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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.

West Flanders Souvenir

West Flanders Souvenir pack manufactured in Belgium by Mesmaekers, c.1950.

West Flanders Souvenir pack in the Belgian pattern manufactured by Mesmaekers, c.1950. The Mesmaekers company was taken over by Van Genechten in 1968. The “Little Joker” was subsequently adopted by Carta Mundi as their standard joker when Fabrique Brepols, Van Genechten and Léonard Biermans were in turn merged to become Carta Mundi in 1970.

West Flanders Souvenir pack manufactured in Belgium by Mesmaekers, c.1950 West Flanders Souvenir pack manufactured in Belgium by Mesmaekers, c.1950

Above: West Flanders Souvenir pack manufactured in Belgium by Mesmaekers, c.1950. 52 cards + 2 jokers + contract bridge score table in box.


Other advertising decks

Above: publicity deck for 'Barco' radios (French/Belgian) which was founded in 1934. Image courtesy Nic Davies.

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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

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.

Hand Drawn Joker Pack

Hand Drawn Joker Pack

Pack of 52 hand-drawn Jokers.

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.

Chinese Jokers

Chinese Jokers

Chinese playing card makers have probably produced the widest variety of jokers of any single part of the world.

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.

Baggy Clown Joker

Baggy Clown Joker

Evolution of American Bank Note Co's “Baggy Clown” Joker.

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.

The Blue Train (Bloutrein)

The Blue Train (Bloutrein)

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