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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 →

Boutros Arabic Playing Cards

Arabic playing cards designed by Evy Maros & Mourad Boutros, c.1990

Orient-Express Playing Cards

Orient Express deck, with special courts, jokers and ace of spades. Reverse: VSOE logo in gold on blue panel.

Hycrest Modern Royalty

Spectacular court cards designed in Art Deco style with bright colours, elegant indices and a lovely Joker.

Latest Articles

Spicer & Detmold

Spicer & Detmold (1922-48) produced a lot of pictorial back designs. Most decks with picture backs were printed in 4 colours.

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Sands & McDougall Aces & Jokers

Sands & McDougall produced many beautiful Spade Aces and Jokers.

Sands & McDougall

Sands & McDougall, Melbourne, late 1890s-c.1970

Starościanka No.470

Cards from uncut sheet of “Starościanka” playing cards manufactured by KZWP-Trefl (Poland), 2003

Australian Brewery Advertising

Australian Brewery Advertising

Pelaco Playing Cards

‘Pelaco’ playing cards with Aboriginal characters by Sands & McDougall, Australia, c.1930

William Detmold Limited

William Detmold Limited, manufacturers of playing cards

Online Shop

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

De la Rue Bézique set, c.1870

£ 55.00

Double Bézique set manufactured by De la Rue & Co., c.1870

Souvenir of Mexico, 1960

£ 16.00

“Monuments and Images of Mexico” for the tourist souvenir market by Clemente Jacques y Cia S.A. 1960

Ormond Emerald Isle

£ 7.50

Ormond Printing Co ‘Emerald Isle’ playing cards with photo of Glengarriff Harbour, Co. Cork, 1965

Aristocrat uncut sheet

£ 20.00

​Uncut sheet of 'Aristocrat' playing cards for Dunes Hotel Casino manufactured by the USPCC, Cincinnati, c.1995

Naipes AZAHAR

£ 8.99

Naipes AZAHAR by Maestros Naiperos, Spain, c.1999

Hoyle Products uncut sheet

£ 15.00

Uncut sheet of Hoyle Products Poker playing cards, c.1980

Tarot & Fortune Telling

Fortune-telling cards and modern tarot packs have been conjured in a wide variety of conceptions. They involve use of imagination and intuition to assess one’s own thoughts and feelings from the view point of the symbolic images. This is liberating and creative, finding meaning and answers for oneself, rather than having blind faith in religion. Through imagination we can reach the darker regions of the psyche, face our mortality and discover the ethical principles at the heart of religion. View More →

Ramses II tarot

Ramses II Tarot deck was published c.1975 in conjunction with a Peruvian occult or esoteric magazine.

Wahrsage-Karten

Dondorf's range of playing cards and card games includes a Fortune-Telling set which is sometimes named after the French fortune teller Madame Lenormand.

Insight Institute Tarot

'Authenticated' Tarot Cards published by the Insight Institute c.1948.

Rameses Fortune-Telling

Rameses Fortune Telling Cards by Chas Goodall & Sons, c.1910

History

Playing cards arrived in Europe the late 14th century and rapidly became a part of popular culture. Antique playing cards are like a visit to the local museum and evoke images of past eras and ways of life and also demonstrate archaic technology or production methods. So what do the oldest surviving playing cards look like? View More →

Torras y Sanmartí, 1830

Torras y Sanmartí y Cía, Barcelona, 1830

Geistliche Karten, 1718

Geistliche Karten, Augsburg, 1718. Each card carries a text in Gothic typeface giving advice regarding what to do and think each day.

Gumppenberg of Milan

Fine playing cards by Gumppenberg of Milan evoking the style of antiquity, c.1830

Animal Tarot, 18th C.

Tarots with French suit signs started appearing in around 1750. Subjects depicted on the trump cards varied, but during the 18th century there was a preference for pictures of animals or hunting scenes.

Art & Design

The playing card calls for artistic treatment and although the constrained size imposes some limitations there is an almost bewildering wealth and variety of designs in playing cards and their tuck boxes. The serious player requires design to be unobtrusive so that aesthetic considerations remain in the background. However, with modern manufacturing technology more eye-catching designs are becoming popular as gifts, collectibles and for their attractive appearance. View More →

Austria: Karl Korab

Playing cards designed by Karl Korab and published by Edition Hilger in 1991.

Wiener Waisenfond, 1916

Wiener Waisenfond Whist No.1, designed by Nellie Stern and manufactured by Ferdinand Piatnik & Söhne, Vienna, 1916.

Iceland’s Waterfalls

“Iceland” playing cards with scenic aces designed by Guðmundur Pétursson Thorsteinsson (Muggur, 1891-1924) were first published in 1923

Fruits et Légumes

The beautiful artwork in Dondorf's “Fruits et Légumes des Champs et des Jardins” reminds us of the benefits of natural food without additives.

Ethnic

The portrayal of national or ethnic identity on playing cards reflects the different cultural backgrounds, native communities and language groups which co-exist in the world today, celebrating their accomplishments, art and histories. The indigenous capacity to assert itself with dignity in the face of modernity shines through these cards. View More →

Naipes Nacionales, Mexico

Naipes Nacionales designed by Manuel Bayardi and published by Clemente Jacques y Cia, Mexico c.1940

Baraja Andaluza

Non-standard Spanish-suited playing cards created by Rafael Rodriguez Hernandez and published by Ediciones Baja Andalucia, Sevilla, c.1980.

Czech “Hussite” Deck

Czech “Hussite” Pack engraved by Karel Hoffmann and first printed by Jan Ritter in 1895.

Baraja Aparcero

Baraja Aparcero

Reviews

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

Manx Playing Card Stamps

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

Legends Playing Cards

The Legends Playing Card Company partners with The Expert Playing Card Company to provide high quality, beautiful decks of cards.

Art:Pack

Art:Pack in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation

Uusi Blue Blood

Uusi Blue Blood designer playing cards by Peter Dunham and Linnea Gits, 2012

Souvenir

The 19th century saw the rise of European tourism, especially in Switzerland. Souvenir playing cards depict the aesthetic, political, social, cultural and economic standpoints of the countries to which they belong and remind us of our journey. They usually feature beauty spots, local customs, gastronomy, heritage or other attractions and are closely related to shopping... View More →

Peruvian Souvenir

Peruvian Souvenir Playing Cards

Karl Gerich: Beautiful Bath

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

Ecuador Turistico Souvenir

Naipe Mi Ecuador Turistico souvenir playing cards

Panama Souvenir

Several editions of Panama Souvenir Playing Cards were issued by the USPCC between 1908 - 1926.

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