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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first became a part of popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards have been used for games, gambling, advertising, fortune telling and even to spread political messages. The most interesting aspect is the artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, a gallery of artistic presence, grace 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 →

Imperial Royal Pack, 1828

Imperial Royal playing cards published by S. & J. Fuller, London, 1828

Norwood #85

Reckoned by some to be the most beautiful deck ever manufactured by the United States Playing Card Co., this is certainly a rarity!

Kunigaiksciai, Lithuania

Kunigaiksciai ('Dukes') playing cards published by Spindulys Printing Co., Kaunas, Lithuania during the period c.1920-1940.


Manx Playing Card Stamps

Isle of Man stamp issue based upon the history of Manx themed playing cards, featuring six fascinating, full colour stamps showing antique playing cards.

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History

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

Joan Barbot, c.1765

Joan Barbot, San Sebastian c.1765

Rowley & Co., c.1775

In around 1775 Rowley & Co attempted to reform the traditional court cards to portraits of the kings and queens of England, France, Spain and Russia.

Peter Flötner, c.1545

Satirical Playing Cards by Peter Flötner, c.1545. The suit symbols are acorns, leaves, bells and hearts.

Phelippe Ayet, c.1574

Archaic, late medieval Spanish-suited playing cards printed by Phelippe Ayet, c.1574

Manufacturing Processes

Innovations in printing technologies have impacted the appearance of playing cards. View More →

Stencilling

Printing of Playing Cards ::: Stencilling can usually be detected by observing the outlines of the coloured areas which are often irregular with brush strokes discernible in the coloured areas.

Letterpress Printing

Printing of Playing Cards :: Letterpress printing :: Some notes on the manufacture of playing cards taken from Thomas De la Rue's patent, 1831

Home-made Playing cards

Production Methods for Small Scale Editions of Playing Cards: some alternative approaches to producing small editions of playing cards

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventory

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventories, Barcelona, 1660-1797

Political

Propaganda cards, war cards and even educational cards all carry a political message... View More →

Marlborough's Victories, 1707

Marlborough's Victories playing cards, first published in 1707

Knavery of the Rump, 1679

The Knavery of the Rump playing cards are a satirical portrayal of Cromwell's Government during the period 1648-53

Baralla Galega, 1983

'Baralla Galega' designed by X. Cobas and published by Imprenta Comercial Imprent S.A., La Coruña (Spain) in 1983

Soldaten Tarock, 1918

In 1918 Ferd. Piatnik & Söhne published a propaganda tarock deck intending to emulate Germany’s success in World War l titled “Soldaten Tarock”

Stairs of Gold Tarot

The “Stairs of Gold” Tarot cards designed by Giorgio Tavaglione, 1979

Visconti Tarot, c.1445

Did luxury hand-painted cards have any effect on the plainer cards enjoyed by ordinary folks?

Polish Kart do Tarota

Polish "Kart do Tarota" designed by Edyta

Grand Jeu de Mlle Le Normand

‘Grand Jeu de Mlle Le Normand’ fortune-telling cards

Souvenir

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

Prague 1908 Jubilee

This special pack of playing cards, published in 1908, was available at the Jubilee Exhibition held in Prague.

Peruvian Souvenir

Peruvian Souvenir Playing Cards

Swiss Regional Costumes

Swiss Regional Costumes Playing Cards, c.1890, which subsequently developed into the modern souvenir pack.

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