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.

Canadian National Railways

Canadian National Railways souvenir deck, dated to 1927. Every card is gilt edged, and carries a different photograph of Canada.

Canadian National Railways souvenir deck, dated to 1927. Every card is gilt edged, and carries a different photograph of Canada. Canadian souvenir decks had often been made in England by Goodall, but later issues were made in Canada or USA. This example with oval monochrome photographs with no outlines, and with curved captions beneath each photo, does not state a manufacturer’s name.

Canadian National Railways souvenir deck, dated to 1927

Above: The deck comes inside a leather case with metal clips. With gilt edges and photographs this would not have been a cheap deck! The National Railways logo changed to a rectangular shape in 1927 (so the deck is likely to be no later than 1927). The contract bridge score card included in the pack carries the date 1927, so the deck is no earlier than 1927.

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By Matt Probert

Member since March 02, 2012

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I have adored playing cards since before I was seven years old, and was brought up on packs of Waddington's No 1. As a child I was fascinated by the pictures of the court cards.

Over the next fifty years I was seduced by the artwork in Piatnik's packs and became a collector of playing cards.

Seeking more information about various unidentified packs I discovered the World of Playing Cards website and became an enthusiastic contributor researching and documenting different packs of cards.

I describe my self as a playing card archaeologist, using detective work to identify and date obscure packs of cards discovered in old houses, flea markets and car boot sales.

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Ethiopian

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Sapra Studio Original

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Brazil Pictorial Aces

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

El Al Airlines

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Stationskwartetspel

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Railway Stations quartet game illustrated by Wim Dolk and published by Servex BV, Utrecht, 1975.

Dynastie Royale de Belgique

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Dynastie Royale de Belgique by Mesmaekers, 1934.

French Revolution

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Lobo

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Lobo, the London Underground card game published by Thomas De la Rue & Co Ltd, 1930s.

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New Zealand Souvenir

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Ocean to Ocean Canada Souvenir

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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.

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Folklore No.169

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Greek Mythology

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Columbian Exposition Souvenir

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

Lakeland

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Venezuela Baraja Turística

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Papua New Guinea

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

Provinces de France

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Nepal Souvenir

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Altenburger Bauerntrachten

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Deutsche Reichsbahn

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Deutsche Reichsbahn (German Railways) deck designed by Peter Becker, 1989

Royal Pavilion at Brighton

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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.

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Scottish Picture Playing Cards

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Scottish Picture Playing Cards featuring photographs by Colin Baxter, 1987

East African Playing Cards

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

The Summer Palace

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