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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 →

Dondorf: Cartes Comiques

This very early deck published by Dondorf is adorned with burlesque caricatures on all 52 cards.

Circus No.47, 1896

The recently incorporated U.S.P.C.C. began creating exciting new brands to celebrate their new beginning.

Wills's Happy Families

Wills’s “Happy Families” cards were issued by the Imperial Tobacco Company (of Great Britain and Ireland) Limited in around 1930.


Maori

Maori themed playing cards from New Zealand depicting Maori Kings, Queens and Chiefs

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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 →

Kingdoms of Europe game

Kingdoms of Europe card game, c.1885

Walt Disney “Schwarzer Peter”

Walt Disney “Schwarzer Peter” game published by Vereinigte Altenburger und Stralsunder Spielkarten-Fabriken A.G., Stuttgart.

Mustering of the Mustard Club

The “Mustering of the Mustard Club” was one of many promotional items produced by Colman's for the Mustard Club which was launched in 1926.

Jaques’ Games

Jaques’ Games

History

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

Cries of London, 1754

The theme of street cries has been popular with writers, composers, artists, and the public at large for almost 500 years.

Mechanical Instruments, c.1700

Mathematical Instruments, Tho. Tuttell, c.1700

Stuttgarter Kartenspiel, c.1430

Early XV century luxury playing cards for fashionable esteem from southwest Germany...

Spanish National Pattern

The Spanish National Pattern

Cilbrás Cylinders

Cilbrás high-pressure gas cylinders; made in Argentina

Capel Vinos

Advertising playing cards for Capel Vinos S.A. (vineyards), 40 cards, manufactured by Naipes Comas.

Joker S.A. advertising

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

Cigarette Cards & Ephemera

Cigarette Cards, Trade Cards and Miniature Playing Cards and other ephemera.

Souvenir

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

Adventures in Korea

Each card has a colour drawing of a Korean building, museum or tourist attraction and details of how to get there.

The Big Deal, Cook Islands

Patia Te Pere - The Big Deal

C. L. Wüst: Swiss Costumes

Wüst's Swiss Cantons souvenir deck was published in Frankfurt in c.1875 for the emerging tourist market.

Graf Zeppelin

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

Manufacturing Processes

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

Goodall modernised courts, c.1845-60

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

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

Pneumatic Playing Cards

Pneumatic Playing Cards

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventory

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventories, Barcelona, 1660-1797

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