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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.

Fours of Cups

Over the years the company evolved, and changes in the company's name and address can be seen reflected in the information printed on the four of cups.

Justo Rodero e Hijos

Fours of Cups showing the changes in the company name, address and logo.

Above: over the years the company evolved, and changes in the company's name and address can be seen reflected in the information printed on the four of cups. The random numbers printed on the lower part of the fours of cups are manufacturer's control numbers and their exact meaning is unknown, but may be related to accounting of the inland revenue tax. It can be noted from the above examples that those cards without the internal revenue tax stamp do not have any control numbers.

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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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72: The Ace of Spades

72: The Ace of Spades

In standard English packs the Ace of Spades is associated with decorative designs. This is a historical survey of why this should be.

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

Some further material relating to cards from nineteenth and twentieth century periodicals.

Australian Excise Duty

Australian Excise Duty

Excise Duty was introduced on Australian playing cards in 1932

Taxation on Spanish Playing Cards

Taxation on Spanish Playing Cards

Taxation on Spanish Playing Cards.

Impuestos Internos Sobre Naipes

Impuestos Internos Sobre Naipes

Duty was first introduced on playing cards in Argentina in 1892, as part of the Internal Duties law, and in 1896 the first duty labels were printed to be used on packets of 1 gross packs.

Argentina Tax Stamps on playing cards 1895-1968

Argentina Tax Stamps on playing cards 1895-1968

Argentina Tax Stamps on playing cards 1895-1968

Impuesto de Timbre para Naipes

Impuesto de Timbre para Naipes

EL CONGRESO DE COLOMBIA. LEY 69 DE 1946, por la cual se elevan las tarifas de algunos impuestos indirectos y se dictan otras disposiciones.

Estanco de Naipes del Perú

Estanco de Naipes del Perú

In October 1888 the Republic of Peru Congress passed Law no.26 establishing taxes on playing cards, whether imported or locally produced, according to the quality of the cards.

Uruguay playing card tax

Uruguay playing card tax

In 1806 the Council of Concepción del Uruguay imposed an 8 Peso tax on card and billiard tables on account of “the detrimental effect on poor and innocent people”