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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 →

Löschenkohl's Musical Playing Cards

In 1806, Johann Hieronymus Löschenkohl (1753-1807), a Viennese engraver, produced this beautifully engraved deck of Musical Playing Cards.

Nederlandsche Oliefabriek quartet game

The Nederlandsche Oliefabriek Calvé of Delft was formed when Nederlandsche Oliefabriek and the French company Calvé merged in 1897.

Past-L-Eze

“Past-L-Eze” Playing Cards, featuring geometric Art Deco designs in lovely pastel colours.



Manufacturing Processes

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

Woodblock playing cards

Woodblock and Stencil Pack of standard English playing cards by Simon Wintle

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

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.

Chromolithography

Colour lithography was invented in 1798 by a Bavarian actor and playwright named Alois Senefelder (1771-1834). It is based on the principle that oil and water don't mix.

The Big Deal, Cook Islands

Patia Te Pere - The Big Deal

Art:Pack

Art:Pack in aid of the Irish Hospice Foundation

Pirate Playing Cards

The idea for these playing cards came from Vitaly Fishilevich's love of pirate stories and hidden treasure...

Welsh Political Figures

Welsh Political Figures playing cards

Political

Propaganda cards, war cards and even educational cards all carry a political message... View More →

Knavery of the Rump, 1679

The Knavery of the Rump playing cards are a satirical portrayal of Cromwell's Government during the period 1648-53

PolitiCards 2012

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

Repoker Político

Political caricature playing cards designed by Antonio Olveira, published by the Malaga newspaper “Diario 16” on the occasion of the 1995 local elections.

Klubams, Lithuania

Klubams (for the clubs) playing cards manufactured in Lithuania by Spindulys Printing House (Kaunas), c.1930

Souvenir

A treasury of miniature art, graphic design and self-expression from different periods and locations around the world. View More →

Monumentos de España

"Monumentos de España" souvenir playing cards manufactured by Heraclio Fournier, S.A.

Theatrical Playing Cards

Craddock's Soap Theatrical playing cards, published in 1895, were not only a testimony to the stage stars of that era but also good for personal hygiene.

Lagos del Sur Souvenir

Lagos del Sur Souvenir playing cards published by Gráfica S.A., Buenos Aires, c.1980

Copa de Oro 1980

Copa de Oro 1980

Art & Design

Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first became a part of popular culture. Over the centuries superb artwork, graphic design and self-expression has been hidden within packs of cards. View More →

Le Florentin

Paul-Émile Bécat produced the paintings that make this deck so extraordinary.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Stars

Film Star Playing Cards for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer published by De la Rue & Co., 1933.

Utamaro Ukiyo-e

Utamaro Ukiyo-e playing cards showing woodblock prints of beautiful women manufactured by Angel Playing Cards Co. Ltd, Kyoto, Japan.

Moyen-Age by Daveluy

Cartes Moyen-Age by Daveluy, Bruges, c.1875

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