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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.

Cia Chilena de Tabacos

Spanish style pack issued on behalf of the Cía Chilena de Tabacos, c.1932

Obsequio de Cia Chilena de Tabacos, c.1932

An Anglo-American style pack issued by Cía Chilena de Tabacos can be seen here. Cards courtesy of José Manuel Murcia Fernández

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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.

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IBM Linux One

IBM Linux One

IBM Linux One playing cards, c.2018.

Lion Coffee

Lion Coffee

Lion Coffee Mother Goose card game, late 19th C.

Portraits of a Lady

Portraits of a Lady

Portraits of a Lady by Lo Scarabeo, 2003.

Gas Warm Homes

Gas Warm Homes

Gas Warm Homes Happy Families game published by British Gas, c.1980.

Havermout Kwartetspel

Havermout Kwartetspel

“H-O Kwartetspel” children’s card game promoting quick cooking oatmeal (instant porridge), 1930s.

Werbung die Sticht

Werbung die Sticht

“Werbung die Sticht” deck with artwork by Fritz Bünzli to promote advertising on playing cards by AG Müller 1982.

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes, featuring Feliz and Bonzo, 1920s.

Dundas & Wilson Deal Winners

Dundas & Wilson Deal Winners

“Deal Winners” promotional pack for Dundas & Wilson law firm.

Happy Gas Families

Happy Gas Families

Happy Gas Families published by British Gas, c.1985.

My Goodness my Guinness

My Goodness my Guinness

Gilroy Special Edition Playing Cards to commemorate the centenary of the birth of John Gilroy, 1989.

Hamm’s Beer

Hamm’s Beer

Hamm’s Beer promotion deck with bear cartoons by Frank M. Antoncich 1968.

Nationale-Nederlanden

Nationale-Nederlanden

Nationale-Nederlanden insurance company, 1984.

Investors Overseas Services

Investors Overseas Services

Investors Overseas Services, Ltd. (IOS) by A. G. Müller (Schaffhausen), c.1969.

Gibbs Happy Families

Gibbs Happy Families

Gibbs Happy Families card game promotion, both full sized and miniature versions, c.1946.

Electric Snap

Electric Snap

Electric Snap by the South Wales Electricity Board, 1950s.

Playtex

Playtex

Playtex - le jeu de la beauté et du destin, Grimaud, 1971.

Jeu de Memoire

Jeu de Memoire

Jeu de Memoire card game promoting Véritable Chaumes cheese from the village of St Antoines in south west France.

Lever Brothers miniatures

Lever Brothers miniatures

Two miniature card games promoting Vim Scouring Powder and Sunshine Soap, 1930s.

Deutsche Nutzpflanzen

Deutsche Nutzpflanzen

Deutsche Nutzpflanzen - Quartett game promoting Kali brand crop fertilizer, 1938.

Cow & Gate ‘Snap’

Cow & Gate ‘Snap’

Cow & Gate ‘Snap’ featuring Cow & Gate Baby Milk Food, 1935.

Blue Brand Snap Up

Blue Brand Snap Up

Blue Brand Snap Up published by Van den Berghs probably late 1920s.

Mr Bok

Mr Bok

The Merry Game of Mr Bok and his Happy Families, promoting Bok furniture polish, 1930s.

Parkinson’s Happy Families

Parkinson’s Happy Families

Parkinson’s Happy Families published by Parkinson’s of Doncaster, confectioners established in the early nineteenth century.

Qantas

Qantas

Qantas Airways Limited is the flag carrier of Australia and is the world's third-oldest airline still in operation, having been founded in November 1920.

Capilettor

Capilettor

Capilettor cartoon playing cards published by VASS, Leinfelden, 1978.

Cefacidal

Cefacidal

“Cefacidal” / Mead Johnson medical humour advertising playing cards, c.1975.

Cigar Bands

Cigar Bands

A collection of 24 cigar bands with miniature playing cards.

Carousel Playing Cards

Carousel Playing Cards

Carousel Playing Cards commissioned by Tesco stores, 2019.

Chocolat du Planteur

Chocolat du Planteur

Chocolat du Planteur cards (reproduction) by French artist Louis Bourgeois-Borgex, c.1900.

Adverto

Adverto

Adverto card game published by Adverto Publishing Company of Stratford, London, c.1910.

Alphabetti Spaghetti

Alphabetti Spaghetti

Alphabetti Spaghetti Happy Families game for Crosse & Blackwell c.1978.

Piwiarnia Pub in Warsaw

Piwiarnia Pub in Warsaw

Advertising Deck for the Piwiarnia Pub in Warsaw.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! promotional playing cards, 1997.

Hendrick’s Gin

Hendrick’s Gin

Nice advertising deck for Hendrick’s Gin, c.2015.

67: Adverts and related material after 1900

67: Adverts and related material after 1900

The final page of material relating to playing cards from British periodicals.

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

Some further material relating to cards from nineteenth and twentieth century periodicals.

Guinness Posters

Guinness Posters

Classic Guinness Posters, 1999.

Hearts of London

Hearts of London

Hearts of London for British Heart Foundation 2009.

Kinney Transparent Cards

Kinney Transparent Cards

Kinney Bros Transparent playing cards with hidden images and fortunes, c.1890.

Davenol Cough Linctus

Davenol Cough Linctus

Davenol Cough Linctus Happy Families published by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.