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Sherlock Holmes Box Since 1996, this collaborative project has grown to include 4,334 articles by 25 contributors, including researchers, collectors, artists and historians covering topics from Art Nouveau to Zoology. We move beyond simply cataloguing playing cards by date, manufacturer and place of origin, and adopt a dynamic, interactive and thematic approach, bridging the past with the present, telling stories, opening conceptual perspectives and the necessary reflectiveness to gain new insights and ways to appreciate their role in history.

Warner Bros 100th Anniversary

An array of famous characters from Warner Bros films in celebration of the company’s centenary.

The Douce Collection

The Douce Collection of playing cards in the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

Medizin Skat

Promotional pack for a hospital group in the Saarland, with non-standard suits and courts designed by Detlef Krause.

Possible Valuation
Possible Valuation

Would I be able to get your opinio...

John Maddocks 20 June 2024, 01:33 • 1 Comments

Patience Playing Cards
Patience Playing Cards

I thought you might appreciate the...

Lucy Black 18 June 2024, 03:21 • 0 Comments

EPCS June 2024 Newsletter
EPCS June 2024 Newsletter

Lenthall’s Delightful Cards • Fine China Loving Cup • 64th Pioneer Regt. A Relic of the Raj • Driving the Old Woman to Bed • Speed - the Ships • Speed 8 - Another One Found! • Czech Happy Families • F...

The English Playing Card Society • 18 June 2024, 02:48

Holidays – les côtes françaises
Holidays – les côtes françaises

Holiday destinations around the French coast as depicted by Pauline Launay.

Roddy Somerville • 17 June 2024, 20:32

The Henry Hart Puzzle
The Henry Hart Puzzle

Explore the intricate history and unique design variations of Henry Hart's playing cards, tracing their journey from 18th-century England to America.

Paul Bostock • 17 June 2024, 13:13

Sissi playing cards
Sissi playing cards

produced for the Austrian tourist market.

Peter Burnett • 17 June 2024, 10:59

Naipes Kukuxumusu
Naipes Kukuxumusu

A 52-card Spanish-suited advertising pack for a clothing company in Pamplona.

Roddy Somerville • 17 June 2024, 07:24

Euskal Herriko Mitologia
Euskal Herriko Mitologia

Important figures from Basque mythology, named in four languages.

Roddy Somerville • 16 June 2024, 10:33

Líneas rojas 2016
Líneas rojas 2016

Semicaricatural images of Spanish politicians by Jordi Minguell, combined with non-standard suits.

Roddy Somerville • 16 June 2024, 06:23

Identifying a Spanish-Suited 40-Card Deck
Identifying a Spanish-Suited 40-Card Deck

I found an old deck of cards in my...

Anita LeDoux 15 June 2024, 02:44 • 2 Comments

P. Lazarus and Co. Playing Cards
P. Lazarus and Co. Playing Cards

I am asking you for advice about a set of cards which I have owned&...

Phil Archer 15 June 2024, 02:35 • 1 Comments

Antique erotic transparent cards.
Antique erotic transparent cards.

Hello. I have this complete deck from my father's collection from Barcel...

Mireya Maso 14 June 2024, 07:38 • 2 Comments

Opernkarte I
Opernkarte I

Humorous designs by Peter Becker on the theme of the Opera.

Peter Burnett • 14 June 2024, 03:14

Playing Card Research Archives maintained by The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards
Playing Card Research Archives maintained by The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards

The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards maintains an extensive archive of materials from notable playing card researchers, available for study by arrangement in Bicester.

Paul Bostock • 13 June 2024, 06:58

Jeu des 7 familles basques
Jeu des 7 familles basques

A Happy Families-type game from the Basque country, with designs by Soledad Bravi and Agathe de Lastic.

Roddy Somerville • 13 June 2024, 02:58

A Million Dollar Tarot: The Alleyman’s Tarot
A Million Dollar Tarot: The Alleyman’s Tarot

The Alleyman’s Tarot successfully raised $1,404,172 on Kickstarter. This unique 133-card deck includes a mix of traditional and non-traditional tarot cards, offering a new approach to tarot readings.

Paul Bostock • 10 June 2024, 08:36

The Art of Erté
The Art of Erté

Luxury playing cards displaying artwork by Erté, published in 1983 by Sobranie of London.

