The World of Playing Cards Logo
A round, golden-yellow tortilla on a decorative blue and white plate with intricate patterns Since 1996, this collaborative project has grown to include 4,354 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.

Paris 2024 Olympics 3

Paris Games mascot Phryge engaged in different sports in a Happy Families-type game.

Go Go Gorillas!

Go Go Gorillas! charity playing cards sponsored by the Eastern Daily Press and the Norwich Evening News.

Paris 2024 Olympics 2

A standard French Tarot game pack with passing references to the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games.

Go Go Gorillas!
Go Go Gorillas!

Go Go Gorillas! charity playing cards sponsored by the Eastern Daily Press and the Norwich Evening News.

Peter Burnett • Yesterday at 12:30

Paris 2024 Olympics 2
Paris 2024 Olympics 2

A standard French Tarot game pack with passing references to the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games.

Roddy Somerville • 17 July 2024, 17:34

EPCS November 2009 Newsletter
EPCS November 2009 Newsletter Members Only

Meluish • Editorial • Sales • Secretary’s Note / New Travel Cards • Port Books • Quadrille • WW2 • 1953 Coronation Pack • De La Rue Crown Brand • Sales System with Playing Cards • Family Star Fortune ...

The English Playing Card Society • 17 July 2024, 05:52

EPCS June 2009 Newsletter
EPCS June 2009 Newsletter Members Only

Spears Happy Families • Fleets Visit • Editorial • Feedback • Secretary’s Note • Chairman’s Notes • Spears Games Advert • Buccaneer Bridge • Quaker & Valentines • 80 Years On • Gamages 1913 Catalogue ...

The English Playing Card Society • 17 July 2024, 05:27

EPCS February 2009 Newsletter
EPCS February 2009 Newsletter Members Only

Puzzle Cards • Contests • Editorial • Turnbull • Secretary’s Note • Kensitas Gift Scheme • WCMPC 2008-9 • Mary Sharp • Trial of Isaac Maydwell • Wings for Britain • 1001 Nights • A. Benda & Co • Cards...

The English Playing Card Society • 17 July 2024, 05:02

Colonial Art
Colonial Art

A collection of 53 pieces of art showcasing detailed scenes from early American colonial life.

Ian Taylor • 16 July 2024, 05:48

Paris 2024 Olympics 1
Paris 2024 Olympics 1

Modern Paris pattern courts, special ace and jokers for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Roddy Somerville • 15 July 2024, 13:31

Joseph Sürch, Engraver
Joseph Sürch, Engraver

Joseph Sürch, a prominent Viennese engraver, made significant contributions to card sheet engraving and is renowned for his work on various tarock decks.

Marek Brejcha • 15 July 2024, 10:37

Perry & Co
Perry & Co

I recently purchased a complete pack of Perry & Co playing cards c 1...

David Quick 15 July 2024, 04:49 • 1 Comments

Piatnik’s 200<sup>th</sup> Anniversary
Piatnik’s 200th Anniversary

A special philatelic souvenir for Piatnik’s 200th anniversary, combining playing cards and postage stamps.

Roddy Somerville • 12 July 2024, 12:34

Playing cards with prints by Sumio Kawakami
Playing cards with prints by Sumio Kawakami

Woodblock print designs created by Sumio Kawakami in 1938-9, each card having a different illustration.

Roddy Somerville • 11 July 2024, 11:27

Trappola pack by Joseph Glanz
Trappola pack by Joseph Glanz

Double-ended Trappola pack by Joseph Glanz, Vienna, late 19th century.

Simon Wintle • 11 July 2024, 01:05

QAIPES – cartas españolas
QAIPES – cartas españolas

Spanish-suited cards made in China inscribed “QAIPES” and “BAIPES”!

Roddy Somerville • 08 July 2024, 13:57

EPCS November 2008 Newsletter
EPCS November 2008 Newsletter Members Only

Key to the Kingdom • Jacksons Score Cards • Editorial • Feedback • Secretary’s Note • Sabrina Pack • Danger - Mines • Bonzo Transfers • News from the USA • US Forces & Archaeology • A Bezique Surprise...

The English Playing Card Society • 08 July 2024, 12:07

Baraja de la Cocina Española
Baraja de la Cocina Española

A celebration of Spanish gastronomy, with designs by Silja Götz employing non-standard suits.

Roddy Somerville • 07 July 2024, 18:23

Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom

Crafted by Hatch Design and benefitting the World Wildlife Fund, animal heads replace the traditional courts.

Roddy Somerville • 07 July 2024, 10:31

Printing Presses
Printing Presses

Antique printing presses from the Turnhout Playing Card Museum collection.

Simon Wintle • 05 July 2024, 16:43

Ganjifa - Playing Cards from India
Ganjifa - Playing Cards from India

Indian playing cards, known as Ganjifa, feature intricate designs with twelve suits and are traditionally hand-painted.

Paul Bostock • 05 July 2024, 10:48

Moguls, Highlanders and Merry Andrews
Moguls, Highlanders and Merry Andrews

Discover the historic origins and evolution of card naming and quality designations like ‘Moguls’ and ‘Highlanders’ in playing cards.

Paul Bostock • 05 July 2024, 07:38

Hand-drawn transformation cards, c1875
Hand-drawn transformation cards, c1875

A complete set of hand-drawn transformation cards from c1875, using a standard De La Rue pack.

