups with 4 cards in each. This system was changed slightly when Waddingtons began to produce Trumps where they used only 30 cards consisting of 6 sets each with 5 cards in each. There are many Promotional sets that have more cards, up to 48 in some cases. As mentioned these suits were, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds and Spades. Trumps and Quartets were sorted from 1 - 8 and then divided A - D (32 cards) (Dubreq), 1 - 6 and subdivided A - E (30 cards) (Waddingtons), A - H and then subdivided 1 - 4 (32 cards) (Ace). This method of numbering helped determine the makers of the pack and made it easier to sort the pack and in some cases determine which series they were and so year of release. However, in some instances, especially with the later Waddingtons packs there were no numbering at all and this is the case with the Winning Moves series'.

So, just what is the fascination around this predominantly childrens game? Well, the fact that the game is educational and full of facts is part of the reason. But you can also see the development and history of topics such as Cars and Planes and with the fact that the game has been about since the early/mid 1960's allows enthusiasts to see pictures and view their statistics of a by-gone age.

Around 1973, Altenburg-Stralsunder (ASS) from Germany released their own brand of trumps onto the world, known as Ace Trumps and were aimed specifically at boys with military and transport titles. The Ace series began producing their packs and announced that they had 'brand new and exciting rules' and goes one step further than the standard rules of Quartets where the idea was to win the game by having more sets of four, quarts, than your opponents. The big difference with Trumps was that you had to win all of the cards by beating the specific dimensions and details of your opponents cards. Playing along the same concept as Quartets it was a way to learn certain things whilst playing a game, a basic method of learning. Over the next 10 or so years, the Ace series was less popular in some ways than the latter Dubreq titles. The Ace brand produced variations on the Trumps theme and among these variations introduced the Super Trump, a card that beats all other cards except "A" cards regardless of its data. There were also promotional goods to be collected and redeemed, for example;

1976 - a competition to win a flight on Concorde (offer expired 31st January 1977) and/or an offer to receive a 60 X 80 cm colour poster of Concorde in exchange for 4 Credit Cards (10 points each, one per pack) and 18p to cover post and packing.

1977 - a competition to see the 1977 Italian Grand Prix live in Monza (offer expired 1st August 1977) by answering 5 multiple choice questions and then design a space age Formula-One race car on a sheet of paper no bigger than 25 X 20cm and/or an offer to receive one of 3 80 X 60 cm posters (Great Formula One Cars, Great Formula One Drivers, Great Formula One Races) in exchange for 4 Credit Cards (10 points each, one per pack) and 18p to cover post and packing.

1978 - an offer to receive 1 of 8 60 X 80cm posters (Concorde, Great Formula One Cars, Great Formula One Drivers, Great Formula One Races, Famous Tanks, Famous Warships of World War II, Famous Planes of World War II and Famous British Steam Locomotives).

The introduction of the Super Trump has led to what we now call, Top Trumps. Since then there have been a number of companies that have got on the Trumps band-wagon and all have had their day. During the mid/late '70's Dubreq, really made the impression and set the standard and the play format we have come to now know. The earliest releases from Dubreq were naturally Quartet packs and were produced with the German game manufacturer, FX Schmid, who were in the process of splitting apart to join both the book and game publishing world, mainly for the hobby arena. This combination of Dubreq and FX Schmid led to a flurry of titles and packs towards the end of the '70's. During this time, FX Schmid went onto release a new game format called 'Top Trumps'. This was first use of the term and became the 'brand' name for the game. Certain packs were released under the branding of Boomers and these were for the US market and were mirror images of the original Dubreq packs. The release of Series 1, in early 1977, took off and became a popular game with schoolboys in particular. With packs aimed mainly at boy subjects like Cars, Dragsters, Tanks and Planes, the titles were an instant hit. School yards were suddenly full of small groups of boys playing this fantastic new phenomenon which soon opened up the accusations that the boys were gambling with the packs and a shadow fell over their gaming.

