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Sherlock Holmes Box Since 1996, this collaborative project has grown to include 4,457 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.

Le Monde Primitif Tarot

Facsimile edition produced by Morena Poltronieri & Ernesto Fazioli of Museo Internazionale dei Tarocchi, 2021.

I Tarocchi del Buongustaio

A less-than-serious set of major arcana on a gourmet theme, with designs by Cosimo Musio.

Haushaltgeräte

Publicity pack for VEB Kombinat Haushaltgeräte, makers of household goods, with designs by Volker Hartmann.

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...

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.

Masuo Ikeda

Striking, colourful designs by the Japanese artist Masuo Ikeda.

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...

Hardy & Sons
Hardy & Sons

Since I posted the last discussion here I have not had any replies to he...

Susannah Powell 15 May 2024, 02:45 • 1 Comments

Traditional Cyprus Recipes
Traditional Cyprus Recipes

Traditional recipes from Cyprus, with a small photo of each dish.

Roddy Somerville • 13 May 2024, 09:18

Cartes enfantines
Cartes enfantines

Miniature 18th century Paris pattern cards for children, with decorated aces and 2s.

Roddy Somerville • 12 May 2024, 14:56

Antique French cards
Antique French cards

Hello.I hope you will help me identify this deck of antique playi...

Susannah Powell 08 May 2024, 15:35 • 0 Comments

Can anyone identify this "France Desory" deck of cards?
Can anyone identify this "France Desory" deck of cards?

Can anyone identify this "France Desory" deck of cards? I found it ...

Michael Baker 05 May 2024, 16:36 • 1 Comments

Tarot for Baby
Tarot for Baby

This board book simplifies tarot archetypes into accessible affirmations for young children.

Jinny Wintle • 05 May 2024, 08:36

Animal Tarot by Johann Jobst Forster
Animal Tarot by Johann Jobst Forster

French-suited 78-card animal tarot deck of the Bavarian type.

Simon Wintle • 02 May 2024, 08:57

EPCS November 2005 Newsletter
EPCS November 2005 Newsletter Members Only

Top Trumps • Clifford Toys / Tricklico • Blackpool Souvenir • Squiggles • Esquire • Alberto Vargas • A Find? • Early Playing Cards • Fortune Telling Cards • Court Fools & Jesters (cont) • The Rolls Ra...

The English Playing Card Society • 25 April 2024, 06:07

EPCS June 2005 Newsletter
EPCS June 2005 Newsletter Members Only

Nederland Shipping Line • Iranian Playing Cards • Trump Indicators • Municipal Honours • Coney People Happy Tribes • Hand Drawn Whist Cards • The Cabinet Pack • SSAFRA • Lexicon Competitions • The Lan...

The English Playing Card Society • 25 April 2024, 06:03

EPCS February 2005 Newsletter
EPCS February 2005 Newsletter Members Only

Plucking the Goose • Lake District • Blanche Handler • Moods And Faces • Nelson Bicentenary - Worshipful • Face card Lithography • The Power Deck • Grand Slam • Buying and Selling on Internet • Nederl...

The English Playing Card Society • 24 April 2024, 05:07

EPCS October 2004 Newsletter
EPCS October 2004 Newsletter Members Only

40 Thieves • SDP & Waddington • Scottish Educational Cards • Kan-u-go Singing / Mystery • Waddington Catalogue 1979 cont • Two Goodall Aces • Redline • Golf Cards • Great Storm • Warning to Gamblers a...

The English Playing Card Society • 24 April 2024, 03:08

French Watermarks
French Watermarks

Hello everyone,I've noticed that there are multiple different Wat...

Matt B 20 April 2024, 05:35 • 0 Comments

Sweetule Natural History cards
Sweetule Natural History cards

Small cards featuring natural history subjects, given away with packets of sweet cigarettes.

Roddy Somerville • 17 April 2024, 12:47

Miniature spanish-suited playing cards
Miniature spanish-suited playing cards

Pack of 48 miniature spanish playing-cards published by C R.

Simon Wintle • 15 April 2024, 19:34

Uncut Sheet by Johann Jobst Forster
Uncut Sheet by Johann Jobst Forster

A proof sheet containing twelve court cards of conventional French type.

Simon Wintle • 15 April 2024, 13:50

Lend Me Five Shillings
Lend Me Five Shillings

or “Her Majesty’s Privy Purse” - a merry round-the-table game published by D. Ogilvy.

Simon Wintle • 11 April 2024, 23:09

Laughing Made Easy
Laughing Made Easy

a Victorian card game published by D. Ogilvy.

Simon Wintle • 11 April 2024, 23:00

Eves Playing Cards
Eves Playing Cards

A pack of cards with colour photos of Indian film stars from the era

Paul Symons • 09 April 2024, 16:07

Poker Lusso
Poker Lusso

Richly costumed courts on a luxury poker pack from Masenghini.

Roddy Somerville • 09 April 2024, 10:25

Music playing cards
Music playing cards

Portraits of 13 classical music composers.

Roddy Somerville • 08 April 2024, 10:03

Classic Card Games for Kids
Classic Card Games for Kids

A boxed set of playing cards, Happy Families and an alphabet pack with rules for 22 games.

Roddy Somerville • 08 April 2024, 10:00

L Day
L Day

Antique cards forming a composite pack by L.Day, Kingdom of Ireland, 1780.

Simon Wintle • 07 April 2024, 20:50

Les plaques émaillées d’Antoine Vollon
Les plaques émaillées d’Antoine Vollon

54 different enamel plaques depicting silk manufacture, by the Lyon artist Antoine Vollon.

