A rare deck of 337-year-old playing cards, including one of the first playing cards to mention Watford, sold for £15,000, more than three times its estimate, at Sotheby’s in London this morning.
The 53 cards, an explanatory card and 52 suit cards, were produced by cartographer and publisher, Robert Morden in 1676.
Each card depicts a different English or Welsh county and a map of that county, which features its principal towns and roads. The card also gives the length, width and circumference of the county and its distance from London. Watford is featured on the Hertfordshire card, which was issued as the eight of hearts.
The court cards have the King depicted as King Charles II - in whose reign the cards were produced - the Queen, his wife, Catherine of Braganza and the Jack, various male heads.
A spokesperson for Sotheby’s said: "For many counties, the Morden playing card is the earliest separate printed county map to show any roads."
Catherine Slowther, maps and atlases expert at Sotheby’s, said: "The first set of playing cards bearing maps of English and Welsh counties was thought to have been produced by William Bowes in 1590.
"Robert Morden, the cartographer and publisher, produced a fine set of playing cards in 1676.
"This first edition has the maps in a square panel in the centre. In the top section, are the names of the county with the number of the card on the left in small Arabic numerals and on the right in large Roman numerals.
"The court card bears a head in the circle on the right.
"The third section of each card gives statistical information concerning the county mentioned.
"Despite the novel purpose of these maps, many of them in this series were the first to show roads and are taken from Ogilby’s Britannia in 1675.
"As playing cards were normally a gambling device, one might not expect to find them adapted to educational uses.
"The output of playing cards was seriously curtailed during Cromwellian times, when both cards and play were regarded as sinful. This puritanical attitude resulted in the wholesale destruction of many fine sets of cards.
"They were replaced by packs of an instructional and educational nature, embracing geography, history and similar subjects."
The playing cards have been put up for sale following the death in January, of the man who owned them, Jaime "Jimmy" Ortiz-atino, who created the Valderrama golf course in Spain.
He was also president of the World Bridge Federation between 1976 and 1986 and owned one of the greatest collections of early playing cards.