However, Series 2 was soon released around late '77 along with a series of smaller packs called Mini Trumps Fact Cards and Super Mini Top Trumps, all as before aimed at boy subjects like Cars, Planes and Tanks. Dubreq packs stretched to 8 series with the final pack coming around the end of 1981. An interesting sales ploy was introduced with these packs and that was that with the purchase of these packs you could purchase other packs that were not available to the shops. In each pack there were cards set to the bottom of the pack; 2 that advertised special packs, Redemption packs and 1, that was worth 10 points towards the special packs. You needed to Sellotape 3, 5p coins in the areas marked on the points card and together with 5 other points cards post it off. Series' 1 and 2 offered Fabulous Buggies and World Record Holders. Series' 3 - 4 offered Fabulous Buggies, Power Boats, Scramblers and World Record Holders. Series 5 - 8 offered Fabulous Buggies, Power Boats, Scramblers and World Record Holders. Surprisingly, these Redemption packs are not a collectors favourite and for that matter neither are any of the Dubreq range. The most sought after packs from this period is without question the Horror series which included only 2 packs; Dracula and Devil Priest. However, they were released with one difference and that was the colour of the image on the back of the cards. The image was that of a bat and the difference was that one pair had a black bat and the other a blue bat. Around this time the Dubreq and FX Schmid partnership began to fail and the Top Trumps series were stopped. FX Schmid did make an attempt to come back, and around 1991 - 2 they released a small number of different titles but without success and today these packs are very rare indeed. The period during the '70's was one that saw the idea of Trumps being used for the purpose of board games played with a board, coloured counters and of course the relevant pack of Super Mini Trumps.

Another brand that appeared around the time was Palitoy, a toy manufacturer that was established in 1909 and was perhaps more famous for their other toys such as Action Man and Airfix. The thing that made the Palitoy range stand out was that the whole series was mini packs which they named as Pocket Trumps. Again the titles were more for boys with titles such as Locomotives, Classic Cars, WW II Military Vehicles and WW II Tanks. Although they are fairly collectible they are also very common.

In 1982, another games manufacturers realised the huge potential of Top Trumps and their massive popularity, Waddingtons. Although up to this point Waddingtons had been releasing mainly Quartet packs it was decided to fill the gap left by Dubreq. It is a safe bet to say that Waddingtons put Top Trumps on the map of gaming as the packs they released covered almost every subject from the naturally successful technical packs to the subjects that might be interesting to everyone including Cats, Dogs and Pets. But, naturally it was the boyish subjects that ruled the titles and with more different titles being released the fan base quickly picked up.

The Waddingtons involvement is by far the most important chapter in the Trumps history book in the UK, as it revived the trend and want for these games. Up until 1982 the number of new Trumps were dwindling and the gap was seized by an American Fantasy Game Society, Magic: The Gathering who with the aid of their Games Workshop began producing a series called Citadel. Their cards, Citadel Combat Cards started a new era of game play and eventually took off in a different direction altogether, showing the battle statistics for their fantasy gaming characters and was and still are immensely popular in America.

The true Trumps formula however, never really left the UK. Waddingtons who took the bull by the horns and flooded the market with many different packs in a short time period and these were incredibly popular. They created series' into International and Universal sets and again were mainly boyish in nature with the usual genre. In many ways the Waddingtons pack mirrored the Dubreq series as they released Horror, Soccer, Prehistoric Monsters and even Western Gunfighters. Both packs shared the same fanned Top Trumps logo for their International and Universal Series but with the exception to the free pack band on the Waddingtons releases. Similar to the idea of Dubreq, Waddingtons had free pack offers for the same packs as those offered by Dubreq for series 3 - 8. It has been suggested that Waddingtons literally copied the Dubreq series' and this is suggested in that the pack lists mimic the Dubreq range but not all the packs listed were actually released.

In 1997 FX Schmid, Altenburger and Stralsunder (ASS) amalgamated and formed a new series of Trumps, Ravensburger, in Germany for the German market which was already producing packs of Quartett and Trumps via Altenburger and Stralsund (ASS) and FX Schmid independently, and had been since the late '60's and after the amalgamation there was a flurry of titles, again, more for the boys. In 1999 ASS dropped the Ravensburg brand who up until this point had produced only 6 or so titles which are now highly sought after, which led to the rise of a splinter brand Ravensburger who went on to produce a few British titles as well as a string of very popular titles. In 2002, FX Schmid joined forces with the Belgian manufacturer Carta Mundi and this joining sprouted another chapter in the Top Trumps book, releasing many titles including 2 promotional titles for Marks & Spencer, Aircraft and Formula 1. Carta Mundi are still producing titles both for the commercial market as well as for promotional occasions.