Peter Burnett • 10 June 2024, 03:03

Go Green playing cards
Go Green playing cards

Suggestions how to “go green” and help combat the impact of climate change.

Peter Burnett • 09 June 2024, 03:45

The Chamber of 52 Cards
The Chamber of 52 Cards

Playing cards published by Peter Wood as a tribute to the rock band Genesis.

Peter Burnett • 08 June 2024, 03:48

Sevilla 1647 reproduction
Sevilla 1647 reproduction

Facsimile of Spanish-suited pack produced in Sevilla, Spain, 1647.

Roddy Somerville • 07 June 2024, 03:45

Are Playing Cards a Good Investment?
Are Playing Cards a Good Investment?

Playing cards can appreciate modestly, with historical annual gains of 2-3%. Rare cards offer higher returns; condition and initial price impact value.

Paul Bostock • 05 June 2024, 10:54

Atout Cœur!
Atout Cœur!

Poster designs by children for an anti-smoking campaign in the Midi-Pyrenées region of France.

Roddy Somerville • 28 May 2024, 14:25

English cards from the reign of Charles II
English cards from the reign of Charles II

This article explores a historic pack of English playing cards from circa 1675, likely used by King Charles II and Queen Catherine, detailing their significance, history and unique features

Paul Bostock • 28 May 2024, 09:02

North American wildlife playing cards
North American wildlife playing cards

From humid wetlands to frozen tundra, the wildlife in North America is extremely diverse.

Peter Burnett • 27 May 2024, 12:35

Quên Tarot
Quên Tarot

A mystical voyage of love and self-discovery created by Duy Khánh Võ.

Adam Wintle • 24 May 2024, 10:24

Why our playing-cards look the way they do
Why our playing-cards look the way they do

Analysis of early playing card designs: origins, suit differences, standardization, technological advancements and key innovations leading to modern designs.

Paul Bostock • 23 May 2024, 05:46

Kojak bubble gum cards
Kojak bubble gum cards

Bubble gum cards featuring stills – mainly of Telly Savalas – from the cult TV series Kojak.

Roddy Somerville • 22 May 2024, 09:11

Hummingbirds of the Americas
Hummingbirds of the Americas

Colour photographs of hummingbirds with data about each species to aid recognition.

Peter Burnett • 21 May 2024, 18:45

Seashells playing cards
Seashells playing cards

Each card shows colour photo of a different seashell for easy identification.

Peter Burnett • 21 May 2024, 18:30

Discover trains of North America
Discover trains of North America

55 different Illustrations of railways and locomotives from the United States.

Peter Burnett • 21 May 2024, 15:19

Introduction to Collecting Themes
Introduction to Collecting Themes

Playing cards can be broadly categorised into standard and non-standard designs, with collectors appreciating their variety.

Paul Bostock • 21 May 2024, 09:25

Morgan-Greer Tarot

Based on the knowledge, wisdom and interpretation of Paul Foster Case and Arthur Edward Waite.

Dungeons & Dragons “Curse of Strahd” Tarokka Deck

Enhance your Dungeons & Dragons game with the Tarokka Deck, a tarot-inspired set of cards that bring...

Dungeons and Dragons Tarot

This 78-card officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) tarot deck offers a visually appealing var...

Tarot of the Everlasting Day - AI Generated Tarot

Artificial Intelligence (AI) generated tarot deck produced by Marcus Katz. Is this science fiction o...

Iraqi Most Wanted Playing Cards

Playing cards used to help troops identify the most-wanted members of Saddam Hussein's government. 2...

Branded Tarot Decks and Modern Mystic Lifestyle

Branded Tarot Decks and Modern Mystic Lifestyle

Taking a closer look at the rise of media tie-in branded tarot deck and esoteric lifestyle of younge...

Cyberpunk 2077 Tarot Cards

Polish cartoonist Jakub Rebelka created this set of tarot cards for the Cyberpunk 2077 video game.

Russian Playing Cards

Russian Playing Cards

Playing cards were known in Muscovy as early as the last quarter of the sixteenth century.

Luxury Collectable Playing Cards

Luxury Collectable Playing Cards

Luxury packs of cards have been produced since the 15th century, a trend that is very popular among ...

