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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 →

New Era No.46

The recently incorporated United States Playing Card Company began creating exciting new brands in order to celebrate their new beginning.

Metastasis, 1811

Metastasis Transformation Playing Cards, 1811

Hodges’ Constellation cards

Hodges’ pack dealing with astronomy had numeral cards carrying diagrams of constellations and their pictorial representations.


Xilografías de Mallorca

Spanish National pattern re-printed from original woodblocks which are preserved in the monastery at Valdemosa, Mallorca, c.1960

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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 →

Jewish Card Game

Jewish Card Game, made in Argentina, c.1950

Fruits et Légumes

The beautiful artwork in Dondorf's “Fruits et Légumes des Champs et des Jardins” reminds us of the benefits of natural food without additives.

Picture Proverbs

Picture Proverbs was a game of 28 pairs of cards illustrating popular Victorian proverbs which were seen as words of wisdom.

Der Lohn des Fleisses

“Der Lohn des Fleisses”, a children's card game designed by Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908)

History

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

Arms of English Peers, 1688

Heraldry was an important part of a respectable education.

Navarra, XVII Century

Facsimile of 17th century Spanish-suited playing cards produced by Erregeak, Sormen S.A., Vitoria-Gasteiz (Alava), Spain, 1988

The Beggars’ Opera, 1728

The Beggars’ Opera Playing Cards, 1728

I.M.F. Engraved Cards, 1617

Engraved Playing Cards, Germany, 1617, by an anonymous artist with the initials I.M.F.

Souvenir

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

Irish Souvenir

Irish souvenir playing cards.

Swiss Scenic Aces, c.1860

Swiss Scenic Ace Souvenir Cards, J. Müller, Diessenhofen, c.1860

Panama Souvenir

Several editions of Panama Souvenir Playing Cards were issued by the USPCC between 1908 - 1926.

Peruvian Souvenir

Peruvian Souvenir Playing Cards

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.

Pneumatic Playing Cards

Pneumatic Playing Cards

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.

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

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 →

Credito Commerciale

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

Humanist Bridge, Müller & Cie

Humanist pack designed by Melchior Annen (1868-1954) and made by J. Müller & Cie (Schaffhouse).

Russian “Slavic Costumes”

Russian style “Slavic Costumes” playing cards first published in 1911.

Krienser Fasnachts-Jass 1988

The Krienser Fasnachts-Jass deck was designed and published by Léon Schnyder from Kriens for the 1988 Fasnacht Carnival

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