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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 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 →

Éditions Philibert 1954-1960

Éditions Philibert, Paris, 1954-1960

New Style ‘Literature & Theatre’

Playing cards showing the influence of ‘Jugendstil’ manufactured by the Soviet Playing Card Monopoly (U.S.S.R.) 1930.

Master of the Banderoles

Playing Cards by the Master of the Banderoles, one of the earliest professional printmakers, c.1470


Utamaro Ukiyo-e

Utamaro Ukiyo-e playing cards showing woodblock prints of beautiful women

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Glorious Colección 1995

Spanish-suited playing cards featuring the ‘Glorious’ ladies swimwear collection for 1995, from Argentina.

K-pop: Girls' Generation

“Girl's Generation” is a nine-member South Korean pop girl group. There are plenty of playing cards amongst their merchandise...

Naipes Cassino, Mexico

Naipes Cassino de Don Clemente, Pasatiempos Gallo S.A.

Litografías Industrias Madriguera

Sets of playing cards aimed at children became a new trend in Catalonia during the 1870s designed to carry advertising by chocolate companies.

Political

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

Bavarian Military Cards

The bright images on these finely engraved patriotic playing cards with a military theme include plenty of uniforms.

Baralla Espanyola de Regió 7

“La Baralla Espanyola de Regió 7” was created by Jaume Capdevila and Helena Rovira for Edicions Intercomarcals SA in 1996. The courts depict caricatures of Spanish politicians from that era.

WW1 Commemorative

In 1919 Brepols commemorated the victories of World War I with two new packs featuring portraits of Allied leaders and famous battle scenes.

Naipes Artiguistas

Naipes Artiguistas, Entre Rios (Argentina), 1816

The Big Deal, Cook Islands

Patia Te Pere - The Big Deal

PolitiCards 2012

Politicards 2012 casts this year's American politicians as characters from classic feature films.

Watersprite Tarot

Alison McDonald's Watersprite Tarot cards, 2012

The Fortune Teller's Deck

The Fortune Teller’s Deck designed by Neil Breeden, 1995.

Manufacturing Processes

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

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventory

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventories, Barcelona, 1660-1797

Chromolithography

Colour lithography was invented in 1798 by a Bavarian actor and playwright named Alois Senefelder (1771-1834). It is based on the principle that oil and water don't mix.

Goodall modernised courts, c.1845-60

Goodall’s earliest cards were traditional in appearance but in around 1845 ‘modernised’ courts were designed.

18th C. Workshop Inventory

Have you ever wondered what it was like inside an 18th century playing card factory?

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 →

Häusermann Cocktail

Aluminium playing cards manufactured by Häusermann United Chemical and Metal Engraving Co., Vienna, c.1925

Bernhard Altmann: Cashmere

"Cashmere Playing Cards" in which the court cards are warriors, rulers and women who were particularly interested in the Cashmere trade...

Löschenkohl's Botanical Playing Cards

Löschenkohl produced a second copper engraved deck, the Botanical Playing Cards, in 1806.

Modiano Club Bridge

Modiano’s ‘Club Bridge’ is a new edition of a stylish deck originally published in c.1895.

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