Cartomancy, Oracle and Divination Cards

Cartomancy, Oracle and Divination Cards

Playing cards are used for fortune-telling, predicting the future or even as a psychological adjunct...




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?


1470 Master of the Banderoles

Master of the Banderoles

Playing Cards by the Master of the Banderoles, one of the earliest professional printmakers, c.1470....

2003 Tensho Mekuri - Japan

Tensho Mekuri - Japan

Tensho Mekuri cards hand-made by Patricia Kirk, 2003.

1462 XV Century Italian Playing Cards

XV Century Italian Playing Cards

Cards from a pack of an early form of north Italian playing cards, with the swords back-to-back and ...

1650 The Parisian Tarot

The Parisian Tarot

The “Parisian Tarot”, early 1600s, with imagery and design synthesizing several influences.


Art & Design

Design Caricatures Abstract Cartoon Celtic Deco Jugendstil Renaissance Rococo Surrealism

The playing card calls for artistic treatment and although the constrained size imposes some limitations there is an almost bewildering wealth and variety of designs in playing cards and their tuck boxes. The serious player requires design to be unobtrusive so that aesthetic considerations remain in the background. However, with modern manufacturing technology more eye-catching designs are becoming popular as gifts, collectibles and for their attractive appearance.


1987 Jungle Parties

Jungle Parties

“Jungle Parties” or “Playing Politics '87” designed & drawn by Patrick Cuenot.

1895 Shakespeare Playing Cards

Shakespeare Playing Cards

Shakespeare Playing Cards pack published in the 1890s with original paintings are by John H. Bacon.

2011 Mr. Men™

Mr. Men™

Mr. Men™ & Little Miss™ playing cards by Roger Hargreaves

1983 Baraxa Galega

Baraxa Galega

Baraxa Galega designed by F. Perez Llamosas and published by Naipes Heraclio Fournier, 1983.


Oracle, Divination & Tarot

Cat Cartomancy The art of interpreting divine omens - augury or reading karma - has since ancient times been integral to political, civic and religious life.

More recently, Cartomancy and modern esoteric tarot packs have been produced in a wide variety of conceptions and involve use of imagination and intuition to assess one’s thoughts and feelings from the view point of the symbolic images and numbers. It is possible for an object to be construed as a game in one context, and as something other than a game in a different context.

Tarot, originally a 15th century card game, has evolved into a popular system of personal mysticism, self-exploration and spirituality   Learn more about tarot


2012 Inner Realms Tarot

Inner Realms Tarot

Inner Realms tarot was designed by Saleire, conceived from sacred geometry, and aims to reflect this...

1999 Jason Ennis Tarot Cards

Jason Ennis Tarot Cards

Jason Ennis was a self trained artist interested in man's nature, his powers and abilities.

2021 Cyberpunk 2077 Tarot Cards

Cyberpunk 2077 Tarot Cards

Polish cartoonist Jakub Rebelka created this set of tarot cards for the Cyberpunk 2077 video game.

2006 The Llewellyn Tarot - Welsh tarot cards

The Llewellyn Tarot - Welsh tarot cards

The Llewellyn Tarot - Welsh tarot cards


Schwarzer Peter Cards

The games we play mirror the world we live in, like popular art. There was a time when friends and family played indoor games by the fireside and enjoyed countless hours of pleasure and amusement. Children don’t play card games so much because they prefer computer games, the ultimate excitement. Antique and vintage card games offer documentary evidence, as well as nostalgic memories, of the social interaction, fashions and stereotypes of bygone days and are a study in social anthropology.

French card games are mostly Jeux des Sept Familles. German games are often pleasing on the eye, and they seem to favour quartet games. USA love quartets of world worthies like authors, painters, composers. Games are not simply an escape from the real world, they are also educational and provide a place to process what it all means.


1900 Bargains

Bargains

“Bargains” was designed by George Lambert for C. W. Faulkner & Co in c.1900.

Spear’s Old Maid

Spear’s Old Maid

Spear’s “The Jolly Game of Old Maid” was introduced around 1900. The cards contain some interesting ...

1968 Snip Snap

Snip Snap

Decimal Snap created by Eric Wagstaff, published by Michael Stanfield Holdings, London 1968.

