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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.

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Germany

238 Articles

Card-playing rapidly became popular in medieval Bavaria and German printers were quick to supply the goods.

German playing cards

Card-playing rapidly became popular in medieval Bavaria and German printers were quick to supply the goods.

German playing cards

Victory Deck

Victory deck commemorating the Liberation war by Friedrich Gotthelf Baumgärtner, Leipzig, 1815.

Victory Deck

Bergmannskarte

Bergmannskarte, manufactured by Industrie Comptoir, Leipzig, c.1816.

Bergmannskarte

Schiller deck

Schiller deck made by Conrad Ludwig Wüst, Frankfurt/Main, ca. 1834.

Schiller deck

Verkehrte-Welt-Tarock

"Verkehrte-Welt-Tarock” (reverse world ?) manufactured by Christian Theodor Sutor (fl. 1823-1854), Naumburg, around 1850.

Verkehrte-Welt-Tarock

Narren-Karte, c.1860

Narren-Karte by Christian Heinrich Reuter, Nürnberg, c.1860.

Narren-Karte, c.1860

Forster

Deck made by Johann Jobst Forster, Nürnberg, first half of 18th century in the Paris pattern.

Forster

Backofen

Deck manufactured by Johann Matheus Backofen, Nürnberg c.1800.

Backofen

Käpt’n Blaubär

Käpt’n Blaubär quartett for Deutsche Postbank AG, 2010.

Käpt’n Blaubär

Poker No. 140

Dondorf Poker-Karte No. 195, re-issued as Poker No. 140 for the "Argentina Compañia General de Navegación Sociedad Anónima", 1920s

Poker No. 140

Geistliche Karten

Geistliche Karten, Augsburg, 1718. Each card carries a text in Gothic typeface giving advice regarding what to do and think each day. Not quite oracle or divination cards, they are more like 'a motto for the day' collection. The method of using the cards is not known.

Geistliche Karten

Tarot Microscopique

French-suited tarot cards made by B. Dondorf, c.1870.

Tarot Microscopique

Swiss Album patience

Swiss Album patience cards manufactured by C. L. Wüst (Frankfurt), c.1900, with a different landscape on the reverse of each card. The court cards depict costumed figures along with shields from the cantons.

Swiss Album patience

Oh I Say! Snap

The screamingly funny “Oh I Say!” Snap game, c.1920.

Oh I Say! Snap

Jany Group

Deck issued to celebrate the Jany Group of Private Investors acquiring a controlling majority of Vereinigte Altenburger und Stralsunder Spielkarten Fabriken, 1983.

Jany Group

Funny Snap

Funny Snap one penny game designed in England, printed in Bavaria, c.1920.

Funny Snap

German playing cards

Card-playing rapidly became popular in medieval Bavaria and German printers were quick to supply the goods.

German playing cards

No.407 Naipe Español by F. X. Schmid

Naipe Español No.407 by F. X. Schmid, c.1980.

No.407 Naipe Español by F. X. Schmid

VICTORIA 4500 by F. X. Schmid (Argentina) S.A.

Naipe Español VICTORIA 4500 by F. X. Schmid (Argentina) S.A.

VICTORIA 4500 by F. X. Schmid (Argentina) S.A.

F. X. Schmid (Argentina) S.A.

Spanish-suited playing cards by F. X. Schmid (Argentina) S.A.

F. X. Schmid (Argentina) S.A.

Dresdner Doppelkopf

‘Dresdner Doppelkopf’ with scenes of Dresden, designed by Günter Schmitz, 1989.

Dresdner Doppelkopf

Naipe PAYADOR by F.X. Schmid (Argentina) S.A.

Naipe Español "PAYADOR ®"

Naipe PAYADOR by F.X. Schmid (Argentina) S.A.

Simultané

The rigour of simple geometric forms with an inner life and poetry which emanated from the richness of colour, the musicality of rhythm, the vibrant breath of the execution...

Simultané

T O Weigel, Leipzig, 1885

Cards from a pack designed by Ludwig Burger, 1885

T O Weigel, Leipzig, 1885

“Naipes Finos” No.304 Spanish Pack

Spanische Spielkarten "Naipes Finos" No.304, manufactured by B. Dondorf designed by the catalan artist Apel-les Mestres, Barcelona, 1902.

“Naipes Finos” No.304 Spanish Pack

The Book of Trades by Jost Amman, 1588

The Book of Trades by the prolific German Renaissance artist Jost Amman (1539-91). Suits are books, printers' pads, wine-pots and drinking cups.

The Book of Trades by Jost Amman, 1588

Thomas Murner

Logica Memorativa Playing Cards by Thomas Murner, 1507

Thomas Murner

Early German Engraved Playing-cards

During the second half of the fifteenth century, with printing technology commercially established and playing cards already a mass-produced commodity, a succession of masterly German engravers practised their art and decorative playing cards reached a zenith.

Early German Engraved Playing-cards

Playing cards in the Upper Rhine region

Documentary evidence suggests that card playing established itself in Italy in 1376, and then spread rapidly northwards across the Alps into the Upper Rhine regions of Germany and Switzerland and westwards into France and Spain.

Playing cards in the Upper Rhine region

The Princely Hunting pack, c.1440

The Princely Hunting Pack, c.1440/45, is attributed to Konrad Witz and his workshop in Basle.

The Princely Hunting pack, c.1440

Peter Flötner, c.1545

Seven cards from a satirical pack produced by Peter Flötner of Nuremberg, c.1545. The suit symbols are acorns, leaves, bells and hearts. The block-cutter and publisher was Franz Christoph Zell.

Peter Flötner, c.1545

South German Engraver

Conforming to an archaic format of 52 cards with banner 10s, female 'Sotas', horsemen and kings, the pack is of interest on account of a number of other packs with similar characteristics surviving elsewhere, suggesting an archaic variant of the Spanish-suited pack.

South German Engraver