Roddy Somerville • 03 July 2024, 16:28

Deportivo Alavés 1921-2021
Deportivo Alavés 1921-2021

Drawings by Guillem Bosch of famous Alavés footballers in celebration of the club’s centenary.

Roddy Somerville • 03 July 2024, 15:58

Art pack, Austria
Art pack, Austria

Renaissance portraits by Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Hans Holbein, Barthel Beham, Christoph Amberger and many others.

Peter Burnett • 02 July 2024, 17:39

Tarot – Images du Pays Basque
Tarot – Images du Pays Basque

Seventy-eight photographic images of the French Basque Country on a pack for playing the game of Tarot.

Roddy Somerville • 02 July 2024, 12:40

EPCS June 2008 Newsletter
EPCS June 2008 Newsletter Members Only

The Journey • Reiss & Co • Editorial • Secretary’s notes • House Building Game • Raroria • Omar Sharif • How Old? Beat That! • Perhaps • World Weddings • Wills’ Gifts Revisited • Arithmetical Cards • ...

The English Playing Card Society • 28 June 2024, 06:17

EPCS February 2008 Newsletter
EPCS February 2008 Newsletter Members Only

Cries of London • Galumphus Rules • Merchant Ship Recognition • Mercers of Maidenhead • Zoo Boots • Playing Card Wrapping Machinery • Collecting Worshipful Cards • Onoto • Thetford Cards • Worshipful ...

The English Playing Card Society • 27 June 2024, 03:41

EPCS November 2007 Newsletter
EPCS November 2007 Newsletter Members Only

Doctor Who • Great Galumphus • The Zoo That Never Was • James English & Co Road • Magicians Autograph Pack • Rules of The Road • Card Football • Mathemax • Karuta • De La Rue Mouldings • DLR Service •...

The English Playing Card Society • 27 June 2024, 03:23

Classification of Numeral Card Designs in French-suited packs
Classification of Numeral Card Designs in French-suited packs

The classification of numeral cards in French-suited packs, covering various pip designs in over 400 packs from English, American, and French origins, and highlighting both historical and modern patte...

Paul Bostock • 26 June 2024, 03:07

Hanuman and the Five Riders
Hanuman and the Five Riders

A selection cards showing characters from the 1975 Thai-Japanese film.

Adam Wintle • 25 June 2024, 12:08

Warner Bros 100<sup>th</sup> Anniversary
Warner Bros 100th Anniversary

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

Roddy Somerville • 21 June 2024, 04:59

Jaques Happy Families
Jaques Happy Families

I found a deck of cards at my grea...

Judith Ritholz 20 June 2024, 01:38 • 1 Comments

Possible Valuation
Possible Valuation

Would I be able to get your opinio...

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

The Douce Collection
The Douce Collection

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

Peter Burnett • 18 June 2024, 11:54

Medizin Skat
Medizin Skat

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

Roddy Somerville • 18 June 2024, 03:59

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

Éditions Philibert

Éditions Philibert published an outstanding series of exotic, artistic playing cards in Paris from 1...

Rider Waite Tarot early editions

Rider Waite Tarot early editions

Rider Waite Tarot early editions

Significado de los Naipes Españoles

Cartomantic meanings of Spanish playing cards by Benita the Witch (XVI century), published by Chocol...

Early History of Playing Cards & Timeline

Out of an apparent void, a constellation of references in early literature emerge pointing to the su...

Suicide King

Suicide King

The King of Hearts, holding a sword behind his head, is sometimes nicknamed the “Suicide King”. He c...

Cyberpunk 2077 Tarot Cards

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

History of Court Cards

History of Court Cards

The court cards in English packs of playing cards derive from models produced by Pierre Marechal in ...

Perspectives on the History of Tarot

Tarot, originally a 15th century card game from Italy, has evolved into a form of personal mysticism...

41: A Guide to Dating Playing Cards

41: A Guide to Dating Playing Cards

Dating is a particularly tricky but very interesting problem to tackle and there are many pitfalls. ...

U. S. A.

U. S. A.

The manufacture of playing cards in America only began during the second half of the 18th century, a...




Over the years the pressures of competition and other market forces have led to many smaller manufacturers being taken over by larger ones. The outcome is that the U.S.P.C.C. is now the largest manufacturer in the United States. Learn more about United States Playing Card Co.
1888 Cabinet No.707
1910 No.500 Playing Cards
2022 The Bird by Kings Wild Project

Happy Families is probably one of the most popular card games ever invented, with educational benefits relating to sorting and matching of sets, as well as early literacy and elementary genealogy, flowers or bird identification, etc. Learn more about Happy Families
2014 Politically Incorrect Happy Families
1980 Gas Warm Homes
2014 Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Happy Families

This term refers to a family of card games that originated in Persia and spread to India during the Moghul period. The traditional Ganjifa deck consists of 96 cards divided into eight suits. The card... Learn more about Ganjifa
1991 Handmade Ganjifa Birds Playing Cards

The art of mystifying people is very old indeed. The first conjurers were priests who obtained power over simple minds by performing magical tricks which appeared to have a supernatural origin. Learn more about Magic

The 'Joker' is believed to have been invented by American Euchre players who, when modifying the rules sometime during the 1860s, decided that an extra trump card was required. Learn more about Joker
2000 Jest Jokers

The Big Picture

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

A decorative black and white line ornament with a circular design in the center and horizontal lines extending from both sides
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.

A decorative black and white line ornament with a circular design in the center and horizontal lines extending from both sides

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