EPCS November 1999 Newsletter

City Imperial Volunteers: Boer War • Hand Decorated Transformation Pack • Story Behind the Card: Bon...

The Big Picture

Playing cards have a universal appeal and are a reflection of human culture.

Simon & Adam Wintle

Above: Chinese money-suited cards. Some of the earliest cards have origins in the Far East.

Playing cards are a part of almost every culture and society around the world. These small, rectangular pieces of paper have been a source of entertainment for generations and are still enjoyed by people of all ages today. Whether it’s a simple game of solitaire, a high-stakes game of poker, or a magic trick that delights, there’s something about playing cards that captures the imagination and inspires creativity. As Delef Hoffmann once said “whether we consider cards as mere merchandise or as the bond which unites people with one another, just think of what we would be if we had no cards! How boring and unsociable our lives would be without this invention!

Joker by Simon Wintle

Above: Dasavatara Ganjifa from India. Playing cards from India are often circular.

The origin of cards can be traced back to China, where they were first used as early as the 9th century. From there, the cards travelled across Asia and the Middle East, and finally found their way to Europe in the 14th century.

Since then, playing cards have been used for a wide range of purposes, including fortune-telling and even propaganda. But the most significant impact they have had on humanity is through their use in games, which have brought people together for centuries.

Above left: a set of Spanish playing cards from 1638 was discovered inside a prison wall during demolition, likely used for gambling by prisoners. Above center: Trump Presidential playing cards, playing cards are often used for political messages. Above right: the Magician from the popualr Rider-Waite tarot, which has become the template for modern tarot decks.

Above left: a set of Spanish playing cards from 1638 was discovered inside a prison wall during demolition, likely used for gambling by prisoners. Above center: Trump Presidential playing cards, playing cards are often used for political messages. Above right: the Magician from the popualr Rider-Waite tarot, which has become the template for modern tarot decks.

While playing cards have brought people together for fun and play, they have also been a source of disruption in the form of gambling. For many, gambling has become an addiction, leading to financial ruin and even anti-social problems.

The artistic value of cards cannot be overlooked, with their intricate details and unique designs of each card reflecting the creativity and ingenuity of artists. Playing cards are a reflection of our society, with each country and region having its unique designs and styles. As Sylvia Mann put it “there are fashions in cards, and these fashions very often reflect the history of the times”. From the bold and colourful designs of India to the intricate and detailed patterns of Russia, playing cards are a testament to the creativity and diversity of the human experience.

Simon & Adam Wintle

Above left: Kashmir Playing Cards, above center: Ethiopian Air Lines playing cards produced by Nintendo, above right: striking playing cards designed by Masuo Ikeda.

Playing cards have a wide embrace, spanning across cultures and countries, with a scope of diverse subjects that reflect the values and beliefs of their respective societies.

Playing cards are an enduring symbol of human connection and creativity, transcending language, borders and cultures. Through the power of games, they have brought people together for centuries, creating shared experiences that have fostered friendships, learning and social bonds. While their role in gambling has been disruptive, their stunning artistic designs elevate them to works of art, worthy of appreciation and admiration. Playing cards are a testament to the power of human creativity and a reflection of the rich cultural tapestry of our world.

References

  • The Playing Card, Delef Hoffmann, 1972
  • Collecting Playing Cards, Sylvia Mann, 1966

About the World of Playing Cards

Our aim is to increase awareness and appreciation of the cultural and historical significance of playing cards.

The World of Playing Cards was established in 1996 as a place where you can learn about playing cards, their history, design and manufacture, and see cards from around the world.

Simon & Adam Wintle

Simon Wintle (right) with Adam Wintle (left) visiting Ayutthaya in Thailand, 2016.

They reflect the traditions of many countries. They vary widely in size, style, shape, artistry, usage and many other purposes in education, marketing or even for fortune telling. There is a fascination in playing card design: the neat symmetries and quirky symbols. The composition of the pack - court cards, suits, pips - provides endless scope of play.

Joker by Simon Wintle

They are recognised everywhere around the world - we rarely question their origins.

Since their invention, cards have lost none of their popularity. Playing cards have a long history and it's in the art that the richness of playing cards is to be discovered.

Simon & Adam

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The amount you donate is up to you and we are grateful that so many people find value in the World of Playing Cards and want to sustain its future.