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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.

Argentine Political Cards

Political Playing Cards, Buenos Aires, 1890.

Political Playing Cards, Buenos Aires, 1890

Above: cards from a political pack produced in Buenos Aires in 1890, satirizing political issues of the day. 48 cards, uncoloured, 94 x 61 mms. Images courtesy Enrique García Martín.

political caricatures pack published in Buenos Aires by Pérez in 1906

Above: eight cards from a political caricatures pack published by Pérez in 1906, depicting politicians of the day on the court cards and inside the suit symbols. The cards appear in the magazine "Caras y Caretas" No.394, Buenos Aires, 21 April 1906 but unfortunately it is not made clear whether the pack was ever published separately.

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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.

Recommended

Panko

Panko

Panko (Votes for Women) suffragette card game published by Peter Gurney Ltd, c.1912.

Pato Donald

Pato Donald

Donald Duck card game © Walt Disney Productions, by Naipes Fournier, 1984.

Werbung die Sticht

Werbung die Sticht

“Werbung die Sticht” deck with artwork by Fritz Bünzli to promote advertising on playing cards by AG Müller 1982.

Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget

The Adventures of Inspector Gadget quartet game published by Fournier in 1983.

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes, featuring Feliz and Bonzo, 1920s.

Christmas Playing Cards

Christmas Playing Cards

Christmas Playing Cards published by Novelty Playing Cards, Syracuse, New York, 1986.

Loriot Rummy

Loriot Rummy

Delightful comical deck designed by Loriot, the German cartoonist and comedian, 1973.

Hamm’s Beer

Hamm’s Beer

Hamm’s Beer promotion deck with bear cartoons by Frank M. Antoncich 1968.

Victory

Victory

“Victory" cards celebrating U.S. participation in the Allied victory, c.1945.

Biff! Bang!! Wallop!!!

Biff! Bang!! Wallop!!!

Biff! Bang!! Wallop!!! family card game published by H.P. Gibson & Sons Ltd, 1939.

Capilettor

Capilettor

Capilettor cartoon playing cards published by VASS, Leinfelden, 1978.

Woman’s Hour

Woman’s Hour

The Woman’s Hour playing cards published by David Westnedge, 1996.

Flintstones Happy Families

Flintstones Happy Families

Flintstones Happy Families by J. W. Spear and Sons, c.1960.

Atouts de la Vie

Atouts de la Vie

“Atouts de la Vie” wartime card game created by Madame Lucien Willemetz, c.1940.

Happy Families

Happy Families

Happy Families by Norvic Mill, c.1920s.

Shuffled Symphonies

Shuffled Symphonies

Shuffled Symphonies published by Pepys Games in association with Walt Disney, 1939.

Naipes Parliament por Caloi

Naipes Parliament por Caloi

Carlos Loiseau, better known as ‘Caloi’, was a cartoonist whose designs for Parliament Cigarettes were first published in the early 1970s.

World Leaders Snap

World Leaders Snap

World Leaders Snap published around WW2, c.1940.

Mickey’s Fun Fair

Mickey’s Fun Fair

Mickey’s Fun Fair published by Pepys Games in collaboration with Walt Disney, 1939.

Gulliver’s Travels

Gulliver’s Travels

Gulliver’s Travels by Pepys Games, based on the cartoon film, 1940.

Mordillo Skat

Mordillo Skat

Mordillo Skat designed by Guillermo Mordillo, c.1979

Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II

Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II

“Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II” facsimile of French Revolution deck originally published by J. B. Debeine (Reims) 1793.

Naked Truth

Naked Truth

“Naked Truth” Playing Politics with caricatures by Jason Pratt, 1997

Jungle Parties

Jungle Parties

“Jungle Parties” or “Playing Politics '87” designed & drawn by Patrick Cuenot.

Boerenbond Veevoeders

Boerenbond Veevoeders

Promotional deck designed by Ray Goossens for the Boerenbond farmers’ union, c.1968.

Löwen Entertainment

Löwen Entertainment

Skat deck for Löwen Entertainment, producers of electronic gaming machines, 1986

Geprüfte Sicherheit

Geprüfte Sicherheit

Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Accident Research, 1978

Butagaz

Butagaz

“Butagaz” playing cards for the French gas company, c.1976

Michelin Tyres, c.1970

Michelin Tyres, c.1970

Michelin Tyres by Waddingtons, c.1970.

Churchill in WW2

Churchill in WW2

Churchill ‘Walking with Destiny’ playing cards published by the Imperial War Museum.

Micky Mau~Mau

Micky Mau~Mau

Micky Mau~Mau by F. X. Schmid, 1978.

Farmyard Cries

Farmyard Cries

Farmyard Cries card game, designed by Racey Helps and published by Pepys Games, 1952.

Naipes Garaycochea

Naipes Garaycochea

Humorous playing cards designed by Carlos Garaycochea, Buenos Aires, c.2002.

Anti-Fascist Propaganda Pack for the Siege of Leningrad, 1943

Anti-Fascist Propaganda Pack for the Siege of Leningrad, 1943

In 1943 a pack of ‘anti-fascist’ playing cards was designed by Vasiliy Andrianovich Vlasov mocking the rulers of Germany and the Axis powers.

Carel de Wagenaer

Carel de Wagenaer

Facsimile edition of cards first published by Carel de Wagenaer, Amsterdam in c.1698

Playing Politics

Playing Politics

“Playing Politics” or “Cabinet Shuffle” specially commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983

Mundialito de Radiolandia 2000

Mundialito de Radiolandia 2000

‘Mundialito’ toy football playing cards published inside the magazine ‘Radiolandia 2000’, Argentina, 1978.

Deakin’s 3rd edition

Deakin’s 3rd edition

Deakin’s Political Playing Cards 3rd edition, c.1888.

Fred Basset

Fred Basset

Fred Basset card game published by Pepys in 1977 based on the cartoon strip by Alex Graham.

Astérix

Astérix

Cartes à Jouer ‘Astérix’ published by Ducale, 1987.