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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 →

Naipes “El Castillo”

Hand-drawn designs by Inmaculada Gabaldón with suits based on traditional Spanish ones, published by Naipes de la Cigüeña, 1991

Modiano ‘World Bridge’

‘World Bridge’ produced by Modiano in Trieste, Italy, since around 1950.

Don Quijote IV Centenario

"Baraja IV Centenario Don Quijote" published by Asescoin, Madrid and printed by Maestros Naiperos Españoles, 2004.

Latest Articles

The Game of “Old Maid”

Two editions of “The Game of Old Maid” by the Chad Valley Games Co., c.1930s

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Silly Symphonies

“Silly Symphonies” or “Mickey Mouse Snap” manufactured by Chad Valley Co. Ltd, 1930s

Fleet Street

“Fleet Street” card game published by Chad Valley Games, c.1923

Zoo-Zoo

The Game of “Zoo-Zoo” published by Chad Valley games, c.1920s

Chad Valley “Happy Families” c.1950

Chad Valley “Happy Families” card game, c.1950

Happy Families, c.1930

“Happy Families” game published by Chad Valley c.1930 drawn in the slightly grotesque style of the Victorian era

Highwayman

The game of “Highwayman” published by Chad Valley Company in c.1950 simulates travelling on old Coach Routes and being held up by highwaymen

Online Shop

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

Ormond Emerald Isle

£ 7.50

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

Anti-Perón Satirical Pack (facsimile)

£ 20.00

Reprint of anti-Perón pack "Se Evita Nombrarlo"

Piatnik Spanish Pack

£ 7.50

Piatnik Spanish suited “Naipes Barajas Españolas” No.1932 “Marca El Jokey”

Spanish Advertising Cartomancy Deck, 1930s

£ 200.00

Baraja Cartomántica Chocolates Nelia, 1932

Navarra, XVII Century facsimile

£ 126.00

Facsimile of archaic 17th century playing cards from Northern Spain

Grupo Editorial RAF S.A, Mexico

£ 8.49

Grupo Editorial RAF S.A, Mexico, 2004

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 →

Humanist Bridge, Müller & Cie

Humanist pack designed by Melchior Annen (1868-1954) and made by J. Müller & Cie (Schaffhouse).

Naipes Tango by Arco Iris

Naipes Tango by Producciónes Gráficas Arco Iris, 1999

Taro Okamoto (1911-1996)

Japanese artist Taro Okamoto (1911-1996) was noted for his abstract and avant-garde paintings and sculpture.

Las Cartas de Tacuabe

Las Cartas de Tacuabe by Manos del Uruguay, Montevideo, 2001

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 →

Art:Pack

Art:Pack in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation

Steam Ark Playing Cards

“Steam Ark” playing cards illustrated by Chet Phillips, 2014

Cultúrlán Celtic myth playing cards

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

Playing Card Oracles - Alchemy Edition

Playing Card Oracles - Alchemy Edition - by Charles J. Freeman and Ana Cortez

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 →

Dondorf: ‘Jeu des Fleurs’

Dondorf no.332: ‘Jeu des Fleurs’ French edition

Historic Ships

“Historic Ships” quartet game from Czechoslovakia illustrated by Jaromír Vraštil

Sporting Snap c.1895

Chad Valley ‘Sporting Snap’ card game designed by Max Pollock c.1895

Happy Families, c.1930

“Happy Families” game published by Chad Valley c.1930 drawn in the slightly grotesque style of the Victorian era

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 →

Philips Arlita, 1925

Philips 'Arlita' advertising playing cards made by Etabl. Mesmaekers Frères S.A., Belgium, 1925

Black & White Whisky by Nintendo

‘Black & White’ Whisky advertising playing cards manufactured by Nintendo Playing Cards Co Ltd for Dodwell & Co., 1960s

Naipes Inca c.1970

Naipes Inca (Anglo-American type) by C. Della Penna S.A. playing card manufacturer and publisher, Buenos Aires, c.1970

Cía Chilena de Tabacos

Cía Chilena de Tabacos poker pack

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 →

Fortune-Telling Cards, c.1714

Fortune-Telling Cards, c.1690-1715, made specifically for the purpose of fortune-telling.

Ramses II tarot

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

Tarocco Bolognese

Tarocco Bolognese

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.

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 →

Tarocchi di Mantegna

The so-called Tarocchi di Mantegna is a set of 50 copper-engraved images (c.1465) which were probably a social pastime or instructional series.

Pedro Bosio, Genova (1)

Pedro Bosio Estanquero, Genova

The Joker Card

The 'Joker' is believed to have been invented by American Euchre players who sometime during the 1860s decided that an extra trump card was required.

Proverbial Cards, 1698

William Warter's Proverbial Cards, which carry illustrations of old English proverbs, were first published in 1698

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