Above: Stuttgart luxury cards, c.1430
Above: Master of The Playing Cards
Above: Hofamterspiel c.1460
Above: South German Engraver, c.1495
Above: Hans Beham, c.1523
Above: Peter Flötner, c.1545
Above: Johann M. Backofen, c.1800
Above: Joseph Losch, c.1800
Above: Bergmannskarte, c.1816
Above: Schiller Deck, c.1818
Above: Anti-Napoleon Deck
Above: Verkehrte Welt Tarock, c.1850
Above: Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908)
Above: Princely Hunting pack, c.1445
Above: Thomas Murner, 1507
Above: Jost Ammon, 1588
Above: C.L. Wüst (1811-1927)
Above: B. Dondorf (1833-1933)
Above: Victory deck by Friedrich Gotthelf Baumgärtner, Leipzig, 1815
Above: Fortune Telling Deck by Industrie Comptoir, Leipzig c.1818
Above: Narren-Karte by Christian Heinrich Reuter, Nürnberg, c.1860
Above: Johann Jegel's Historical Deck, c.1850
Above: T. O. Weigel, 1885
Above: “Graf Zeppelin Round the World Flight”, 1930
Throughout their long history the quantity and quality of German cards has been outstanding.
Card playing caught on rapidly in medieval Bavaria and German printers were quick to respond to the demand with a prodigious range of output
which now can be regarded as an early example of popular art. German packs were produced with a variety of suit symbols and great freedom of
design. learn more →
Above: archaic German cards by Heinrich Hauk, dated 1585. The suit symbols are: acorns, bells, birds and flowers.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University: GER sheet 249►
Suits were divided into two colors, green and red. The pips of one green suit were acorns, and of the other, leaves.
The red suits were, and still are, hearts of the conventional shape and hawk bells.
Germans have varied their pips perhaps more than any other people.
Above: archaic German-suited playing cards manufactured by Georg Kapfler, dated 1611.
Probably spreading northwards across the Alps, card playing reached Basle in 1377. In the same year the Dominican monk Johannes von
Rheinfelden from Basle wrote an allegory on the pack of cards. Cards are mentioned in the archives of Nuremberg between the years 1380
and 1384. From 1392 there are many references to playing cards in the guild books and registers of German towns. The names of both
card-makers and card-painters are recorded, many of whom were women. To begin with most cards were made in the south in cities such
as Augsburg, Munich, Nuremberg and Ulm. During the second half of the fifteenth century a succession of masterly German engravers
practised their art and engraved playing cards reached a zenith. Many of these packs have survived as precious objets d'art -
see more →. During the sixteenth century wood-block playing cards evolved so that miniature
burlesque scenes decorated the lower half of each card.
Playing cards in Germany first appeared with several different archaic suit systems involving a variety of everyday objects including flowers, animals, hunting equipment or coats of arms. Gradually standardisation occurred and today the German national suit marks are: Hearts (Herzen), Bells (Schellen), Leaves (Laub) and Acorns (Eicheln).
In a true German pack a second Knave is substituted for the Queen, the two Knaves being called Obermann and Untermann (abbreviated into Ober and Unter), and the 2 (Daus) takes the place of the Ace.
It was not until the late 17th century that packs with French suits were made and during the eighteenth century German card-makers excelled with their imaginative and artistic approach to card design.
The existence of several German states and their varying fortunes is reflected in the different patterns still used in these areas today.
But just as these states have become engulfed in the whole, so the cards are doing the same thing and regional differences are disappearing.
German-suited cards are now in the minority, and if standard English cards are not used, then the Berliner or North German pattern is the most prevalent.
Above: playing cards manufactured by I. Schenck, Nuremberg, XIXth century more →
Stuttgart Pack • Princely Hunting Pack •
Master of the Playing Cards • Hofämterspiel • Hans Beham, 1523 •
Heinrich Hauk, 1595 •
I.M.F. Engraved Cards, 1617 • Thomas Murner • Peter Flötner • Early German Engraved Cards •
The South German Engraver • Book of Trades • Master PW Circular Cards, c.1500 •
Geistliche Karten, Augsburg, 1718 • Johann Jobst Forster • Old Bavarian pattern • Joseph Losch, c.1800 •
Joh. Matheus Backofen, c.1800 • ‘Prague’ or ‘Bohemian’ pattern •
Saxon pattern • Victory Deck, c.1815 • Anti-Napoleon Deck, c.1815 •
Bergmannskarte, c.1816 • Cartomancy Deck, c.1818 •
C.L. Wüst • Schiller Deck, C.L. Wüst, c.1830 • Wüst Swiss Album Patience • C.L. Wüst: Brazil Scenic Aces • Bourgeois Tarot • Mlle Lenormand Cartomancy Cards • North German pattern • Verkehrte Welt Tarock, c.1850 • Johann Jegel's Historical Deck, c.1850 • Bavarian Military Cards • Bavarian pattern • T.O.Weigel: Luxus Skatkarten, c.1860 • Narren-Karte by C. H. Reuter, c.1860 • Deutsches Schützenfest 1884 • Liebig Beef Extract, 1891 • Prussian Pattern • B. DONDORF (1833-1933) • F. A. LATTMANN • Wilhelm Busch Comic Card Games •
Otto Tragy Jugendstil Spielkarten • Badische Spielkartenfabrik • Walter Scharff •
Sinalco advertising •
Bambi playing cards • Schmid Argentina S.A. • Pajarito Skat • Veltins Skat • Fussball Skat • Financial Times • Bosco playing cards made for Perú> • Birkel Schwarzer Peter Circus game • Klipp Klapp Karten, 2004 • British Channel Island Ferries
Thanks to Klaus-Jürgen Schultz (http://spielkarten-sammlung.de) and Barney Townshend for contributing many packs from their collections to this site. If you would like to contribute some antique or interesting items please use the Feedback & Enquiries form in the footer below.