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The Art of Pin-Up decks

Feminine beauty has been appreciated since prehistory.

Feminine beauty has been appreciated since prehistory, so first of all let us visit the Prado Museum Art Gallery in Madrid and view some fine art paintings of women.

3 images from Tne Prado Museum, Madrid

Above: After the Bath (Female Nude) by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, c.1895. An intimate scene of daily toilette...  see more

Above: Venus with an Organist and Cupid, Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), c.1555. Contemplating the goddess’s nudity...  see more

Above: La Tirana by José Casado del Alisal, c.1875. Highly charged sensuality and eroticism...  see more

The rise of pin-up playing cards

During WWII, when men from the Navy and Armed Forces went abroad, there was a trend for images of girls dressing seductively for their men to ‘pin up’ and gaze at during months away from home. This gave way to a rise in popularity of the genre. Positively, they can be viewed as expressions of femininity and beauty. Conversely, others believe that the images corrupt social morality and subordinate women to objects, and are therefore distasteful.

The packs illustrated below cover a range of styles. Some show skill at depicting female sensuality, others lack subtlety or a more profound meaning. We invite you to judge for yourself.

‘Vargas Girls’ paintings by Alberto Vargas in a deck of cards published by Creative Playing Card Co Missouri.

Vargas Girls

Portraits of a Lady by Lo Scarabeo, 2003.

Portraits of a Lady

Celebrity Pin-up deck no.5513 by unknown publisher.

Pin-up deck no.5513

Classic 1940s Pulp Pin-Up covers on playing cards from China, c.2010.

Pulp Pin-Up

Römihártya pin-up deck from Hungary.

Römihártya

Baby Dolls pinup deck designed by Willy Mayrl, published by Piatnik, 1957.

Baby Dolls

Darling

Darling pin-up playing cards designed by Heinz Villiger, c.1950s-60s.

Darling

Pin-up Rummy Playing Cards, made in Hungary, c.1970.

Römihártya Játékkartyagyár

Bathing Beauties throughout the ages, published in Hungary, 1967.

Bathing Beauties

Tease Me

‘Tease Me’ 1960s glamour pack.

Tease Me

Military Pin Up

Military Pin Up created by Sviatoslay Pashchuk (Ukraine) 2019.

Military Pin Up

Hungarian pin-up deck illustrated by Imre Sebök, c.1960.

54 Pin-up Motivs

Chérie

Chérie No 7022 designed by Hans & Louise Neupert, nice vibrant artwork, swinging 60s

Chérie

Photographic playing cards - each face having an "art study" of a female nude, Mayall Press, Stockwell, London, c.1946.

Mayall Press Art Studies

Hollywood Stars

Hollywood Stars by Maple Leaf B.V., Amsterdam, 1957

Hollywood Stars

Stylish playing cards featuring the glamorous, superpowered female stars of the alternate reality world of DC Comics, published by 'Forbidden Planet', 2015

DC Comic Bombshells

“Olivia’s Lucky Ladies” glamour model playing cards produced by Ozone Productions Ltd, USA, 2004

Olivia’s Lucky Ladies

In 2010 Playboy Fragrances (Coty) released a 'gaming' set promotion comprising two decks of identical cards, one set of five dice and poker chips.

Playboy Fragrances, 2010

Pin-up deck given free with Paparazzi magazine, 2005

Paparazzi Pin-up Deck

Spanish-suited playing cards featuring the ‘Glorious’ ladies swimwear collection for 1995, designed by Estudio Fileni/Mendióroz.

Glorious Colección 1995

Tobacco insert cards were a very successful marketing innovation which started in the nineteenth century.

Hard-a-Port

Axe Deodorant

Clearly promoting good personal hygiene, each card shows a young, pouting female model posing seductively and appealing to the playboy.

Axe Deodorant
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    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.


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    1953 Vargas Girls

    Vargas Girls

    ‘Vargas Girls’ paintings by Alberto Vargas in a deck of cards published by Creative Playing Card Co Missouri.

    The Art of Pin-Up decks

    The Art of Pin-Up decks

    Feminine beauty has been appreciated since prehistory.

    2003 Portraits of a Lady

    Portraits of a Lady

    Portraits of a Lady by Lo Scarabeo, 2003.

    Pin-up deck no.5513

    Pin-up deck no.5513

    Celebrity Pin-up deck no.5513 by unknown publisher.

    Pulp Pin-Up

    Pulp Pin-Up

    Classic 1940s Pulp Pin-Up covers on playing cards from China, c.2010.

    Römihártya

    Römihártya

    Römihártya pin-up deck from Hungary.

    1983 Eroticartes

    Eroticartes

    Eroticartes with drawings by Pino Zac, 1983.