The last packs released by Waddingtons were in 1996 and from then until around 1999 there was very little action in the Trumps arena except for the gradual rise in Promotional titles, released by companies such as magazines and given away at special shows and at one-off venues and to honour certain events. These promotional packs were released under their own licence and the content is wide and various covering such subjects as Football, Snooker, Mobile Phones to Porn Stars. In 1999 the rights to the game were purchased by Winning Moves a member of the Hasbro group, (founded in 1997) and since then the Top Trumps popularity is on the up and up. The take over of the 'Top Trumps' brand name, has led to a huge variation in subject matter which is the main pulling power of the game alongside the excitement. With packs being released at a rate of 2 to 4 packs a month covering everything from sport, films, animals, transport, the list is endless.

The Winning Moves packs contain only 30 game cards and like their predecessors were broken down into series. Unlike Dubreq, Ace and Waddingtons, the Winning Moves collection had separate releases for example there was a section for Juniors, younger persons, Classic, which features the more run of the mill subjects such as Space, Football and Dinosaurs, Specials, which coincide with things like movie releases and finally Limited Editions, which covered similar things as Specials but as their category suggests, they are released with a limited number. The packs in general are geared to have an interest from the youngest of players to more mature players with game ranging from Power Rangers (Juniors) to FHM Girls (Limited Editions). In 2010, the Junior series was cancelled and replaced with a new series called Activity packs that were aimed at the much younger players and were based around popular childrens TV programmes.

Within just a few years Winning Moves had a few releases that proved hard to find such as Angela Anaconda, The Ashes 2005 (despite being a recent release) and 4 Promotional releases that come in the same kind of clear plastic case as the later Waddingtons packs and were the first titles released under Winning Moves - Exotic Cars, Porsche Cars, Racing Trucks and Turbo Cars. The cases became the biggest difference with a front that pulls down and back that allows them to be hung from hooks, making them look distinctive.

Small additions to the Winning Moves brand in the form of Super Top Trumps also referred to as STT's by enthusiasts and later as Exclusive cards were released for specific packs. These in their own right tend to be the most valuable items for collectors. The cards, were, up until April/May 2006 given away free to members of Planet Top Trumps just for being members, an excellent incentive. Unfortunately, this was scrapped and the STT's were then made available only to persons who purchased certain items such as DVD's or a game, but were limited in number. Other outlets for STT's were at Sleep overs which are attended by Scouts and Guides where the children are given a 'Goodie' bag which normally contains an STT of the current pack. The Sleep over of 2006 saw the release of the Pirates of the Caribbean STT, The Cannibals for the Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Mans Chest pack which was released to coincide with the film of the same name. There is one STT that every collector is after and one that apparently no-one has seen, the Grandmamma STT for the Goodies and Baddies - The World of Roald Dahl pack. This single STT is the cause for THE biggest STT hunt on the planet and many believe it to be a myth. An image was revealed and recently it was acknowledged that the card was indeed printed. The Top Trumps world awaits with bated breath for the tiniest of a glimpse. As with the packs, the STT's are also available for the foreign packs and again these are highly sought after and only available with purchases. In Germany, however, the cards are available with purchases of less expensive items such as magazines and these are possibly more valuable to British collectors than the British STT's. In 2008, the Top Trumps world saw a flurry of US activity as Winning Moves pushed further afield, and to be different and unique the US branch of Winning Moves decided to call the by now well established STT, a Supercard! The US Supercard phenomenon was mainly focused around the educational side of things. Canada, in December 2008, released it's very first Supercard for their Skyscrapers pack, the CN Tower, in a way similar to New Zealand when they joined the STT/Supercard bandwagon with their Sky Tower Supercard.

