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Sherlock Holmes Box Welcome to the World of Playing Cards. Here we celebrate the cultural heritage and history of playing cards, and the many ways in which they bring people together. Playing cards have been shared and enjoyed for centuries for everything from games and gambling to fortune-telling, magic and conjuring. Today they continue to be a popular and educational pastime for people of all ages and backgrounds.

We invite you to explore this exciting and vibrant aspect of our social history with us and see how things have changed over the years. Whatever your interest in cards, you'll find something interesting here. If you'd like to make a contribution get in touch Simon & Adam

Explore Archives

Habesha playing cards

Habesha playing cards published by “Ethiopian Reflection”

Editors' Picks

Revolutionary playing cards

by Roddy Somerville

Revolutionary playing cards with decapitated courts published by ATYPYK, Paris, 2010.

AT THE TOP Playing Cards

by Paul Symons

Exclusively designed for the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Kings Wild Tigers Playing Cards

by Adam Wintle

Kings Wild Tigers is Jackson Robinson’s 27th successful playing card Kickstarter campaign. A luxury collectable deck inspired by vintage matchboxes.

Artists & Designers


The History of Playing Cards

Scene of people playing cards

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?


1745 Silver Cards from Peru

Silver Cards from Peru

The example of Spanish-suited silver cards shown here is grotesquely embellished and enamelled. It came from a former Spanish Viceroy in Peru and is dated 1745.

History of Online Casinos

History of Online Casinos

Online casinos appeared shortly after the internet became a more mainstream tool for the public to use

Hermanos Solesi

Hermanos Solesi

“Money Bag” pattern by Hermanos Solesi, late 18th c.

1500 Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages

Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages

Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern


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2: Over 75 Years of Collecting Playing Cards

2: Over 75 Years of Collecting Playing Cards

by Ken Lodge

This is a personal account of some of my experiences collecting playing cards.

22: Belgian Makers: Van Genechten

22: Belgian Makers: Van Genechten

by Ken Lodge

Van Genechten started making playing cards in c.1840 and continued until the founding of Carta Mundi in 1970.

1811 Metastasis Transformation Playing Cards, 1811

Metastasis Transformation Playing Cards, 1811

by Barney Townshend

First published by S & J Fuller, Rathbone Place, London, September 1st 1811. This Nixon-Fuller deck was the first English deck now commonly known as transformation playing cards - the first use of the term "transformation".

2011 Eneida

Eneida

by Peter Burnett

This pack was designed by Oksana Ternavska and first published in 2011 as a supplement to the book "Eneida", a poem written by Ivan Kotliarevsky in 1798.

Kimberley

Kimberley

by Barney Townshend

Kimberley’s Royal National Patriotic playing cards, c.1892-1905.


2018 Kings Wild Tigers Playing Cards

Kings Wild Tigers Playing Cards

Kings Wild Tigers is Jackson Robinson’s 27th successful playing card Kickstarter campaign. A luxury collectable deck inspired by vintage matchboxes.

2022 Billionaire Boys Club Playing Cards by Theory11

Billionaire Boys Club Playing Cards by Theory11

Limited edition luxury playing cards by Billionaire Boys Club and Theory 11.

2021 The Grand Chinatown Edition by Riffle Shuffle Playing Card Co.

The Grand Chinatown Edition by Riffle Shuffle Playing Card Co.

1920s gangster-themed playing cards, "The Grand", were produced by Kevin Yu under the Riffle Shuffle Playing Card Company brand name, after raising CAD$104,453 from 884 backers on Kickstarter in 2021.

2014 Encarded First Edition by Paul Carpenter

Encarded First Edition by Paul Carpenter

The Encarded First Edition is a limited edition of 2,500 designed by Paul Carpenter and manufactured by the Expert Playing Card Company.

Collecting Themes

Advertising Collecting Themes

Advertising and Promotional Playing Cards

Closely following the development of visual advertising in general, such as on labels, packaging and posters, advertising playing cards are used in pubs and cafés and are a popular publicity item. Some packs are widely distributed, others are more exclusive. In some cases single cards are collected from inside the advertised product to complete a full set.


