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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 →

Egbert Moehsnang

A postmodern juxtaposition of traditional hand-made artisan technique with abstract graphical design...

Goodall & Son: “Japanesque”

The arts of Japan had a profound influence on British culture in the second half of the 19th century.

Taro Okamoto (1911-1996)

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


Bartlett Ackermann Transformation

Pictorial playing cards published by C. Bartlett, New York, 1833

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Akadama Honey Wine by Nintendo

Suntory Akadama Honey Wine playing cards manufactured by Nintendo, Japan

Redheads Match Poker

Unusual and striking playing cards published sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s by the iconic Australian brand of matches, Bryant & May.

Supermercados CHIP, Uruguay

Supermercados CHIP playing cards, c.1979

Coca~Cola advertising, Peru

Coca~Cola advertising playing cards printed for Ripley department store, Peru

Political

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

La Baraja Constitucional

The “Baraja Constitucional” commemorates the declaration in Cádiz of the Constitution of 1812 and was designed and created by Simón Ardit y Quer in 1822

Russian Constitution

Russian Constitutional Playing Cards, 1909

Russian Anti-Religions

An interesting propaganda pack depicting the various religions of the Soviet Empire.

Pomorski Poker

Pomorski Poker (Pomeranian Poker) is a gallery of characters from the region: politicians, media, culture, athletes, entrepreneurial women, etc.

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

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventory

Rotxotxo Workshop Inventories, Barcelona, 1660-1797

Manufacture of Cards

Article about Manufacture of Playing Cards, 1825: pasting, stencilling, polishing, cutting, etc.

Home-made Playing cards

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

The Fortune Teller's Deck

The Fortune Teller’s Deck designed by Neil Breeden, 1995.

Watersprite Tarot

Alison McDonald's Watersprite Tarot cards, 2012

Quantum

Quantum playing cards were designed by Catherine Geaney in 2010 for her final year at college.

Manx Playing Card Stamps

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

History

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

Master of the Banderoles

Playing Cards by the Master of the Banderoles, one of the earliest professional printmakers, c.1470

Minchiate Fiorentine, 17th C.

17th century Minchiate cards reprinted from the original woodblocks

The Combination of Images and Text

When playing cards have titles or legends these reference a written/literary tradition of some form (historical, religious or secular literature, legends, etc). It connects the image to a wider cultural sphere, extending the visual impact.

Benoist Laius

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

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