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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.

Caballos Argentinos

“Caballos Argentinos” playing cards with photographs of horses and ponies on each card.

Spanish-suited “Caballos Argentinos” playing cards with photographs of horses and ponies on each card.

“Caballos Argentinos” playing cards with photographs of horses and ponies on each card, anonymous publisher, 2005 “Caballos Argentinos” playing cards with photographs of horses and ponies on each card, anonymous publisher, 2005 “Caballos Argentinos” playing cards with photographs of horses and ponies on each card, anonymous publisher, 2005

Above: “Caballos Argentinos” playing cards with photographs of horses and ponies on each card, anonymous publisher, 2005. 48 cards + 2 jokers in box.

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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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So Fängt Es An

So Fängt Es An

“So Fängt Es An” beautifully illustrated by M. Neugebauer, published by Helingsche Verlagsanstalt, c.1950.

Abbatt Animal Families

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Corrida de Toros

Corrida de Toros

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Zooloo Misfitz

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Zooloo Misfitz card game designed by George Lambert for C.W. Faulkner & Co, c.1907.

Splash Page Special

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Sapra Studio Original

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Natuurkwartet

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Botany Quartetts

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Snap

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Snap card game illustrated with animals, by Whitman Publishing Co., 1951.

Animal Rummy

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Animal Rummy by Whitman Publishing Co., 1951.

Deutsche Nutzpflanzen

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Schwarzer Peter Der Wald und seine Leute

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Avilude or Game of Birds

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Mr Bok

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Greenpeace

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Campaign deck for Greenpeace with drawings of penguins, seals, whales and dolphins.

Flora

Flora

‘Flora’ card game published by C.W. Faulkner, printed by Dondorf, 1903.

Animal Misfitz

Animal Misfitz

Animal Misfitz designed by George Lambert for Faulkner Games, c.1900.

Carousel Playing Cards

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Friendly Felines

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‘Friendly Felines’ playing cards designed by Azured Ox, 2017.

National Geographic Nature

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Fungi Mycological Playing Cards

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Tease Me

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Gerrymanders

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Gerrymanders by Globe Series of Games, c.1900.

Souvenir of Norway

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Freddy the Fox

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Freddy the Fox card game published by Valentine & Sons, Ltd, c.1910.

Views of New Zealand

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Views of New Zealand published by G.B.Scott Souvenirs, Auckland, c.1960.

New Zealand Souvenir

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Souvenir from New Zealand by Croxley (John Dickinson) c.1950.

Zoological Misfitz

Zoological Misfitz

Zoological Misfitz card game published by C.W. Faulkner.

Zoo Fun

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Zoo Fun card game no.445 by Warren Paper Products, c.1960s.

Animal Rummy

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Animal Rummy by Warren Paper Products, c.1960s.

National Geographic: Weird But True

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Red Sea

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Red Sea fish identification cards published in several languages by Horus of Egypt, 2005.

Little Grey Rabbit

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Little Grey Rabbit illustrated by Margaret Tempest, 1954.

Baraja Turística de España

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Baraja Turística de España by Heraclio Fournier, 1966.

Beatrix Potter’s Rummy

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Kleine Tierwelt

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“Kleine Tierwelt” wildlife quartet game designed by Heinz Osthoff, published by Bielefelder Spielkarten GmbH, 1963.

Schwarzer Peter

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Schwarzer Peter animal pairs card game produced in Germany, c.1920s.