'Iraqi Most Wanted' playing cards snatched up

By JOHN NOLAN, Associated Press Writer
NORWOOD, Ohio (AP) - A walk-up sale at United States Playing Card Co. for decks of its "Iraqi Most Wanted" cards did brisk business that was unprecedented in the company's 136-year history, executives said.
"It's like a festival," said George White, the company's vice president of marketing. "It's been fun."
Proceeds from one-day sale Thursday went to a Norwood charity that helps needy families.
The decks sold at $5 apiece, with a limit to a dozen per
customer. Employees under a red-and-white-striped tent in the courtyard at the company's suburban Cincinnati headquarters were kept busy for hours.
People bought decks as collector items, gifts or emblems of
patriotic zeal.
"I love our president," said Mary Brooks, 46, of Cincinnati, who clutched the maximum 12 decks as she walked away.
"It's a beautiful thing they did," said James Perdue, 52, who also bought a dozen decks from the company to share with siblings.
The Defense Intelligence Agency originally produced 200 decks to help U.S. troops identify Iraqi government officials for capture.
The privately held U.S. Playing Card, owner of the Hoyle and Bicycle brands, saw the interest and made a 500,000-deck batch for sale at $5.95 each through the Internet by licensed partner GreatUSAFlags.com, of Chicago.
Competitors are also selling similar decks.
Faces of Iraqi government officials are portrayed on the cards, with color or black and white photos, or a black silhouette if no image is available. The card backs are camouflage.
The company would not say how many decks had been made for
Thursday's sale.
"I would say it's about five times more business then we
expected," White said.
The company will make more decks if GreatUSAFlags wants them, he said.
U.S. Playing Card still has some concerns about competitors
making the decks.
The Defense Intelligence Agency's cards used the company's
trademarked joker image from its Hoyle brand, White said.
The company has no problem with the government's use of the design because those cards were not sold.
However, it has sent more than a dozen letters warning
competitors not to use that particular joker design in their replica decks, White said.
"We're thrilled that the Defense Intelligence Agency chose
playing cards," he said. "It's really captured the imagination of the American public."
U.S. military officials had no intention of infringing on a
patented design, Pentagon spokeswoman Diane Perry said. The top-55 list of most wanted Iraqi officials are public images that can be obtained from the Defense Department and U.S. Central Command Web sites, Perry said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)