Suit Systems and National Types
By around 1500 three main suit systems had evolved: Latin (including Italian, Spanish and Portuguese); Germanic (German and Swiss) and French (which has become the International or 'Anglo-American' suit system). It is unlikely that the suit symbols had any special meaning other than being a reflection of popular culture at the time; but some students like to see a religious, social or political meaning in the symbols. These suit systems became the basis for various Standard National patterns, or National Types, which were associated with specific regions or tax jurisdictions.
Many of these have remained unchanged for centuries, being handed down through the generations, preserving their archaic, medieval characteristics. Others have evolved into modern types, perhaps as a self-affirmation of national identity in countries which have recently regained independence from foreign rule (see example). Indeed, as a result of globalisation, use of computers and international competition, standard playing card designs are becoming more uniform on the one hand, but with greater opportunities for customisation or originality on the other hand (i.e. non-standard).
Back to Start