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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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Playing cards first arrived in England during the 15th century, but none have survived from such an early date.

Playing cards in Wales - Welsh playing cards

Whereas the distinctiveness of Wales is an important resource contributing to the rich texture of variety which characterises the island of Britain, to date no Welsh playing cards cards have been found which were actually manufactured in Wales.

Playing cards in Wales - Welsh playing cards

Hall & Son

Hall & Son

Hall & Son

Fortune-Telling Cards

Comic Fortune-Telling Cards published by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850.

Fortune-Telling Cards

Comic Question & Answer cards

Comic Question & Answer cards by Josh. Reynolds & Sons, circa 1850.

Comic Question & Answer cards

Myriorama

Myriorama of Italian scenery, 1824.

Myriorama

Transformation Cards for Christmas

Hand-drawn Transformation cards, c.1870.

Transformation Cards for Christmas

PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History

PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History

PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History

Sergeant-Major

Sergeant-Major card game devised by W.G.Smith

Sergeant-Major

Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

We are deeply saddened by news of the passing of Anthony Rex Pitts (1940-2021).

Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

J. W. Spear and Sons

Jacob Wolfe Spear founded his company manufacturing fancy goods in 1879 near Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany

J. W. Spear and Sons

Chad Valley Co. Ltd

Chad Valley Co. Ltd (incorporating Johnson Brothers (Harborne) Ltd, the long-established UK brand bought by Woolworths in 1988 and now sold at Argos.

Chad Valley Co. Ltd

Multum in Parvo Co., Ltd

Multum in Parvo published a range of indoor games during the period from 1884-1927.

Multum in Parvo Co., Ltd

Ariel Productions Ltd

The founder of Ariel Productions, Philip Marx, was a prolific publisher of children’s books and comics towards the end of and just after the Second World War.

Ariel Productions Ltd

Kum-Bak Sports, Toys & Games

Kum-Bak Sports, Toys & Games MFG Co., Ltd, London S.E.11

Kum-Bak Sports, Toys & Games

Crazy People

Crazy People children’s card game illustrated by caricaturist and graphic artist Walter Trier, c.1950.

Crazy People

Panko

Panko (Votes for Women) suffragette card game published by Peter Gurney Ltd, c.1912.

Panko

Snap

Anonymous Snap game, 1930s.

Snap

Panto People

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

Panto People

Hats-Off!

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

Hats-Off!

Zoo-Boots

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

Zoo-Boots

XIXth Century

The XIXth Century published by John Jaques & Son, c.1875.

XIXth Century

The ‘Rinker’ Snap

The ‘Rinker’ highly amusing snap game, c.1910.

The ‘Rinker’ Snap

Round the World Happy Families

Round the World Happy Families by Chiefton Products Ltd of Bristol, c.1950s.

Round the World Happy Families

Abbatt Animal Families

Abbatt Toys Animal Families, c.1970.

Abbatt Animal Families

French for Fun

French for Fun instructive card game published by John Jaques & Son Ltd., c.1930s

French for Fun

Counties of Britain

Counties of Britain by John Jaques & Son Ltd. c.1930.

Counties of Britain

Radio Banker

Radio Banker by John Waddington Ltd for Marconiphone Co Ltd.

Radio Banker

Jigstar

Jigstar film star card game by Murphy Games Ltd, 1936.

Jigstar

Countries of Empire

“Countries of Empire” published by John Jaques & Son Ltd, c.1930s.

Countries of Empire

Gas Warm Homes

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

Gas Warm Homes

The Bristol Pack

The Bristol Pack, an exhibition of playing cards designed by Bristol artists, 2005.

The Bristol Pack

Zooloo Misfitz

Zooloo Misfitz card game designed by George Lambert for C.W. Faulkner & Co, c.1907.

Zooloo Misfitz

Crocheter’s Playing Cards

Crocheter’s playing cards sent to subscribers of the Crochet Society box, 2021.

Crocheter’s Playing Cards

Crikey!

Crikey! Classic British Comics playing cards published by Bird Playing Cards, 2013.

Crikey!

Forfeits

Forfeits party card game by Merit Games, J & L Randall Ltd, c.1950.

Forfeits

Splash Page Special

Splash Page Special party card game.

Splash Page Special

Donkey

Donkey card game by Chiefton Products Ltd of Bristol, c.1950s.

Donkey

Dundas & Wilson Deal Winners

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

Dundas & Wilson Deal Winners

Gulliver’s Travels

Gulliver’s Travels card game no.293 published by Piatnik, c.1950.

Gulliver’s Travels

Snafooey

Snafooey, a fun and laughter card game by Peter Pan Playthings Ltd, Peterborough, 1983.

Snafooey

Happy Gas Families

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

Happy Gas Families

Pranks & Mimics for the Party

Pranks & Mimics for the Party, 1950s.

Pranks & Mimics for the Party

My Goodness my Guinness

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

My Goodness my Guinness

Gilbert and Sullivan

Gilbert and Sullivan deck created by Don Jack using artwork from Players cigarette cards.

Gilbert and Sullivan

Bandsman Snap

Bandsman Snap by Chiefton Products Ltd of Bristol, c.1950s.

Bandsman Snap

Khanhoo

Khanhoo by Charles Goodall & Son, 1895.

Khanhoo

Botany Quartetts

Botany card game published by Houlston and Wright & Henry Greenwood, c.1860.

Botany Quartetts

Scoop

Scoop by James Cond Ltd, 9 Charlotte Street, Birmingham, c.1920s.

Scoop

Gibbs Happy Families

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

Gibbs Happy Families

Electric Snap

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

Electric Snap