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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.

Naypes Finos made in Belgium

Belgian manufacturers were competing against Spanish makers. Features of the traditional Spanish designs, including many well-known brands, were imitated or plagiarised.

Belgian manufacturers during the 19th century, along with those from USA and France, were competing against Spanish makers in Spanish-speaking markets such as South America. Features of the traditional Spanish designs, including many well-known brands, imagery and logos, were imitated or plagiarised. Often they were anonymous so as to avoid importation duties in the destination country. It is surprising how many of these Belgian-made decks have survived to the present day in unused condition, often complete with their original wrappers. This leads us to suspect that many consignments of packs never reached their intended destinations, either because they were confiscated or withheld in customs warehouses, or were superseded by newer models, or else they were never shipped in the first place. Overproduction may also have been due to optimism and contracts going wrong. However, the large majority of packs, presumably, were sold and played with.

Mesmaekers Spanish-suited cards, c.1875

Above: Spanish Catalan-style playing cards made by Mesmaekers, c.1875. Woodblock and stencil printing. The reverse has a purple marbled effect.   more →

Spanish-suited cards for Cerveza El Gallo, c.1880

Above: Anonymous Spanish Catalan-style playing cards made for export to the River Plate region, c.1875-85. Woodblock and brightly-coloured stencil printing. The reverse has advertising for Cerveza El Gallo which was exported to Uruguay and Argentina.   more →

Anonymous Spanish-suited playing cards, c.1875

Above: cards from anonymous Spanish-suited pack, made in Belgium c.1875. The cards are of a cheap grade and stencil-coloured. The lion motif on the ace of coins is a common feature on Spanish packs from this era. Also the basket of flowers is often seen on Belgian-made Spanish-suited cards.   more →

A Todos Alumbra Spanish-suited playing cards, c.1880

Above: cards from "A Todos Alumbra" Spanish-suited pack, made in Belgium by Léonard Biermans c.1880.   more →

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Above: 4 cards from a Spanish style pack made by Antoon Van Genechten, Turnhout, 1877. The attentive Belgian manufacturers exported large quantities of cards to Spain and South America. Van Genechten, for example, was producing 'Cartes Espagnoles' in packs of 40 or 48 cards, in various grades, since the 1850s and in c.1860 made a special pack for Escalada y Vidiella of Montevideo (Uruguay).

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Above: cards from a Spanish style pack made by Van Genechten, Turnhout, c.1920.   more →

Imitation Spanish packs are also known from El Salvador.

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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

Wüst Spanish pattern

Wüst Spanish pattern

Wüst Spanish pattern c.1910 advertising Cuban ‘Tropical’ beer.

Hermanos Solesi

Hermanos Solesi

“Money Bag” pattern by Hermanos Solesi, late 18th c.

Kem ‘Spanish’ playing cards

Kem ‘Spanish’ playing cards

Kem ‘Spanish’ playing cards appear to depict Spanish conquistadors © 1994.

Cádiz Pattern playing cards

Cádiz Pattern playing cards

Cádiz Pattern playing cards

Naipes ‘El Leon’ 1897

Naipes ‘El Leon’ 1897

Naipes ‘El Leon’ manufactured by Federico Hidalgo (Barcelona, 1897-1899).

Naipes ‘La Criolla’ by Anabella Corsi

Naipes ‘La Criolla’ by Anabella Corsi

Inspired by an archaic Spanish pattern formerly used in Spain during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Naipes Artiguistas, 1816

Naipes Artiguistas, 1816

Naipes Artiguistas published in Concepción del Uruguay, Entre Rios province (Argentina) in 1816, by Fray Solano García.

Anon Spanish Cards c.1875

Anon Spanish Cards c.1875

Spanish-suited playing cards made in Belgium by Léonard Biermans, c.1875.

Canary Islands Souvenir

Canary Islands Souvenir

Canary Islands Souvenir by Heraclio Fournier, c.1970.

Martínez de León

Martínez de León

Bull-fighters pack published by Hijos de Heraclio Fournier, Vitoria (Spain) with artwork by Andrés Martínez de León, 1951.

Naipes Españoles “El Mexicano”

Naipes Españoles “El Mexicano”

Standard Catalan-type deck, titled "El Mexicano", by an anonymous Argentinean manufacturer, c.1980s.

Foto Joker

Foto Joker

'Foto Joker' Spanish playing cards for Matera Color Laboratory, 2008.

