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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, advertising, fortune telling and even to spread political messages. 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 →

Tarocchino Lombardo

“Tarocchino Lombardo” c.1835 engraved by Carlo Dellarocca of Milan whose name can be seen on the base of the King of Bastoni.

Dondorf: Empire No.170

The costumes are in the style of c.1800, the days of powdered wigs are over! The four Kings carry the usual insignia and are clean shaven...

Narren-Karte, c.1860

Narren-Karte by Christian Heinrich Reuter, Nürnberg, c.1860

Hermits of St. Petersburg

Playing cards depicting imagined residents of St. Petersburg with illustrations by Alexei Bobrinsky

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Steam Ark Playing Cards

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

Welsh Political Figures

Welsh Political Figures playing cards

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

English Tarot Cards

English Tarot Cards

Tarocco Neoclassico

'Tarocco Neoclassico Italiano', based on an original from c.1810, published in 1980 by Edizioni del Solleone.

Livre du Destin

Livre du Destin, or Book of Fate, and Le Petit Cartomancien, printed by B.P.Grimaud, Paris, c.1900

Buena Suerte Cartomancy

Buena Suerte Cartomancy cards published by Difusora S.A., Argentina, c.1975

Manufacturing Processes

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

Pneumatic Playing Cards

Pneumatic 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

Home-made Playing cards

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

Making Cardboard

The manufacture of the cardboard used for playing cards contains a number of interesting processes

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...

Clausen & Son Brewing Co.

Advertising deck produced for H. Clausen & Son Brewing Co., believed to have been manufactured by the American Playing Card Co., New York, c.1885.

Speelkaarten-Fabriek Nederland “Fortuna”

Speelkaarten-Fabriek Nederland for Royal West Indian Mail Service, 1926

Joker S.A. advertising

Advertising and publicity playing cards manufactured by Joker S.A.


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

Benoist Laius

Benoist Laius is believed to have worked in Montpellier between 1706 - 1738.

Hofamterspiel, c.1460

Hofamterspiel, c.1460

Proverbial Cards, 1698

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

Anonymous Spanish suited pack, c.1720

Anonymous Spanish Suited pack, c.1720

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