    1957 Baby Dolls

    Baby Dolls

    Baby Dolls pin-up deck designed by Willy Mayrl, published by Piatnik, 1957.

    1960 Darling

    Darling

    Darling pin-up playing cards designed by Heinz Villiger, c.1950s-60s.

    Römihártya Játékkartyagyár

    Römihártya Játékkartyagyár

    Pin-up Rummy Playing Cards, made in Hungary, c.1970.

    1967 Bathing Beauties

    Bathing Beauties

    Bathing Beauties throughout the ages, published in Hungary, 1967.

    1960 Tease Me

    Tease Me

    ‘Tease Me’ 1960s glamour pack.

    1960 54 Pin-up Motivs

    54 Pin-up Motivs

    Hungarian pin-up deck illustrated by Imre Sebök, c.1960.

    Amorous Translucent Playing Cards

    Amorous Translucent Playing Cards

    Amorous Translucent Playing Cards, French, c.1850.

    El Tripero

    El Tripero

    Hand-drawn semi-erotic, satirical playing cards by Lautaro Fiszman ‘El Tripero’, 2002.

    Translucent Playing Cards

    Translucent Playing Cards

    Translucent Playing Cards, 19th century French from the Biedermeier period

    1965 Chérie

    Chérie

    Chérie No 7022 designed by Hans & Louise Neupert, nice vibrant artwork, swinging 60s

    1946 Mayall Press Art Studies

    Mayall Press Art Studies

    Photographic playing cards - each face having an "art study" of a female nude, Mayall Press, Stockwell, London, c.1946.

    What the Butler Saw

    What the Butler Saw

    “What the Butler Saw” playing cards depicting tasteful photography of the female body.

    1850 Translucent Playing Cards

    Translucent Playing Cards

    Translucent Playing Cards made by an unknown maker, c.1850

    Hollywood Stars

    Hollywood Stars

    Hollywood Stars by Maple Leaf B.V., Amsterdam, 1957

    2015 DC Comic Bombshells

    DC Comic Bombshells

    Stylish playing cards featuring the glamorous, superpowered female stars of the alternate reality world of DC Comics, published by 'Forbidden Planet', 2015

    2004 Olivia’s Lucky Ladies

    Olivia’s Lucky Ladies

    “Olivia’s Lucky Ladies” glamour model playing cards produced by Ozone Productions Ltd, USA, 2004

    2010 Playboy Fragrances, 2010

    Playboy Fragrances, 2010

    In 2010 Playboy Fragrances (Coty) released a 'gaming' set promotion comprising two decks of identical cards, one set of five dice and poker chips.

    1980 Shapely

    Shapely

    “Shapely” non-standard adult playing cards manufactured by Angel Playing Cards Co., Japan, 1980

    Japanese Women

    Japanese Women

    Japanese Women playing cards in an idealised and erotic style by Keiichi Takasawa (1914-1984).

    Hafez Fortune Telling Cards

    Hafez Fortune Telling Cards

    Fortune Tellers use the Hafez Cards by interpreting the Hāfez poems printed on the card backs when cards are selected randomly by their consultants.

    Paparazzi Pin-up Deck

    Paparazzi Pin-up Deck

    Pin-up deck given free with Paparazzi magazine, 2005

    1995 Glorious Colección 1995

    Glorious Colección 1995

    Spanish-suited playing cards featuring the ‘Glorious’ ladies swimwear collection for 1995, designed by Estudio Fileni/Mendióroz.

    1890 Hard-a-Port

    Hard-a-Port

    Tobacco insert cards were a very successful marketing innovation which started in the nineteenth century.

    1954 Éditions Philibert

    Éditions Philibert

    Éditions Philibert published an outstanding series of exotic, artistic playing cards in Paris from 1954 to 1960

    1956 Le Florentin

    Le Florentin

    Éditions Philibert published playing cards in Paris from 1954 to 1960 including Le Florentin in Renaissance style.

    1960 Mémoires de Casanova

    Mémoires de Casanova

    Mémoires de Casanova artistic and lightly risqué playing cards with paintings by Paul-Émile Bécat, published by Éditions Philibert, Paris, c.1960.

    Axe Deodorant

    Axe Deodorant

    Clearly promoting good personal hygiene, each card shows a young, pouting female model posing seductively and appealing to the playboy.

    Translucent Erotic Playing Cards, page 2

    Translucent Erotic Playing Cards, page 2

    Translucent Erotic Playing Cards, page 2

    Translucent Playing Cards, c.1850

    Translucent Playing Cards, c.1850

    Cards from a translucent pack. Erotic images are concealed in the middle layer of the card and become visible when held up to a light.