The World of Playing Cards Logo

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.

Cartas Precolombinas

Spanish playing cards with Pre-Columbian designs from Argentina, 2001.

Spanish playing cards with Pre-Columbian designs from Argentina, 2001. Prehistoric indigenous symbols and artefacts, some of which are thousands of years old, have been repurposed as suit signs and court cards in this modern pack of “Cartas Precolombinas” which is produced on brown card.

Spanish playing cards with Pre-Columbian designs from Argentina, 2001

Above: Spanish playing cards with Pre-Columbian indigenous designs from Argentina, 2001. 48 cards + explanatory leaflet + 2 jokers in box. Laminated card, plain backs.

The Leaflet

Spanish playing cards with Pre-Columbian designs from Argentina, 2001 Spanish playing cards with Pre-Columbian designs from Argentina, 2001
avatar

By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

View Articles

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

Recommended

Irish Legendary

Irish Legendary

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

Chinese Costumes

Chinese Costumes

Chinese Costumes from the Winterthur Collection, published by Fournier, 1984.

Maya Deck

Maya Deck

The Maya Deck produced by Stancraft for Hoyle, 1976.

Neerlands Glorie

Neerlands Glorie

Neerlands Glorie Kwartetspel published by Hausemann & Hötte N.V, Amsterdam, 1945.

Tonalamatl

Tonalamatl

Baraja Tonalamatl Mexican Aztec playing cards based on the prehispanic Codex Borgia manuscript.

Naipes Cardón

Naipes Cardón

Naipes Cardón designed by Mario Luis Rivero depicting traditional Argentine culture and identity, 2002.

Deutsche Geschichte

Deutsche Geschichte

German History Quartet published by Otto Maier Verlag Ravensburg, c.1930-35.

Roman Empire

Roman Empire

Roman Empire playing cards designed by G. Wyatt for Green Board Game Co Ltd., 2011.

Far East

Far East

Far East playing cards with designs by Isabel Ibáñez de Sendadiano, c.1980.

Mongolian Mask Dancing

Mongolian Mask Dancing

Mongolian Religious Mask Dancing playing cards, c.2010

Trinidad Carnival Playing Cards

Trinidad Carnival Playing Cards

“Allfours Carnival Playing Cards” designed by Gabby Woodham, Trinidad, 1995

Story Magazine

Story Magazine

Dutch singers, TV and theatre artist playing cards for “Story” magazine, 1978.

Fair Play cross cultural playing cards

Fair Play cross cultural playing cards

“Fair Play” cross cultural playing cards illustrated by Canadian artist Stephen B. MacInnes.

Cartas Precolombinas

Cartas Precolombinas

Spanish playing cards with Pre-Columbian designs from Argentina, 2001.

Eastern

Eastern

“Eastern” playing cards dedicated to ethnic Buryat culture, 2015

Ancient Civilisations

Ancient Civilisations

Ancient Civilisations playing cards designed by Celedonio Perellón, produced by Heraclio Fournier, 1973.

Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army

Each card has a different photo of elements of the terracotta army whose purpose was to protect the emperor Qin Shi Huang in his afterlife.

Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin

Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin

“Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin” collectible playing cards, made in China, c.2010.

DWYN

DWYN

Dwyn - a card game about Welsh history designed by Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio, 2006.

Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera

Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera

A very impressive deck of cards featuring 54 different images from “Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera” published by HCG Poker Productions, 2005

Ainu culture

Ainu culture

A terrific deck of cards made by Nintendo c.1979 with original designs on every card showing the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan.

Papyrus playing cards

Papyrus playing cards

Egyptian ‘Papyrus’ playing cards with beautiful illustrations against a papyrus background.

Apache cards by Tonto Naipero

Apache cards by Tonto Naipero

Apache rawhide playing cards by ‘Tonto Naipero’, c.1871.

Ojibwa Native Indian Cards

Ojibwa Native Indian Cards

Ojibwa Native Indian playing cards hand manufactured on birch bark in imitation of standard French / English cards, c.1875.

Apache Playing Cards

Apache Playing Cards

Apache Indian Playing Cards made on rawhide, first recorded 1875.

Maya

Maya

“Maya” playing cards designed by Russian artist V. M. Sveshnikov and first published by The Colour Printing Plant, St Petersburg, in 1975.

Mapuche Indian Playing Cards

Mapuche Indian Playing Cards

Spanish-suited playing cards made on rawhide and said to have been used by Chilean Mapuche Indians, XVI-XVII century

La Cumparsita Tango deck

La Cumparsita Tango deck

Tango playing cards manufactured in Argentina, 2001.

Girls’ Generation

Girls’ Generation

“Girls’ Generation” (Korean: 소녀시대; Sonyeo Shidae) is a nine-member South Korean pop girl group formed by S.M. Entertainment in 2007.

Maya Playing Cards

Maya Playing Cards

The designs of Mayan artists shown here give a general idea of their enormous artistic and cultural potential.

Mexican Poker

Mexican Poker

Mexican Poker cards made by Juegos y Fichas, S.A. de C.V., Mexico, 1991

Naipes Nacionales

Naipes Nacionales

Naipes Nacionales designed by Manuel Bayardi and published by Clemente Jacques y Cia, Mexico c.1940.

Guatemala

Guatemala

Playing Cards from Guatemala

Mayan Cards

Mayan Cards

Mayan Playing Cards from Guatemala / Baraja Maya / containing illustrations of archaeology, art, folklore, history and mythology of the Mayans.

Inka Culture

Inka Culture

Inka Culture playing cards, Peru, c.2000, promoting alpaca and cotton.

Calendario Inka

Calendario Inka

“Calendario Inka” playing cards published by Power Casinos, Lima, Peru, c.2004.

Baraja Cuauhtémoc

Baraja Cuauhtémoc

Baraja Cuauhtémoc published by Treviño Narro, Monterrey, Mexico Original artwork by P. X. Santaella featuring Aztec and other important pre-Columbian cultures.

Native Indian Hand-made Cards made on rawhide

Native Indian Hand-made Cards made on rawhide

Native Indian hand-made cards made on rawhide

El Ferrocarril

El Ferrocarril

Naipe El Ferrocarril made by La Cubana, S.A. (Fabrica de Naipes El Aguila), Mexico, c.1960

Playing Cards from Mexico

Playing Cards from Mexico

MEXICO shares a long tradition with Spain in the field of playing cards. The Estanco de Naipes (playing-card monopoly) was established in 1576.