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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.

Miniature Playing Cards

Crudely printed miniature children's packs produced anonymously in c.1920-30.

Anonymous Miniature Playing Cards in the Cadiz pattern

anonymous miniature or toy playing cards produced in Argentina, 1920s

Above: anonymous miniature or toy playing cards produced in Argentina, 48 cards printed in orange and yellow with blue outlines on cheap paper. There are no inscriptions on any card. The reverse has a brown/white random pattern. Size = 34 x 48 mms. Date unknown, c.1920s.


Anonymous Miniature Playing Cards, c.1935

A crudely printed children's miniature pack was produced anonymously. The designs of the cards follows those produced by Della Penna & Cía around 1930-40 and it may have been printed by Della Penna. The cards are so flimsy that the slightest breath of air can blow them away so they were hardly suitable for play. 32x49 mms.

Florencia Marotta of Buenos Aires comments: "Si bien es como decís, que los naipes tienen iguales dibujos a los de Della Penna, estoy casi segura que no fueron realizados por ellos ya que no hacían naipes miniatura. La calidad del papel es muy mala al igual que la impresión. Seguramente estos naipes fueron realizados en base a sus diseños y eran regalados a los niños cuando se iban de las fiestas de cumpleaños. Era y sigue siendo común, el hecho de regalar una bolsita a cada nene cuando se va de una fiesta infantil. En la bolsita se colocan juguetitos, cartitas, golosinas, etc y se entregan como cotillón. Casi seguro estos naipes tenían esta finalidad, por eso se los llama de cotillón o carnaval. Pero siempre la duda está en los naipes que no poseen ningún dato, eso es lo lindo y bueno de investigar y estudiarlos."

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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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