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?
Set of medieval playing cards has 52 cards with King, Queen, Knave and numeral cards from one to ten in each of the four suits of dog collars, tethers (for the hounds), nooses (for birds or small game), and hunting horns. These suits refer to the activity of hunting, as practised by the nobility.
Playing Cards have been around in Europe since the 1370s. Some early packs were hand painted works of art which were expensive and affordable only by the wealthy. But as demand increased cheaper methods of production were discovered so that playing cards became available for everyone...
The Gothic age, from the 13th - 15th centuries, saw fundamental economic and religious changes. The centre of gravity shifted from the land to the towns. A new form of economy evolved, based on production for sale and exchange, in which merchants and craftsmen played increasingly important roles.