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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 imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” aspect of how things have changed.

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 →

Graciela Rodo Boulanger

Graciela Rodo Boulanger (1935-) trained in two careers, as a musician and as a painter. She eventually chose to devote herself fully to painting.

English Historic Costumes

Cards from a hand-coloured costume set by O. Gibert, Paris, c.1856

Johann Herrl, c.1815

Tarock deck made by Johann Herrl in Graz 1815

Latest Articles

Woolley Transformation c.1880

Hand-drawn transformation cards, c.1880

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Pedro Rotxotxo

Standard Spanish National pattern by Pedro Rotxotxo, Barcelona, late 18th century

The Allure of Baccarat

Today most people know baccarat as the casino game for James Bond.

Shakespeare by Piatnik

‘Shakespeare’ playing cards by Piatnik designed by the British actor Donald Burton.

Castles Quartet

“Castles” Quartet game from Czechoslovakia with educational text by Ludiše Letošníková and illustrations by Vladimir Kovářík

Derby card game

‘Derby’ card game from Czechoslovakia

Poker Faces

“Poker Faces” playing cards illustrated by Alex Elsen evoking the seedy underworld of organised crime.

Online Shop

A variety of classic, vintage and antique collectible playing cards from around the world to add depth to your collection View More →

Grupo Editorial RAF S.A, Mexico

£ 8.49

Grupo Editorial RAF S.A, Mexico, 2004

Kingdoms of Europe, c.1895

£ 30.00

Kingdoms of Europe card game published by Jaques, c.1895

Anti-Perón Satirical Pack (facsimile)

£ 20.00

Reprint of anti-Perón pack "Se Evita Nombrarlo"

Bongoût pattern for Brazil

£ 45.00

Bongoût pattern with special scenic Aces for Brazil manufactured by A. Van Genechten, c.1870

Sebastian Comas y Ricart, Barcelona c.1892

£ 250.00

Standard Catalan pattern deck manufactured by Sebastian Comas y Ricart in Barcelona c.1892

Rondo Cir-Q-Lar playing cards, 1970

£ 12.00

Rondo Cir-Q-Lar playing cards manufactured by The Amalgamated Playing Card Co., Ltd c.1970

Reviews

Evaluation of new playing cards provides a summary and brief discussion of the artistic and technical features, the design and content, as well as contact details to the seller's website. View More →

Cultúrlán Celtic myth playing cards

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

Poker Faces

“Poker Faces” playing cards illustrated by Alex Elsen evoking the seedy underworld of organised crime.

Origins Playing Cards

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

Quantum

Quantum playing cards were designed by Catherine Geaney in 2010 for her final year at college.

Manufacturing Processes

Manufacturing can be handcrafting, low tech or high tech. Different printing technologies have impacted the appearance of playing cards. Until the year 1832 playing cards manufactured in Europe were laboriously and expensively stencilled by hand. Then the process of typographical printing of playing cards was invented by Thomas de la Rue. View More →

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventory

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventories, Barcelona, 1660-1797

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.

Home-made Playing cards

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

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

Children’s Card Games

The games we play mirror the world we live in. Children don’t play card games any more because they prefer computer games, which are the ultimate excitement. Antique and vintage children’s card games offer nostalgic memories of the fashions and social stereotypes of past eras and are a study in social anthropology. View More →

Le Progrès de la Circulation

The beautiful images in this quartet game published by Jeux Spear in 1933 depict the progress of transport and travel since early times up til the 1930s

Chitrashala Press

Chitrashala Press produced some charming children's pictorial alphabet cards for early learning purposes in the 1940s.

Globe Trotters

Globe Trotters follows the journey of a group of travellers who depart from Genoa by ocean liner and sail to the Orient for the ultimate travel experience.

El Reloj card game

El Reloj card game by Imprenta Lecaros, Lima, Peru, c.1920

Advertising & Promotional

Usually featuring advertising messages and images promoting breweries, cigarettes, chocolate, banks, insurance, sea or air travel and other consumables, advertising playing cards are used in pubs and cafés and are a popular publicity item. Some packs are widely distributed, others are more exclusive. In some cases single cards are collected from inside the advertised product to complete a full set. View More →

Axe Deodorant, Argentina

Axe Deodorant Playing Cards by Zecat, Argentina

President Suspender, c.1905

This is an advertising deck for the manufacturer of the President Suspender.

Winthrop Pepsamar (Peru)

Pepsamar advertising playing cards

Dengue prevention, 2010

Juego de 40 Naipes. Material para la prevención del Dengue - Dengue prevention playing cards

Manufacturers

When movies, radio and television first appeared playing card manufacturers were worried. But people still had plenty of leisure time and card playing continued to increase. Today’s electronic devices, computers, the Internet and online gaming have changed everything and many former playing card manufacturers have closed down or been taken over by larger corporations. The older manufacturers are now a reminder of bygone days. View More →

Card Fabrique Company

Card Fabrique Company had connections with several other manufacturers and their complete history is yet to be unravelled.

Éditions Philibert 1954-1960

Éditions Philibert, Paris, 1954-1960

Lewis I. Cohen (1832-1860)

Lewis I. Cohen (1832-1860)

C.W.Faulkner

C. W. Faulkner & Co Ltd, 79 Golden Lane, London E.C.

Political

Political playing cards were introduced in the 17th century providing entertainment by satirising or deriding current events and leaders. Propaganda cards, war cards and even educational cards all carry a political message... but at this critical time in history people are awakening to a need for global healing which politicians can’t always deliver. View More →

PolitiCards 2012

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

“L'Union Fait la Force”, 1945

“L'Union Fait la Force” by Mesmaekers Frères S.A, Turnhout, Belgium, 1945

Russian Anti-Religions

An interesting propaganda pack depicting the various religions of the Soviet Empire.

Dviracio Kortos, 2001

Dviracio Kortos, 2001, Lithuanian Satirical Playing Cards

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