The World of Playing Cards Logo

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.

Brazil Pictorial Aces

Genoese pattern with Pictorial Aces for Brazil by Brepols, Turnhout, c.1920.

Genoese pattern (Cartes Françaises) with Pictorial Aces for Brazil by Fabriques Brepols, Turnhout. These are pretty old but exact date unknown. The pictorial Aces are Brazilian locations near to Rio I believe. The back has a criss-cross pattern. During the late 19th century there was a trend for playing cards with exotic scenes on the Aces which continued well into the 20th century. Whilst business was difficult after the First World War, advertising packs were gradually increasing and Belgian manufacturers successfully exported wares such as “Cartes Portugaises ou Brésiliennes” to foreign markets, ultimately bringing the demise of the earlier Portuguese pattern which has now become extinct.

Genoese pattern with Pictorial Aces for Brazil by Brepols, Turnhout, c.1920

Above: Genoese pattern with artistically designed pictorial aces for Brazil by Brepols, Turnhout, c.1920.


A slightly later version

Genoese pattern with Pictorial Aces for Brazil by Brepols, Turnhout, c.1930

Above: Genoese pattern with Pictorial Aces for Brazil by Brepols, Turnhout, c.1930.

avatar

By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

View Articles

Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.

Recommended

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.

Myriorama

Myriorama

Myriorama of Italian scenery, 1824.

Polska

Polska

Polska with artwork by Katarzyna Tomala & Krzysztof Korzeniak, 2011.

Ethiopian

Ethiopian

Ethiopian playing cards designed for the Ethiopian Tourist Organization by Afewerk Teklé.

Sapra Studio Original

Sapra Studio Original

Sapra Studio Original playing cards featuring wild animals of S Africa, 1999.

Brazil Pictorial Aces

Brazil Pictorial Aces

Genoese pattern with Pictorial Aces for Brazil by Brepols, Turnhout, c.1920.

El Al Airlines

El Al Airlines

El Al Airlines deck designed by Jean David, Israel, c.1970.

Dynastie Royale de Belgique

Dynastie Royale de Belgique

Dynastie Royale de Belgique by Mesmaekers, 1934.

French Revolution

French Revolution

Bicentenaire de la Révolution Française 1789–1989 created by Christian Offroy.

Souvenir from Zakynthos

Souvenir from Zakynthos

Souvenir from Zakynthos by Euro Card.

Souvenir of Norway

Souvenir of Norway

Souvenir of Norway deck.

Views of New Zealand

Views of New Zealand

Views of New Zealand published by G.B.Scott Souvenirs, Auckland, c.1960.

New Zealand Souvenir

New Zealand Souvenir

Souvenir from New Zealand by Croxley (John Dickinson) c.1950.

Ocean to Ocean Canada Souvenir

Ocean to Ocean Canada Souvenir

“Ocean to Ocean” Canadian Pictorial Souvenir pack by Chas Goodall & Son Ltd, c.1912.

Ocean to Ocean Souvenir of Canada, c.1905

Ocean to Ocean Souvenir of Canada, c.1905

Ocean to Ocean Souvenir of Canada by Chas Goodall & Son Ltd, c.1905.

Red Sea

Red Sea

Red Sea fish identification cards published in several languages by Horus of Egypt, 2005.

Folklore No.169

Folklore No.169

Austrian Folklore deck first published by Piatnik in 1934.

Baraja Turística de España

Baraja Turística de España

Baraja Turística de España by Heraclio Fournier, 1966.

Discover Romania

Discover Romania

Discover Romania souvenir published by Editura Foton, 2010.

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Gold plated souvenir playing cards from the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel in Dubai.

Romania Unique Places

Romania Unique Places

Romania Unique Places souvenir playing cards by Age Art.

Erlenmeyer City Sights

Erlenmeyer City Sights

Erlenmeyer City Sights hand-illustrated playing cards by Stephanie Gray, 2015.

Greek Mythology

Greek Mythology

Greek Mythology playing cards published by Michalis Toubis S.A., 1995.

Columbian Exposition Souvenir

Columbian Exposition Souvenir

Columbian Exposition Souvenir playing cards, G.W. Clark, Chicago, 1893.

Lakeland

Lakeland

Lakeland playing cards by Stuart Lawrence depicting famous characters & views of England’s Lake District, c.1988.

Venezuela Baraja Turística

Venezuela Baraja Turística

Venezuela Souvenir deck by Heraclio Fournier, c.1980s.

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Souvenir playing cards from the culturally diverse southwestern Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.

Provinces de France

Provinces de France

Jeu des Provinces de France published by Éditions Dusserre, 1979.

Nepal Souvenir

Nepal Souvenir

Souvenir from Nepal marketed by Himalayan Map House

Sorrento Napoletane

Sorrento Napoletane

Souvenir of Sorrento by Carte Da Gioco Muoio, Naples, c.2010

Trinidad Carnival Playing Cards

Trinidad Carnival Playing Cards

“Allfours Carnival Playing Cards” designed by Gabby Woodham, Trinidad, 1995

Maldives Scenery

Maldives Scenery

Maldives Scenery By Bamboo Souvenirs.

Altenburger Bauerntrachten

Altenburger Bauerntrachten

“Altenburger Bauerntrachten” commemorating 150 years of playing cards from Altenburg, designed by Andreas Wachter, 1982.

Royal Pavilion at Brighton

Royal Pavilion at Brighton

The Royal Pavilion, also known as the Brighton Pavilion, is an Asian-style palace built for King George IV when he was Prince of Wales.

Menorca Souvenir by Savir S.A.

Menorca Souvenir by Savir S.A.

Menorca Souvenir by Savir S.A., Barcelona, c.1980.

Scottish Picture Playing Cards

Scottish Picture Playing Cards

Scottish Picture Playing Cards featuring photographs by Colin Baxter, 1987

East African Playing Cards

East African Playing Cards

East African Playing Cards by Heraclio Fournier S.A., 1957.

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace, Beijing, China, c.1998.

Biermans Genoese pattern

Biermans Genoese pattern

Biermans Genoese pattern for Clayson agricultural machinery, late 1960s.

The Blue Train (Bloutrein)

The Blue Train (Bloutrein)

“The Blue Train” playing cards from the luxury train service in South Africa.