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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.

Chilean Playing Cards

Naipes Chilenos ~ Early Chilean playing cards were based upon Spanish models.

Naipes Condor, Chile

Above: 'Naipes Condor' with Chilean symbolism, c.1970.   More →

Mapuche Indian Playing Cards

Above: Mapuche Indian Playing Cards.

playing-card wrapper made in Belgium by Glénisson

Above: playing-card wrapper made in Belgium by Glénisson for export to Chile.

Chilean Playing Cards
Naipes Chilenos

Early Chilean playing cards were based upon Spanish models imported directly from Spain or else, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from Italy  (see more →). The Chilean printer Gandarillas emigrated to Argentina and in 1815 produced cards there based upon the Spanish National pattern. It is not known whether he published more cards on his return to Chile in 1817. Likewise the Italo-Chilean printer Quercia y Possi also set up business in Buenos Aires in 1815, producing a pack based on newer Spanish designs of the day.

Right: playing-card wrapper made in Belgium by Glénisson for export to Chile.

Some Spanish-suited playing cards made on rawhide and used by Chilean Mapuche Indians can be seen in the Museo de América in Madrid. Some interesting playing cards hand-made by Patagonian Indians during the nineteenth century are preserved in the Museo de Santiago. The Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino website mentions playing cards manufactured by Tehuelche indians from guanaco hide, which were called ‘berrica’ or ‘birk’... “Así mismo destaca el juego de naipes, al que llamaron berrica o birk, asimilado del contacto con los barcos de paso o por la movilidad que les otorgó el caballo. Manejaron tanto la baraja española como la inglesa, pero especialmente la adornada con sus propios motivos. Las hacían con cuero de guanaco, de un tamaño de unos 8 x 5 centímetros.”   More →

During the late nineteenth century Belgian playing cards were exported to South America (including Chile) by Glénisson, Van Genechten, Brepols & Dierckx and others. Playing cards recovered from the saltpetre workers from Northern Chile include a number of decks imported from Italy and Spain.   See images →

During the 1930s the Cía Chilena de Tabacos issued Spanish-suited and Anglo-American style packs. Local manufacturers and distributors such as Santiago Ruiz y Cía, Naipes Mapocho, Imprenta y Litografía Universo S.A (Sonia and Siluv), Hugo Castro and Taller Fotolitográfico have produced packs based upon Spanish models, such as the Cadiz pattern, Fournier's 'Castilian' design or a South American version of the Spanish Catalan pattern also found in Argentina and Uruguay. Several other advertising packs have been seen, such as for Mamiña Mineral Water and Ibici stockings and many are now produced in China.

Click the images below to see more

Naipes Mapocho, Santiago, c1930 Naipes Siluv, 1931 Naipes Sonia, 1931 Cia Chilena de Tabacos, 1932 Hugo Castro Taller Fotolitográfico, 2000 Naipe Infantil, 2000





Hugo Castro



A playing-card tax band is shown below, and several of these were wrapped around the boxes of packs to make up the required amount of duty. Further details of dates and tax amounts are not currently available.

tax bands fajas de impuesto

Left: tax band from Chilean playing cards, which was wrapped around the box as shown in the example below.  See also Peter Endebrock's Taxes and Tax Stamps on Playing-cards

Naipes Rocambor
Naipes Español Copihue Spanish-suited playing cards made by Copag, Brazil

Above: box and four cards from “Naipes Español Copihue” 40-card Spanish-suited deck with a colour photograph of Chilean Huasos dancing on the box, probably for the Chilean market made by Cia Paulista de Papéis e Artes Gráficas, Rua Piratininga 169, São Paulo. All the inscriptions are in Spanish and the Copihue is the national flower of Chile. (Click to zoom).

See alsoPedro Bossio, Estanquero

La plaza más popular de Valparaíso

Jugadores de naipes en la plaza O'Higgins, en Valparaíso (Chile). J. Amnéstica

Above: Jugadores de naipes en la plaza O'Higgins, en Valparaíso (Chile). J. Amnéstica.

Partidas de naipes y cabaré al aire libre en O’Higgins, un rincón auténtico del puerto de la ciudad chilena... más


By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.