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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, 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 →

Carte per Signora

“Carte per Signora” patience sized pack was produced by Fratelli Armanino, Genova, in c.1897

Bjørn Wiinblad

Bjørn Wiinblad playing cards published by Piatnik, late 1970s.

Dondorf's “Stuart Period”

Another of Dondorf's beautiful period costume decks, this example is subtitled “Stuart period”.

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Cine Manual + Periquito

“Cine Manual” by an unknown artist published by Reclamos Cimadevilla, Valencia, c.1927.

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Naipes “El Castillo”

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

The Valentine Group

The Valentine Group, Australia

Drownin’ Surfer

Drownin’ Surfer card game

Star Wars Episode 1

“STAR WARS Episode 1” playing cards printed by U.S. Playing Card Co., c.1999

Baraja Literaria

“Baraja Literaria” Spanish style pack with cartoons by Serafín, limited edition. Published by Asescoin and manufactured by Naipes Comas, 2002

Drover’s Dilemma

“Drover’s Dilemma” - a card game from Australia

Online Shop

A variety of classic, vintage and antique collectible playing cards from around the world View More →

Naipes ‘IV Ases’

£ 5.99

​Naipes ‘IV Ases’ by an anonymous manufacturer, Mexico, c.1995

Bodegas Trapiche

£ 18.00

Playing Cards promoting wine produced for Bodegas Trapiche, Argentina, 1998

Naipe Extra ‘Las Dos Torres’

£ 12.00

​Naipe Extra ‘Las Dos Torres’ manufactured by Pasatiempos Gallo S.A. de C.V., Mexico, c.2002

KNIGHT'S 'Royal Primrose' CASTILE soap

£ 12.00

KNIGHT'S 'Royal Primrose' CASTILE soap advertising playing cards manufactured by De la Rue & Co., c.1930

French Catalan pattern

£ 20.00

Cartes Catalanes by La Ducale, France

"Iraqi Most Wanted" playing cards

£ 4.49

​"Iraqi Most Wanted" playing cards, printed in USA, 2003

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 →

Credito Commerciale

Playing cards designed by Enzo Laurà for Credito Commerciale, 1978.

Anheuser-Busch, 1899

An early advertising war deck printed by Gray Lithograph Co., New York, featuring patriotic themes connected with the Spanish-American War.

Welsh Breweries

Welsh Brewery Playing Cards

Cía Chilena de Tabacos

Cía Chilena de Tabacos poker pack

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 →

Hycrest Modern Royalty

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

Russian “Slavonic”

Originally published as “Slavonic Cards No.501” by The Colour Printing Plant, St. Petersburg, in the 1920s

Russian “Historical” Playing Cards

Russian “Historical extra fine No.204” Playing Cards depicting Ancient Dynasties.

Modiano Patience

Patience cards published by Modiano, c.1945

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 →

4 Elementos

“4 Elementos” playing cards designed by Marcos Neila Muro celebrating environmental sustainability and ecology, 2014

Steam Ark Playing Cards

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

Manx Playing Card Stamps

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

Welsh Political Figures

Welsh Political Figures playing cards

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. View More →

Spanish Regional Costumes

Spanish regional costumes and coats-of-arms; cute illustrations on each card, 1986.

J. W. Spear and Sons

Jacob Wolfe Spear founded his company manufacturing fancy goods in 1879 near Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany

Shakespearian Misfitz, 1907

Faulkner’s “Shakespearian Misfitz”, designed by George Lambert, published around 1907/08.

Dartex Card Game, 1938

Dartex, the Thrilling New Card Game of Skill, 1938

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. View More →

Air India

‘Air India’ playing cards, made in India

Apache Playing Cards

Apache Indian Playing Cards made on rawhide, first recorded in 1875.

Historical playing cards, 1897

Russian “Historical” playing cards with designs by Nikolay Karazin, 1897

Chitrashala Press

Chitrashala Press produced some charming children's pictorial alphabet cards for early learning purposes in the 1940s.

Manufacturing Processes

Innovations in printing technologies have impacted the appearance of playing cards. Until the year 1832 playing cards manufactured in Europe were laboriously and expensively stencilled by hand. Then the process of typographical printing of playing cards was invented by Thomas de la Rue. View More →

Regarding the designs of playing cards

Regarding the designs of playing cards

Woodblock playing cards

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

Goodall modernised courts, c.1845-60

Goodall’s earliest cards were traditional in appearance but in around 1845 ‘modernised’ courts were designed.

Pneumatic Playing Cards

Pneumatic Playing Cards

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