Card-Carrying Civilians

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Now that victory has been declared in Gulf War II, consumers are racing to snap up their personal souvenir of the conflict: the Iraqi most-wanted playing cards used by U.S. soldiers to help identify Saddam's top brass. At $5.95 each, more than a million decks have already sold worldwide. Even the French are buying. The surprising popularity has prompted the cards' distributor,, to reissue other decks created for the military in earlier wars. On sale this week: World War II "spotter decks," which enabled troops to distinguish between Allied and enemy aircraft. Coming soon: the ace-of-spades decks used as psychological warfare during the Vietnam War. Below, a collector's guide.

U.S. planes were spades and Germany's were diamonds. Other decks contained trick cards that American POWs could moisten, pull apart and arrange into a map of escape routes out of Germany. Sorry, card sharks, not available — yet.

Decks containing only the ace of spades were passed out to U.S. troops. They would display a card on their helmets to scare away the Viet Cong, who were thought to be superstitious about the card because fortune tellers considered it a harbinger of suffering and death. In this year's Iraqi deck, the ace of spades is — who else? Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. Playing Card Co., based in Cincinnati, Ohio, won the exclusive rights to manufacture the authentic decks when the Pentagon inadvertently included the company's trademarked red-and-yellow Hoyle joker.