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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Algeria

Spanish suited playing cards produced by B. P. Grimaud (Paris) for Algeria, around 1910.

Spanish suited playing cards produced by B. P. Grimaud (Paris) for Algeria, around 1910.

‘Naypes Finos’ - 40 cards in wrapper

Algeria is a gateway between Africa and Europe. Cards were also made by Camoin (Marseille), Malka Frères (Casablanca) and other anonymous manufacturers for export to Algeria. These were usually distinguished by a preponderance of green and a repeating pattern of stars and crescents on the backs. The tax stamp can be seen on the two of swords.

Spanish suited playing cards produced by B. P. Grimaud (Paris) for Algeria, around 1910

Above: Spanish suited playing cards produced by B. P. Grimaud (Paris) for Algeria, around 1910. The cards have square corners and small indices. Image courtesy Juan José Pérez-Castejón.

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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