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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

GAMES: The Crime Club Card Games

Updated: Mar 11

As Collins built its Crime Club brand, various marketing efforts sought to expand that brand. One area for this collaboration was in games. From circa 1938 through circa 1950s, there were three games released with Crime Club branding. For Agatha Christie, two of her characters were included in one of the games.

(1) The Crime Club Card Game - circa 1938.

The Crime Club Card Game: 1st & 2nd Editions

Peter Cheyney "authored" the Crime Club card game, which was first published by Pepys (Castell Brothers Limited) in circa 1938. Peter Cheyney was a well-known author of detective and mystery books at that time and so his personal involvement was a public relations benefit for him despite none of his books been published under the Crime Club imprint. The set of cards comes in a faux gold-lined box, with an embossed padded lid. The top of the box is lettered in gold and shows the Crime Club gunman, a more common sight now given the number of titles The Crime Club had published by the mid-1930s, including numerous Agatha Christie first editions. On the base of the box is affixed a special card for Peter Cheyney. The card game was released with two color varieties: the c.1935 first edition features a padded dark purple box, with card backs of purple. The second edition, manufactured in the following years, had a dark green box with green-backed cards. Further iterations of the game have been made over the decades, but this original look with the padded top only existed for this first two versions. The game contains 50 cards, mostly made of characters from Peter Cheyney's books (such as Lemmy Caution). However, there are exceptions such as two Agatha Christie characters - Hercule Poirot and Superintendent Battle.

The cards are made up of 6 suits with 8 cards in each suit. There are 3 detective suits, and 3 crook suits. Each suit features characters, objects, and locations. There are also two jokers included in the set, as well as the instruction booklet and 4 value reminder slips. The back of each card features the masked Crime Club gunman on a geometric pattern. The card illustrations of Cheyney's Lemmy Caution and Carlotta are reissues of the classic architypes taken from John Pisani’s book cover artwork for the Collins editions of “This Man is Dangerous” (1936) and “Poison Ivy” (1937). 

Other characters include Mr. Colbeck, Dr. Harlow, Mr. Glapthorne, Mr. Woodspring, Inspector Macdonald, Peter Vernon, Mr. Evans, and Janet Murch. But as with the Agatha Christie characters, images for these cards don't appear to have been sourced from dust jacket cover art.

Collectibility: High quality sets are getting hard to find. The 1st edition purple covered set is the rarest and generally will command £50-70. The 2nd version, with the green cover is a little less collectible, but values are generally £30-50 when in very good complete condition. Minor appreciation is likely as it is an affordable, fun collectible.

The other two games branded as 'Crime Club' games did not have any direct reference to Agatha Christie or her characters but are discussed below in order to provide a complete article about these games.

(2) I Commit - A Crime Club Card Game - circa 1947.

The second card game manufactured by Pepys that used the Crime Club name was "I Commit" - likely first released in 1947. While the game did not directly use characters from Agatha Christie's novels or any other Crime Club authors, its logo was promonently displayed on the rear of every card.

In addition, the sides of the box clearly stated it was a "Crime Club card game".

The game was similar to the first Crime Club card game and some of the designs on the cards were quite similar.

The game was marketed as "Invented by the popular novelist and broadcaster Laurence Meynell, author of Strange Landing, The Evil Hour, etc." These books were published in 1946 and 1947, which informs the likely issue date of this game.

Collectibility:  As with The Crime Club Card Game, high quality sets are getting hard to find especially in the original box. A complete set is 53 cards plus a small rules booklet. Values are generally £20-30 when in very good complete condition. Less appreciation is likely since it has no direct tie-in to specific characters but it is an affordable, fun collectible.

(3) Photocrime - The Crime Club Party Game - circa 1955.

Arguably this is the least entertaining of the three to play as it's a 'play it once' game since the solution and outcome cannot change. For this tie-in, the Collins Crime Club logo and name were placed on the front of the box.

Within the box were multi-sets of four photographed crime scenes. Clues were provided and the observer had to determine why the person was guilty. Several of the crime scenes require knowledge that probably would not exist today - such as the requirement to have a membership key to unlock an AA roadside assistance phone box.

That said, it is a simple but charming game that integrated photography into a solve-it puzzle. The game was marketed as "devised by Miles Malleson, the famous Radio crime writer". I was unable to locate an famous radio crimes, but I believe it is the same person who was quite a prolific screenwriter and actor.

It appears this idea of solving photo-crimes first appeared many years earlier. For example the 1940 Australian weekly magazine 'Pix' included this concept.

I'm aware of two later versions of this 'game', with some additional photo crime scenes added to the game.

Collectibility: These games are very affordable and fairly to find and are fun to view solely as an historical artifact but are not expected to appreciate in value.

Summary & Other Updates:

As always I have missed or have incorrect information cited. If you have any questions or feedback, please email me at:

News: 2024 International Agatha Christie Festival.

I am pleased to share that I will be presenting at the Festival again this year. My presentation is "The Art and Artists of Agatha Christie". I will be sharing fascinating insights into the iconic dust jacket artwork that adorned Agatha Christie’s British and American first editions. My research has unveiled some surprising information about the artists which I'll be sharing. In addition, I'll talk about how they helped to bring her books to life and shape the public's perception of her work, as well as how Agatha herself was involved in their design. My presentation is on 15th September at 3pm (Christie's birthday!) in Torquay. For more details or to obtain tickets go to this link: Festival Link.

As always, thanks for reading and comments are always most welcome. If you are not a subscriber to my website, please consider subscribing here: link. This ensures you receive an email any time I write and post an article. Also, consider following me on X (formerly Twitter) @collectchristie and on Facebook (link). The content varies across platforms.

Happy Hunting!

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