1920 Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes, featuring Feliz and Bonzo, 1920s.

1910 Adverto

Adverto

Adverto card game published by Adverto Publishing Company of Stratford, London, c.1910.

2006 Creciendo Seguros

Creciendo Seguros

‘Creciendo Seguros’ road safety awareness playing cards from Argentina, 2006.

1960 Dutch Pattern for Van Perlstein

Dutch Pattern for Van Perlstein

Brepols Dutch Pattern for Van Perlstein distillery, c.1960.


Art & Design Collecting Themes

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.


1982 Werbung die Sticht

Werbung die Sticht

“Werbung die Sticht” deck with artwork by Fritz Bünzli to promote advertising on playing cards by AG Müller 1982.

1970 Juegos Victoria | Juguetes Royal

Juegos Victoria | Juguetes Royal

Juegos Victoria – Juguetes Royal – publishers of children’s card games in Argentina during the 1960s and ‘70s.

Schwarzer Peter

Schwarzer Peter

Art Deco style “Schwarzer Peter” card game published by Vereinigte Altenburger und Stralsunder Spielkarten-Fabriken A.G., Stuttgart.

2010 Anne Stokes Collection

Anne Stokes Collection

Anne Stokes Collection playing cards, 2010.


Playing Cards Icon Card Games Collecting Themes

Games Childhood Currency Educational Happy Families Pepys Games Logo Jaques Faulkner Quartet Snap Spelling
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.


Tower Press children’s card games

Tower Press children’s card games

A series of card games for children published by Tower Press during the 1950s which evoke the optimism and love of fun of that era.

2010 Jeu de Mémory

Jeu de Mémory

Colourful Jeu de Mémory card game made in Taiwan, distributed in France by CMP Group.

1866 Snap

Snap

Snap, the Old Original Game, has captured the imaginations of children for over a century!

1939 It’s a Goal

It’s a Goal

It’s a Goal was registered to Castell Bros in July 1939.


Oracle, Divination & Tarot Collecting Themes

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


1960 Taroquis ‘Obelisco’

Taroquis ‘Obelisco’

78-card 'Taroquis Marca Obelisco' published by Mario Colombo, Buenos Aires, during the 1950s, 60s & 70s, in the style known as "Tarocco Piemontese" which had been developed by Italian cardmakers during the nineteenth century.

Hafez Fortune Telling Cards

Hafez Fortune Telling Cards

Fortune Tellers use the Hafez Cards by interpreting the Hāfez poems printed on the card backs when cards are selected randomly by their consultants.

1868 Le Destin Antique

Le Destin Antique

Le Jeu du Destin Antique, originally published by Grimaud in XIX c., republished many times since...

2018 Bharata Major Arcana Tarot

Bharata Major Arcana Tarot

Bharata Major Arcana Tarot by Ishan Trivedi & Sunish Chabba, 2018. Inspired by Indian art forms.

Recent Changes

Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas

Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas

Atlantis Paradise Island Hotel casino playing cards.

Reagan’s Rogues Gallery

A pack inspired by the Iran-Contra affair or Gipper-gate during the Reagan era, produced by R. Billingsley, USA, 1987.

Mickey for Kids

Mickey for Kids

Mickey for Kids playing cards from Disney.

Grand Slam

Limited edition gift set issued to mark the American Bicentennial, 1776-1976, produced by John Waddington Ltd and the Bristol Pottery for the British American Bicentenary Group, 1970.

The Great Indoors

“The Great Indoors” playing cards published by DesignWorks Ink, Nashville, USA, 2021.

Tanisa cartes à jouer

Tanisa cartes à jouer

“Tanisa cartes à jouer” published by Colormad, Madagascar.

AT THE TOP Playing Cards

Exclusively designed for the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Revolutionary playing cards

Revolutionary playing cards with decapitated courts published by ATYPYK, Paris, 2010.