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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 imaginative 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 →

Historical playing cards, 1897

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

Hunt’s PCMCo Transformation

Transformation playing cards hand-drawn on a pack manufactured by Hunt’s Playing Card Manufacturing Co Ltd c.1880

Russian “Historical” Playing Cards

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

Latest Articles

The Game of “Old Maid”

Two editions of “The Game of Old Maid” by the Chad Valley Games Co., c.1930s

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Silly Symphonies

“Silly Symphonies” or “Mickey Mouse Snap” manufactured by Chad Valley Co. Ltd, 1930s

Fleet Street

“Fleet Street” card game published by Chad Valley Games, c.1923

Zoo-Zoo

The Game of “Zoo-Zoo” published by Chad Valley games, c.1920s

Chad Valley “Happy Families” c.1950

Chad Valley “Happy Families” card game, c.1950

Happy Families, c.1930

“Happy Families” game published by Chad Valley c.1930 drawn in the slightly grotesque style of the Victorian era

Highwayman

The game of “Highwayman” published by Chad Valley Company in c.1950 simulates travelling on old Coach Routes and being held up by highwaymen

Online Shop

A variety of classic, vintage and antique collectible playing cards from around the world to add depth to your collection View More →

Ormond Emerald Isle

£ 7.50

Ormond Printing Co ‘Emerald Isle’ playing cards with photo of Glengarriff Harbour, Co. Cork, 1965

Anti-Perón Satirical Pack (facsimile)

£ 20.00

Reprint of anti-Perón pack "Se Evita Nombrarlo"

Piatnik Spanish Pack

£ 7.50

Piatnik Spanish suited “Naipes Barajas Españolas” No.1932 “Marca El Jokey”

Spanish Advertising Cartomancy Deck, 1930s

£ 200.00

Baraja Cartomántica Chocolates Nelia, 1932

Navarra, XVII Century facsimile

£ 126.00

Facsimile of archaic 17th century playing cards from Northern Spain

Grupo Editorial RAF S.A, Mexico

£ 8.49

Grupo Editorial RAF S.A, Mexico, 2004

Tarot & Fortune Telling

Fortune-telling cards and modern tarot packs have been conjured in a wide variety of conceptions. They involve use of imagination and intuition to assess one’s own thoughts and feelings from the view point of the symbolic images. This is liberating and creative, finding meaning and answers for oneself, rather than having blind faith in religion. Through imagination we can reach the darker regions of the psyche, face our mortality and discover the ethical principles at the heart of religion. View More →

Ramses II tarot

Ramses II Tarot deck was published c.1975 in conjunction with a Peruvian occult or esoteric magazine.

Cartomancia Astrología Quirologia

A set of rather unusual and non-standard cartomancy cards from Argentina with religious connotations and imaginative artwork.

Mitelli Tarocchini

Mitelli's designs are a complete departure from the old tradition, especially the 22 Trump cards.

English Tarot Cards

English Tarot Cards

History

Playing cards arrived in Europe the late 14th century and rapidly became a part of popular culture. Antique playing cards are like a visit to the local museum and evoke images of past eras and ways of life and also demonstrate archaic technology or production methods. So what do the oldest surviving playing cards look like? View More →

History

Early History of Playing Cards: The Origins of Playing Cards, an on-line tutorial covering the early history of playing-cards.

Master of the Playing Cards

Animal suited playing cards engraved by the Master of the Playing Cards, Germany, c.1455-60

Anonymous Spanish suited pack, c.1720

Anonymous Spanish Suited pack, c.1720

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 and are a study in social anthropology. View More →

Happy Families by Jeux et Jouets Français

Happy Families by Jeux et Jouets Français

Löjliga Spel Kort

Facsimile edition of “Löjliga Spel Kort” (1825) illustrated playing cards from Sweden, showing scenes from Fredman‘s Epistles and Songs.

Jaques' Snap

Snap, the Old Original Game, John Jaques & Son Ltd

Souvenir

The 19th century saw the rise of European tourism, especially in Switzerland. Souvenir playing cards depict the aesthetic, political, social, cultural and economic standpoints of the countries to which they belong and remind us of our journey. They usually feature beauty spots, local customs, gastronomy, heritage or other attractions and are closely related to shopping... View More →

Costa del Sol playing cards

Málaga Costa del Sol souvenir playing cards published by Otermin Ediciones

Orient-Express Playing Cards

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Playing Cards

Copa de Oro 1980

Copa de Oro 1980

China: Three Kingdoms

Three Kingdoms playing cards describes the historical story of the Three Kingdoms period, the political and military struggles between the contending rulers. Chinese Imperial Culture Playing Cards.

Reviews

Evaluation of new playing cards provides a summary and brief discussion of the artistic and technical features, the design and content, as well as contact details to the seller's website. View More →

Quantum

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

Cultúrlán Celtic myth playing cards

Playing cards designed by James Acken evoking Celtic myth in all its beauty, mystery and weirdness...

Playing Card Oracles - Alchemy Edition

Playing Card Oracles - Alchemy Edition - by Charles J. Freeman and Ana Cortez

4 Elementos

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

Manufacturers

When movies, radio and television first appeared playing card manufacturers were worried. But people still had plenty of leisure time and card playing continued to increase. Today’s electronic devices, computers, the Internet and online gaming have changed everything and many former playing card manufacturers have closed down or been taken over by larger corporations. The older manufacturers are now a reminder of bygone days. View More →

Gandarillas, c.1815

J. M. Gandarillas, Buenos Aires, c.1815

Mesmaekers & Moentack c1860

Mesmaekers & Moentack, c1860

Juan Roura, Barcelona

Juan Roura, Barcelona (1872 - 1962)

Naipes La Banca

Naipes La Banca, Argentina c.1970-85

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