Monday, October 16, 2023



by Bill Leach

This card back image comes from the rare German children’s book “ALLY SLOPER AND THE PAINT POT”.

As an avid collector of Ally Sloper art and objects, I had been trying to find a set of the unsanctioned SLOPER FAMILY playing cards.  I had only seen two sets in all my years of collecting.  The first set was on another collector’s web page and was NOT for sale…but he was kind enough to send me scans of his set.

This is the complete set of SLOPER FAMILY cards featuring all four ethnic suits.  There are 48 cards in the deck.  Another set of four cards and two Jokers were added in order to create a contemporary set of cards.

Then years later a set popped up on EBAY.  I placed my bid and won the set for a reasonable price.  I paid for the purchase and a day later the seller wrote me stating that he had cancelled my bid, refunded my money and that they were no longer available.  Well, we all know what that means….the seller was offered a better price from another person….so he sold the cards (and his personal integrity) to another person. By cancelling my bid it took away my ability to leave a negative feedback.  I guess people without any integrity know how to work the system.  Well, I was very disappointed, but what can you do?  You can’t force a person to be honest even when they are contractually and morally obligated to do the right thing.  So I had to live with the fact that I had lost out on the set of cards that I had so dearly wanted to add to my collection. 

I looked at the scans the other collector sent me and wondered if he would be willing to send me better scans, so I could print them out.  He responded and let me know that he could not scan them again as he had since matted and framed the set.  Then he followed up by letting me know that he had decided to sell them and they were at an auction house in the UK.  So I signed up for the auction and waited.  I was a bit concerned, in addition to the auction house fees, there were VAT taxes and a very high price to pack and send the large framed piece to the US.  But I was willing to pay the price and waited patiently for the day of the auction.  There is an 8 hour difference between the US and the UK, so I waited until the wee hours of the morning and signed into the live auction being streamed over my computer.  I watched lot after lot go by, waiting for my chance to bid on the SLOPER FAMILY card set.  Finally it was time.  I was set to go.  The lots were flying through at a rapid pace and it was my turn to bid.  I clicked on the BID button…nothing happened…clicked and clicked again, until  I heard the auctioneer state that the lot had closed, with me sitting frustrated at my computer, never even getting a single bid through to the auction house.  The set sold for a fair price…a bit more than I had paid through EBAY, and I was devastated.  I complained to my wife and told her what had happened.  She was sympathetic but after a few hours of my moaning and complaining she had had enough and told me to put on my “big boy pants” and get over it.  Well, the nerve of some people!!!

The SLOPER FAMILY card set hammered out at 220 pounds even without my bid!

But she was right, I was wasting time and energy on something that was out of my control….I could no more change my fate at the auction house, than I could change the lack of moral compass of the EBAY seller who refunded my legitimate purchase, so he could sell it to out from under me.  What to do…WHAT TO DO?!!!

I decided if I could not add a set of these turn of the century cards to my collection I would print up a set from the scans the first collector sent me.  But the scan quality was poor and the cards were not in the best of shape.  I consulted with a few friends that were very computer literate in the digital arts.  They gave me a lot of advice and I was able to carefully clean, repair and recolor each card, making them look better than new.  I enhanced the color and pixel by pixel corrected the misprinted and misaligned areas.  I also changed the numbers and suits so the cards could be used in contemporary gaming.

Each card was carefully repaired.  The text was replaced and any misaligned printing was corrected.  The background color was replaced and figural colors were enhanced.

But now I had to create some extra cards, as it was one set of cards shy of a modern deck, and there were no Jokers.  I also needed an image for the back of the cards.  I took a wonderful image from a very rare German book “Ally Sloper and the Paint Pot” and used it for the card backs.  But what could I do about the other two cards?  I had a set of “TRIPLEM” cards.  This game has each character divided into three parts, and the game is to reconstruct the characters to win.  I took the three cards with Ally Sloper’s image and scanned them as one.  After carefully cleaning and repairing the cards, I had one solid image to use for the ACE.  I used this same image on all four suits…or “families”.  As for the Joker, I used another three cards from the TRIPLEM deck…I used Mr. Punch, from the PUNCH comic newspaper.  Now I realize that Mr. Punch was NOT part of the Sloper Family, but he IS the Joker and is dressed as such, so I cleaned him up and used him with good justification.  There is a connection of this character to Sloper.  Ally Sloper was first published in the pages of JUDY, a comic newspaper in 1867.  JUDY was the rival paper of the long standing PUNCH newspaper (referencing the old Punch and Judy puppet show characters).  While they were two separate entities, they did go hand in hand….like peanut butter and jelly.  So using Mr. Punch as the Joker just seemed like a good fit. 

