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Published July 03, 1996 Updated April 17, 2024

Native Indian Hand-made Cards made on rawhide

Native Indian hand-made cards made on rawhide.

Argentina Chile Mexico Uruguay USA Amerindian Ethnic & Indigenous Rawhide Add to Collection

When supplies from Mexico or elsewhere were not available, Indian decks were manufactured on rawhide or horse skin in imitation of Spanish-suited ones. Usually they had 40 cards for playing the game ‘monte’ which was popular amongst the Indians, including the Araucanians of South America. Packs were probably also produced as tourist bait and sold to anthropologists and collectors.

Above: cards from an Apache Indian pack painted on rawhide and obtained from an officer in the United States army in 1869. [Cards reproduced in Tilley, 1973, page 72].

Above: North American Indian cards, cut out of hide and painted by themselves. [Cards in the National Museum, Washington, D.C., U.S.A. reproduced in Morley, 1989].

Native Indian Cards

painted by themselves

Above: cards painted on rawhide, believed to have been made by Mapuche Indians of Patagonia. [Cards in the collection of Museo de América, Madrid].

Above: cards painted on rawhide by Apache Indians.

I am indebted to Prof. Harold Wayland for his kind advice regarding the contents of this page. Click here to see more Apache cards.

See also: Las Cartas de Tacuabé


3 sets of Apache playing cards from the British Museum

Apache playing cards made of rawhide. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: a group of 39 playing cards made of rawhide (cow skin), each with a different design painted onto one side. © The Trustees of the British Museum • number Am1984,Q.11

pack of 40 Apache playing-cards made of skin (deer). © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: pack of 40 Apache playing-cards made of skin (deer). © The Trustees of the British Museum • number Am,+.5988

pack of 33 Apache playing-cards made of skin (deer). © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: pack of 33 Apache playing-cards made of skin (deer). © The Trustees of the British Museum • number Am,+.5989

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


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