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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.

Prince of Wales National Relief Fund 1914

A two-pack patience set produced by Thomas De la Rue on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund in 1914.

A two-pack patience set was produced by Thomas De la Rue & Co Ltd on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund in 1914. The design consists of the Prince of Wales’s Feathers on a tinted background surrounded by a garter and patriotic design in gold, blue and red. The cards have either pink or light blue backgrounds and have a cambric surface which makes them easier to deal.

A column in the Daily Telegraph published on August 7th 1914 quotes the appeal from Buckingham Palace regarding the National Relief Fund

A two-pack patience set produced by Thomas De la Rue on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund in 1914
A two-pack patience set produced by Thomas De la Rue on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund in 1914 A two-pack patience set produced by Thomas De la Rue on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund in 1914

Above: a two-pack patience set produced by Thomas De la Rue on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund in 1914.

A two-pack patience set produced by Thomas De la Rue on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund in 1914
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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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Dutch costume playing cards

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Dutch costume playing cards made for the Dutch market in the second half of the 19th century.

Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne

Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne

“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.

Bone Playing Cards

Bone Playing Cards

My late mother found these miniature cards in a skip around 50 years ago.

Panto People

Panto People

Panto People published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.

Hats-Off!

Hats-Off!

Hats-Off! miniature card game published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.

Zoo-Boots

Zoo-Boots

Zoo-Boots published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.

Luxus Skatkarte Nr.1134

Luxus Skatkarte Nr.1134

Luxus Skatkarte Nr.1134 printed by Brepols for Germany, c.1940s.

Anma US Armed Forces

Anma US Armed Forces

Anma US Armed Forces, 1942.

Victory

Victory

“Victory" cards celebrating U.S. participation in the Allied victory, c.1945.

Dynastie Royale de Belgique

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Dynastie Royale de Belgique by Mesmaekers, 1934.

Gibbs Happy Families

Gibbs Happy Families

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

Lever Brothers miniatures

Lever Brothers miniatures

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

Le Jeu de la Guerre

Le Jeu de la Guerre

Facsimile of “Le Jeu de la Guerre” designed by Gilles de la Boissière in 1698.

Inspector

Inspector

Inspector card game published by W F Jackson & Sons, 1940s.

A Royal Game

A Royal Game

A Royal Game featuring Queen Victoria’s children and extended family, published by A. Collier, London, c.1896.

Spy

Spy

Spy card game published by Valentine’s Games, c.1915.

Sister Susie Snap

Sister Susie Snap

Sister Susie Snap published by Valentine & Sons Ltd, c.1915.

Patience Cards and their Boxes

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Patience Cards and their Boxes by Tony Hall.

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Mary Whitmore Jones and her Chastleton Patience Board

Mary Whitmore Jones and her Chastleton Patience Board by Tony Hall.

Who’s Who

Who’s Who

Who’s Who or Food for Thought, a wartime card game, c.1939.

Solitaired

Solitaired

As we are becoming separated from friends and families we worked with the Solitaired team to customize this game using traditional woodblock courts.

Crown the Queen

Crown the Queen

Crown the Queen card game invented by Elaine Burton, c.1953.

Kings & Queens of England Misfitz

Kings & Queens of England Misfitz

Kings & Queens of England Misfitz, c.1918.

Atouts de la Vie

Atouts de la Vie

“Atouts de la Vie” wartime card game created by Madame Lucien Willemetz, c.1940.

Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War

Hand-made playing cards by French prisoners of war in Porchester Castle, Hampshire, c.1796.

The Royal Historical Game of Cards

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The Royal Historical Game of Cards invented by Jane Roberts and published by Robert Hardwicke, c.1840.

Safety First

Safety First

Safety First card game embodying the Kerb Drill, published by John Jaques & Son Ltd, 1940s.

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots and other Tudor period dignitaries, published by Piatnik, 1990.

Victory Snap

Victory Snap

Wartime Snap, a memoir of past times, c.1941.

World Leaders Snap

World Leaders Snap

World Leaders Snap published around WW2, c.1940.

Schwarzer Peter

Schwarzer Peter

Schwarzer Peter No.831 by F.X. Schmid, c.1960s.

Wizard of Oz

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Wizard of Oz card game published by Pepys, 1940,

Queen’s Silver Jubilee 1977

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Queen’s Silver Jubilee playing cards designed by Susan Rae for John Wadddington Ltd, 1977

Hide & Seek with the Kings & Queens of England

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Hide & Seek with the Kings & Queens of England by John Jaques & Son, c.1875.

Spider Solitaire

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Spider Solitaire is a free web site offering new versions of the classic solitaire card game

Barribal patience

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Waddington’s Patience Cards from the Barribal Series, c.1929.

Rois de France

Rois de France

Cartes des Rois de France (1644) facsimile edition by Edizioni del Solleone, 1986.

August der Starke

August der Starke

‘August der Starke und seine Zeit’ designed by Günter Schmitz, 1985.

Lapin Brothers

Lapin Brothers

Reprint of Lapin’s Historical Belarusian playing cards.

Hansa-Karte

Hansa-Karte

Bechstein design reprinted by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken AG former Schneider & Co., c1925.