Belgian Playing Cards

Belgian cardmakers have been actively designing and exporting playing cards since the 14th century. Some of the earliest documentary evidence about playing cards in Europe emanates from Belgium: accounts for money spent on playing cards; money lost whilst playing at cards, etc.

Playing cards became the most spectacular offshoot of the Turnhout printing industry. Since the nineteenth century the principal card makers in Turnhout are: Brepols (1826-1970), Van Genechten (1856-1970), Glénisson (1837-99), Mesmaekers (1859-1968), Biermans (1875-1970), La Turnhoutoise (1881-1960) and Carta Mundi (1970-present).

The different manufacturers tended to offer a similar range of cards. Some of the most common or ‘standard’ patterns associated with Belgian cardmakers are the following:

During the nineteenth century Belgian manufacturers produced “Chinese” cards for export to South-East Asian countries including Java, Sumatra, the Celebes, Thailand and possibly China as well.

See also: Daveluy, Bruges (active 1835-1895)Brepols & Dierckx 'Bongoût' with Scenic Aces for Brasil, c.1885Jeu de Cartes Estétique Nº1World War I Commemorative, 1919Biermans Scenic Aces for Brasil, c.1920A Todos Alumbra, c.1920Dilkhus, 1922Philips Arlita, 1925Brepols Scenic Aces for Brasil, c.1930L'Union Fait la Force, 1945Renée Sturbelle, 1947Low-VisionBrussels Euro Joker Club 1998SupermanCarta Mundi Trumps Car SeriesCarta Mundi Dutch patternCarta Mundi Spanish patternP&O European ShippingP&O Stena ShippingFake Blanchard duty Ace of Spades.

In 1983 the Nationaal Museum van de Speelkaart was established in Turnhout. Their website is in Dutch, but some nice pictures can be seen here.

After almost 200 years Turnhout is still a world centre for playing card production and Carta Mundi - a symbolic name indeed! - takes care that Turnhout playing cards will always "turn up trumps"...

Cartamundi has its head offices in Turnhout, Belgium and factories in Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, the United States, Brazil and Mexico, and wholly-owned sales offices in the Netherlands, France, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Chile and Singapore. The group had a turnover of €142 million in 2007, and employs more than 1,000 people.

In its technical presentation and the aesthetic aspect imparted to it, a playing card remains a faithful reflection of the period which produced it.

Above: double-ended provincial variant of the 'Paris' pattern which had spread to the Low Countries from Northern France, manufactured in Belgium, woodblock & stencil printing technology, c.1780-1810.

assorted Belgian playing cards, 19th century

Above: assorted Belgian playing cards, 19th century: a) English style by Mesmaekers,   b) Daveluy, 1870,   c) Spanish-suited card,   4) Brepols & Dierckx & Son, c.1865.

Above: assorted playing card back designs, 20th century, by Biermans  see more →

Belgian pattern manufactured by Brepols for De Beukelaer’s Biscuits, c.1950

Above: Belgian pattern manufactured by Brepols for De Beukelaer’s Biscuits, c.1950.

BG Bouw Dutch Building Company publicity deck manufactured by Carta Mundi, c.1980

Above: BG Bouw Dutch Building Company publicity deck manufactured by Carta Mundi, c.1980.

“Noord Brabant” deck designed by Han Janssen and printed by Carta Mundi in 1992


Autenboer, Dr Eugeen van: The Turnhout Playing Card Industry 1826-1976, Aurelia Books, Brussels 1976

Carta Mundi website (includes a history section).

Card Players by Theodoor Rombouts

Above: detail from Card Players by Flemish painter Theodoor Rombouts, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Belgian beer labels

Connotations of playing cards and jokers from Belgian brewery.

We are born and all live in Turnhout. Turnhout is the playing card city of Belgium. We have the national playing card museum and of course the worldwide leader of playing card production, CartaMundi. So it was logical for us to work with playing card names for our beers. Het Nest Brouwerij

Beer labels, Het Nest Brouwerij, 2021

Above: playing card-themed beer labels, Het Nest Brouwerij, Turnhout, 2021. Turnhout is, of course, the city of playing cards.

Last Updated June 16, 2021 at 02:06pm


back to top