Buying vintage decks only to find out they have an ancient odour.


Over the years I have purchased vintage decks via auctions, private sellers or from used book stores. The prices vary. At one time these decks could be picked up for a few dollars but now some carry a hefty price. Even if you find a less expensive deck the shipping cost is quite high. And then there is the money exchange difference.

I had half a dozen decks that emitted an obvious odour. I tried several techniques under the sun to air the cards out and to pull some of the odour with little luck.  When I purchased a bag of wooden cedar rings/blocks  I decided to experiment with them. This not only removed the stench but in the end the cards smelled like cedar trees.  🙂

If you don’t mind having a deck that reminds you of a forest try this method. The dollar or two stores carry little bags of these chips or blocks.  It worked for me and I hope you have some success too. Make sure you separate the chips/blocks with a light tissue before inserting in a container or bag so that there is no staining on your cards. Sometimes you can find a mixture of lavender and cedar combined like I did.

Another idea is to place the cedar ring/block into a wooden container for a few days. The container will absorb the scent and when you place the cards inside it will freshen them off. This only works if the odour on the cards is minimal.

Image: vintage Dexter Playing cards Great Mogul. By Royal Letters Patent.

Great Mogul deck







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4 thoughts on “Buying vintage decks only to find out they have an ancient odour.

  1. Just be really careful as the oils in the wood can cause damage to paper – even through tissue. Rare decks should not be stored long-term in wood or wrapped in silk. The worst deck I came across was saturated with hundred year old nicotine and cat spray. Smudging in cedar smoke and then airing seemed to help. I also wiped each card with a very slightly damp cloth (vinegar & water), and then dried – please, coated cards ONLY. Also, don’t store in ziplock bags. Google information on archival storage for paper.

    • Thank you Mary for your tips. There was a warning on the cedar rings about the oils. I check the cards every other day for odour. I avoid buying vintage/antique decks from now on unless the seller informs me on the odour. Most sellers do not put that in the listing which I think is important.

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