Roddy Somerville • 07 April 2024, 11:49

Asha Industries’ Castilian pattern
Asha Industries’ Castilian pattern

Colourful Spanish (Castilian) pattern cards made by Asha Industries in India for Mexico.

Roddy Somerville • 07 April 2024, 08:49

Le Roi bridge
Le Roi bridge

Reprint of a Piatnik (Budapest) pack of 1927 with Hungarian historical figures and scenic aces.

Roddy Somerville • 06 April 2024, 21:09

Manara: baraja de poker
Manara: baraja de poker

Exotic illustrations by Italian comic book artist and writer Milo Manara.

Peter Burnett • 06 April 2024, 12:31

Club Soft Drinks
Club Soft Drinks

Promotional pack for Club soft drinks with amusing illustrations of different kinds of ‘club’.

Roddy Somerville • 06 April 2024, 11:41

Mit Rhino auftrumpfen
Mit Rhino auftrumpfen

Black rhinos on a publicity pack for Armstrong, a flooring company, with comic designs by Pit Flick.

Roddy Somerville • 05 April 2024, 18:46

Fratelli Armanino
Fratelli Armanino

I have a pack of

Michaela Harris 05 April 2024, 16:12 • 0 Comments

Early Chad Valley Snap, Linda Edgerton
Early Chad Valley Snap, Linda Edgerton

I'm sorting out my box of memories and found an old game of snap which I...

David Phillips 05 April 2024, 15:54 • 2 Comments

Valhalla spillekort
Valhalla spillekort

Characters from the Valhalla comics, designed by Peter Madsen, as commemorated on a Danish stamp.

Roddy Somerville • 05 April 2024, 11:05

So-Lah – A Game of Music
So-Lah – A Game of Music

An early 20th century domino-type musical card game by Goodall.

Roddy Somerville • 04 April 2024, 20:28

High School Musical 3: Senior Year
High School Musical 3: Senior Year

American teen film depicting students staging their last spring musical.

Peter Burnett • 04 April 2024, 19:31

Marmite
Marmite

Fifty-Four images celebrating a UK savoury spread, that has been around one hundred and twenty two years! It's about time!

Ian Taylor • 04 April 2024, 04:27

Word Making and Word Taking
Word Making and Word Taking

How crossword and spelling games became popular.

Tony Hall • 03 April 2024, 21:09

Pinocchio playing cards
Pinocchio playing cards

Comic book drawings inspired by Carlo Collodi’s children’s classic, Pinocchio.

Roddy Somerville • 03 April 2024, 13:36

Le Ore playing cards
Le Ore playing cards

Caricatures of famous personalities from the late 1970s for the Italian magazine Le Ore.

Roddy Somerville • 02 April 2024, 18:07

Jeux de cartes To Tom
Jeux de cartes To Tom

Bonjour Je possède un jeux de cart...

Plourin 02 April 2024, 17:14 • 1 Comments

G&G Armament playing cards
G&G Armament playing cards

G&G Armament Airsoft replica gun playing cards from Taiwan.

Peter Burnett • 02 April 2024, 13:43




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?


1682 Geographical Playing Cards, c.1682

Geographical Playing Cards, c.1682

Geographical playing cards sold by Henry Brome, second edition, c.1682.

Sicilian playing cards by Antonio Monasta

Sicilian playing cards by Antonio Monasta

"Il Leon" Sicilian playing cards, 40-card pack based on Spanish designs, made in Sicily by Antonio M...

Lyon Pattern type iii

Lyon Pattern type iii

This pattern was used in various parts of eastern France but was ultimately replaced by the official...

The History of Playing Cards

The History of Playing Cards

Playing Cards have been around in Europe since the 1370s. Some early packs were hand painted works o...


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.


1990 Irish Legendary

Irish Legendary

Irish Legendary deck featuring figures in the Legends of Ireland, designed by Rachel Arbuckle, 1990....

1990 Klutz Card Deck

Klutz Card Deck

Klutz Card Deck with comic courts.

1800 Transformation of Playing Cards

Transformation of Playing Cards

The best-known fantasies with playing cards are the ‘Transformation’ cards. Hand-drawing ‘transforma...

1981 Tarot de l’An 2000

Tarot de l’An 2000

“Tarot de l’An 2000” designed by Pino Zac, 1981, satirising 20th century life.


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


The Place of the Fool

The Place of the Fool

This paper considers three questions relating to the Fool-card in the tarot-pack.

1880 Oriental Scenes tarock

Oriental Scenes tarock

Trumps have oriental scenes on one end of the card, and mermaids, mermen, assorted sea serpents and ...

1936 Art Deco Gypsy Oracle

Art Deco Gypsy Oracle

Art Deco fortune telling deck published by Piatnik, 1936.

1879 La Sibylle des Salons

La Sibylle des Salons

La Sibylle des Salons facsimile of 19th century deck published by J M Simon, 1979.


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.


Busy Families

Busy Families

C. W. Faulkner’s “Busy Families”, c.1903.

Notgeld - Emergen¢y Money

Notgeld - Emergen¢y Money

Notgeld - Emergency Money - was in rare cases issued on playing cards.

2022 Tarot for Baby

Tarot for Baby

This board book simplifies tarot archetypes into accessible affirmations for young children.

1900 Bread & Honey

Bread & Honey

A charming Victorian family card game involving Clowns, Queens, Kings, Maids and thirty-seven Blackb...

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.