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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first became a part of popular culture, perhaps seen as a miniature representation of the world. Over the centuries packs of cards have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. The most interesting aspect is the artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, an exposition of artistic expression and visual poetry.

Editor’s Picks

Playing cards have enormous educational value, with a long history and many diverse types and graphical styles from around the world... View More →

Kenya Tribes Playing Cards

“Kenya Tribus” playing cards published by Sapra, Mount Kenya Sundries Ltd, Nairobi, 1991

Royal National Patriotic c.1902

Kimberley's “Royal National Patriotic” playing cards from an edition of c.1902.

Palekh by Aleksey Orleansky

In the style of religious icon paintings, these court card figures wear costumes reminiscent of the mid-17th century.


Carl Arnold Transformation

Transformation playing cards designed by Carl Johann Arnold (1829-1916), the court artist for King Friedrich Wilhem IV of Prussia

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Souvenir

A treasury of miniature art, graphic design and self-expression from different periods and locations around the world. View More →

Brazil Scenic Aces

C. L. Wüst: Brazil Scenic Aces

Fenno Peru souvenir cards

Fenno souvenir playing cards, made in Peru

Naipe Ciudad de Quito

Naipe Ciudad de Quito published by Grijalva y Compañia, Ecuador.

Karl Gerich: Beautiful Bath

Beautiful Bath is a hand-made pack by Karl Gerich which was published in 1996

Amalgamated P-C Co.

The Amalgamated Playing Card Co., Ltd

Mesmaekers & Moentack c1860

Mesmaekers & Moentack, c1860

Breedon Press Ltd

Playing cards advertising Sunspel underwear printed by the Breedon Press Ltd, Nottingham, c.1950

Cappellano Hnos c.1920-80

Originally known as Cappellano Hnos in the 1920s, over the years the company underwent several changes of name and address. The evolution of the company from c.1920 to its demise in the 1980s can be followed on these pages.

Art & Design

Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first became a part of popular culture. Over the centuries superb artwork, graphic design and self-expression has been hidden within packs of cards. View More →

East Slavonic Mythology

East Slavonic Mythology designed by Aleksey Orleansky (1994) featuring scary creatures from the watery underworld

Renée Sturbelle

Artistic playing cards with abstract cubist designs by Renée Sturbelle, first published by Brepols S.A., Turnhout, 1947.

Brussels Euro Joker Club '98

Brussels Euro Joker Club's 10th Anniversary deck with artwork by Yvette Cleuter.

26th Yankee Division

This deck is often known as “Mademoiselle from Armentiers”, but the name is actually “26th Yankee Division Playing Cards”.

Ireland: Celtic Journey

Celtic Journey playing cards, where art and culture meet - designed by Carmen G. Carballeira.

Maxpedition Hard-Use

Maxpedition all-weather tactical playing cards, 2012

Cultúrlán Celtic myth playing cards

Playing cards designed by James Acken evoking Celtic myth in all its beauty, mystery and weirdness...

Origins Playing Cards

Rick Davidson's “Origins” playing cards is an inspired, present-day re-design of the standard Anglo-American deck.

History

Antique playing cards reflect past eras and ways of life. So what do the oldest surviving playing cards look like? View More →

Malta

Early examples of cards found in Malta suggest that they were being printed and assembled in Malta since the seventeenth century.

Benoist Laius

Benoist Laius is believed to have worked in Montpellier between 1706 - 1738.

Lyons Pattern

Having its origins in the 17th century, this example shows the Lyons pattern in its final state, before it became obsolete after around 1780.

Blanchard, c.1770

Cards by Blanchard

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