The TRIPLEM card game features each character broken up into three parts.  The object is to build complete characters.

The TRIPLEM decks’ ALLY SLOPER and MR. PUNCH before being digitally assembled.

ALLY SLOPER and MR. PUNCH after being reassembled.

The SLOPER FAMILY card set is very ethnic, some might call it racist.  But it was a product of the 1890s and was created and sold without permission.  There were four suits, but instead of hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades, the creator used ethnic families:  ENGLISH, CHINESE, EGYPTIAN and AFRICAN.  Each card represented a person in the Sloper Family and their personas and names changed with the varied ethnicities.  Today’s gaming companies would never be so bold as to use these various ethnic personalities, but in the 1890s, it must have been fair game. 





It took me over an hour to repair each card, but in the end I had a nice digital card set.  Initially I was going to print up one set at the local print shop on one of their nice printers/copiers.  But they could not run card stock through the machine.  So I decided to have them professionally printed by an online gaming company.  I was shocked when I found out how much it would cost for one set of cards.  In the end I decided to print two dozen sets, which brought the price down quite a bit.  So I got the set for my collection and a case of card sets to sell to my collector friends.  Then I realized, I don’t have ANY collector friends that collect Ally Sloper.  This situation is a double-edged sword; on one hand, I don’t have any competition when collecting Sloper material, at least not from US collectors.  But I also don’t have any friends that I can brag to about my Sloper treasures, nor do I have any friends with Sloper material that I can buy, sell or trade with.  They say no man is an island, but I am a man all alone on the Sloper Sandbar. 

This partial set of THE SLOPER FAMILY CARDS were printed much smaller. The deck featured four each of only the ENGLISH suit printed with black ink. The print quality was very poor.

There was also another unsanctioned set of THE SLOPER FAMILY GAME.  The set used the same imagery but was printed in black and white and eliminated the ethnic cards by using four each of the “ENGLISH” suits.  This set was smaller and very poorly printed. 

How did I become such an obsessed SLOPERIAN COLLECTOR?  It all goes back to the early eighties.  A crazy collector friend of mine named Ronald Graham called me up and said, “Bill, you have to buy this book….I don’t have the money, but you need to get this book.  It is a really rare bound volume of Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday”.  He gave me a phone number and I called it.  The book was about $65.00 and contained a years’ worth of weekly comic newspapers from 1898 featuring the title character ALLY SLOPER on the cover and throughout.  What Ronald Graham did not know, and what caused me to take his advice was that my Mother’s maiden name was Sloper and my Sloper lineage goes all the way back to the 1500’s in England, Scotland and Ireland.  So when the book arrived, I shared it with my Mother and we both got a kick out of it.  So much that I decided to try and collect MORE Sloper art and objects.  This is a bit harder to do than I thought.  Most Sloper items I have found are not in the US and dealing with auction houses and postage can be an expensive proposition.  But over the last forty years, and a big thanks to the internet, I have been able to amass the largest collection of Sloper original art and merchandise in the world.   I challenge anyone to prove me wrong.

The SLOPER FAMILY burial plot in Northern California now includes Bill Leach's parents, James H. Leach and Shirley Mae Leach formerly Shirley Mae Sloper.

My parents have since passed and are buried in the Sloper Family plot in Northern California.  I will be there someday….but not today.  Today I share my newly printed SLOPER FAMILY CARD SET with all of you.  Cheers! 

Bill Leach poses with his newly printed SLOPER FAMILY cards in front of an original 1899 illustration from ALLY SLOPER'S CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY.

I had to print 24 sets to make them affordable.  If anyone would like to obtain a set of these cards….please contact me, Bill Leach at:  I only have a small number of these sets left and doubt I will have any more printed.  I am asking $25.00 plus shipping per deck. 


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