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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 →

Rider-Waite Tarot

The Rider Waite Tarot was created at the beginning of the 20th century by Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith.

St George Game, 1858

St George Game, 1858, depicting St George and other saints with their ladies in medieval attire engaged in battle, slaying the dragon to save souls from perdition.

Éditions Philibert 1954-1960

Éditions Philibert, Paris, 1954-1960


Bartlett Ackermann Transformation

Pictorial playing cards published by C. Bartlett, New York, 1833

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Thomson-Leng Tarot, 1935

Thomson-Leng Publications Tarot, 1935

Italian tarot cards, c.1820

Italian tarot cards, Lamperti (Milan) c.1820

“Corona Ferrea” Tarot

Gumppenberg of Milan produced this magnificent non-standard tarot pack with episodes in the history of the Lombard Iron Crown or “Corona Ferrea” in c.1844.

Insight Institute Tarot

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

Children’s Card Games

The games we play mirror the world we live in. Produced to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers, children's games reflect the fashions, social stereotypes and politics of the time. View More →

Recreo Infantil

'Recreo Infantil' children's educational cards published by Jaime Margarit, Palamós (Gerona) c.1888

Gnav Game

Gnav, a Norwegian Card Game

Kingdoms of Europe game

Kingdoms of Europe card game, c.1885

Graf Zeppelin

The first round the world flight was made by the Graf Zeppelin in 1929.

Laboratoires Modernes

This “Happy Families” game for the French company “Laboratoires Modernes” in 1929 contains four families of 5 members each: Bébé, Mademoiselle, Papa, Maman and Grand'Mère. Each family promotes herbal products.

Ferguson Happy Families

Ferguson Happy Families card game was produced by Ferguson, Thorn Electrical Industries Ltd and printed by John Waddington Ltd in c.1960.

Pilsen Trucofest, c.2008

Pilsen Trucofest Playing cards, Uruguay, c.2008

History

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

Early Anglo-French Cards

Early Anglo-French Cards produced in Rouen during the sixteenth century.

Malta

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

Early Spanish/Portuguese

Early Spanish/Portuguese type playing cards

Master of the Playing Cards

Animal suited playing cards engraved by the Master of the Playing Cards, Germany, c.1455-60

PolitiCards 2012

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

Welsh Political Figures

Welsh Political Figures playing cards

Serpentine Playing Cards

‘Serpentine’ Playing Cards published by Legends P.C.Co., 2014

Cultúrlán Celtic myth playing cards

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

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