El Jokey by Piatnik, 1990s

El Jokey by Piatnik, 1990s

‘El Jokey’ Spanish-suited pack by Piatnik & Sons, Vienna, 1990s

Xilografías de Mallorca

Xilografías de Mallorca

Spanish National pattern re-printed from original woodblocks which are preserved in the monastery at Valdemosa, Mallorca, c.1960.

Philishave

Philishave

Spanish-suited advertising deck for Philishave electric razors.

Baraja Canaria

Baraja Canaria

‘La Auténtica Baraja Canaria’ was published in 1995 by Justo Pérez as an expression of the history and character of the Canary Islands.

Jaime Margarit - Recreo Infantil

Jaime Margarit - Recreo Infantil

'Recreo Infantil' children's educational cards published by Jaime Margarit, Palamós (Gerona) c.1888.

Benoist Laius

Benoist Laius

Spanish playing cards such as these were used in those parts of France where certain games were enjoyed, such as Aluette.

Baraja Edad Media

Baraja Edad Media

Baraja Edad Media, fantasy Spanish-suited medieval playing cards published Mas-Reynals, Barcelona, 1993. Designed by M. Malé and illustrated by V. Maza.

La Española Classic

La Española Classic

‘La Española Classic’ is a traditional ‘La Española’ Spanish-suited pack and is produced in several sizes (standard, round, small and pocket).

Joan Barbot

Joan Barbot

Joan Barbot, San Sebastian c.1765-1810.

Taxation on Spanish Playing Cards

Taxation on Spanish Playing Cards

Taxation on Spanish Playing Cards.

Navarra, XVII Century

Navarra, XVII Century

Facsimile of 17th century Spanish-suited playing cards produced by Erregeak, Sormen S.A., Vitoria-Gasteiz (Alava), Spain, 1988.

Cartes Catalanes

Cartes Catalanes

Cartes Catalanes are used in a small area in the Eastern Pyrenées region of Southern France.

Copag Baralho Espanhol

Copag Baralho Espanhol

Copag Baralho Espanhol / Naipes Español.

Anonymous

Anonymous

Anonymous Moroccan Playing Cards for Royal Air Maroc airlines and others...

Chaudsoleil Wine

Chaudsoleil Wine

Chaudsoleil Red Wine advertising playing cards from Morocco.

Dengue

Dengue

Dengue prevention playing cards. Juego de 40 Naipes. Material para la prevención del Dengue, Ministerio de Salud de la Nación (Argentina).

Baraja Digital

Baraja Digital

Baraja Digital by Naipes De La Cigüeña, 1990.

Agostino Bergallo

Agostino Bergallo

Agostino Bergallo Spanish pattern made for South American countries

Giuseppe Cattino

Giuseppe Cattino

Playing cards manufactured in Italy by Giuseppe Cattino and Paolo Montanar for Spanish markets.

Naipes del Salitre

Naipes del Salitre

Playing cards recovered from the Northern Chile saltpetre workers. The cards are mostly from Spanish 'Cadiz' pattern decks, and several manufacturers can be identified.

Pedro Bosio

Pedro Bosio

Cards of the Spanish National Pattern 'Money Bag' type manufactured by Pedro Bosio, Genova (Italy) probably during the 18th century and for export to Spain or South America.

Maciá Pattern

Maciá Pattern

Maciá Pattern

Naipes ‘Baccarat’

Naipes ‘Baccarat’

An example of the typical version of the Spanish Catalan pattern which is widely used in South American countries, especially Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

S. Giráldez, Barcelona

S. Giráldez, Barcelona

Standard Spanish Catalan pattern playing cards by S. Giráldez, Barcelona, c.1905.

Baraja de Amor

Baraja de Amor

Hijos de José Garcia Taboadela was a book-seller who also published this charming pack of lovers' fortune telling cards in 1871.

José Gombau, c.1833

José Gombau, c.1833

Deck of half-sized [58 x 35 mms] Spanish-suited playing cards in the Maciá pattern produced by José Gombau, c.1833.

A Todos Alumbra

A Todos Alumbra

40-card "A Todos Alumbra - Naypes Refinos" pack manufactured by Léonard Biermans, Turnhout, c.1880.

Playing Cards in Cuba

Playing Cards in Cuba

During the colonial years and afterwards, Spanish-suited packs were imported into Cuba.