Todays technology allows the game to be played not only in the traditional way with cards, but also on your computer and on your mobile phone, how neat is that? The game has spread in the last 2-3 years with the WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and it seems that the future is distant and with no end in sight! It was the obvious next step - the Top Trumps brand under the Winning Moves banner has joined forces with Ironside the game developers and Nintendo the console people to produce games. This development has really stirred up the Top Trumps fans worldwide and was available for both the Sony Playstation 2, the Nintendo DS and the recently produced Wii. An addition to the packs and computer games is a range of excellent books compiled by both Winning Moves and Haynes and have all the usual fascinating facts and stats that you are used to with the card packs as well as a superb write up covering a very quick history of the featured item.

On the 8th September 2008 at 7.30pm on Channel 5 saw the first ever televised program to feature the game of Top Trumps. The program which lasted for 30 minutes ran for 10 weeks. The basic idea of the program is that the two presenters, Robert Llewellyn and Ashley Haynes were to find out as many winning facts as possible and then go head to head in a Top Trumps style game where they pitch the fastest, longest and heaviest against each other. Each week the two presenters are given a subject and it was then up to them to get the winning facts.

In May 2009, Winning Moves released the first ever 3D pack, Bugs. There were 10 cards originally that had a blocky image on the rear of the card, which, when you held it beneath your PC camera and had installed the necessary software, you could see the image in 3D. This simple idea was to be a focus for the Winning Moves brand with many other titles to follow as well and soon made available in other countries. In June 2009 - 10, Winning Moves released a new product in the Activity Packs, which replaced the previous Juniors range. Each pack contained the same number of cards but also included a Word search puzzle, Spot-the-Difference, a Maze puzzle and a pencil. The roots of the Maze game can be seen on the backs of many Waddington's Series 1 packs. The Activity packs combine the game play of Trumps but offer up much more for the younger fans and with the pack in a tuck box as opposed to the small Winning Moves case it made for easier storage but less durability.

In 2009, Winning Moves released the first ever Tournament game - Top Trumps Tournament that consisted of 6 exclusive packs in tuck boxes, a spinner, 6 Scorebars, pegs and a hub with 6 recesses for each of the packs (for rules please see the Game Rules page). The Top Trumps Tournament concept was then taken to the nation where schools competed against each other in the Top Trumps Schools Tournament ending with just one boy or girl winning. In May 2010 it was Sam Penkethman, aged 11, from Darwen, Lancs. 10,000 school children were entered and Sam actually beat 71 other players. The final was held in the Science Museum in London. May 2011 saw the Final once more and the winner was Jack Dyson! Stewards for the day were taken from the Planet Top Trumps forum Ian, Paul and Darren.

It was around 2010 - 2011 that the STT was being faded out and the replacement was the WOW card that could be added to the Tournament Games but after just a few years this element was faded out. By around 2012 - 2013 it was becoming common to see single cards being just called Exclusive cards, dropping the STT element. Exclusive cards slowly became more and more harder to find and because of where they were placed much more expensive. The cards were appearing inside big buck games like Monopoly and this is still a common practice.

2012 saw a new addition to the Winning Moves brand of Top Trumps with the creation of Toppy and Trumpy, found on the Instruction and Collect 5 cards. These two characters were created for a new promotional push. The characters themselves were animated and used in TV adverts aimed at children between 7 and 12 years and was aired on CITV, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Pop and Disney HD. It was estimated that as many as 4.5 millions kids would see the advertising, seeing each commercial at least 6 times throughout the 4 month campaign (March to June 2012). The marketing campaign not only raised the profile of the game but also coincided with a revamp of the Top Trumps website. The characters Toppy and Trumpy are still used on the instruction and Collect 5 cards on all packs worldwide, telling topical jokes.

In 2017 Winning Moves released their Retro series. Winning Moves purchased the rights to the Waddingtons brand and as such released Dracula and Devil Priest, Crazy Cars, Exotic Sports Cars, Todays Strikers and Fantasy. The case was changed too by keeping to the retro feel, it was designed to look like and open just like a cassette case and embossed on the rear was the classic fanned logo of Top Trumps, dating back to the late 1970's. The first non retro pack released using the same style of case was Cafe Football Legends which had a green bottom but still had the embossed Top Trumps logo. The 'Retro' case is now used for the Limited Edition series'. There have been no further 'Retro' packs released.