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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.

Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera

A very impressive deck of cards featuring 54 different images from “Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera” published by HCG Poker Productions, 2005

A very impressive deck of cards featuring 54 different images from “Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera” published by HCG Poker Productions, 2005. One in a series of packs of playing cards portraying Chinese history and cultural treasures, these cards show the Chinese Peking Opera with its rich repertoire, beautiful singing, superb martial arts skills, wonderful makeup and brightly coloured costumes which, according to one commentator, are more impressive than a military parade. It is certainly preferable for countries to understand each other through theatre and art rather than war.

“Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera” playing cards published by HCG Poker Productions, 2005
“Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera” playing cards published by HCG Poker Productions, 2005 Court cards from “Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera” playing cards published by HCG Poker Productions, 2005 Court cards from “Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera” playing cards published by HCG Poker Productions, 2005

Above: “Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera” playing cards, 54 cards printed on 280gm high-grade poker Zhonghua Paper by HCG Poker Productions, 2005.

Right: the back design→

back design from “Chinese Roles of Beijing Opera” playing cards published by HCG Poker Productions, 2005
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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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