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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 as advertising and promotion

272 Articles

IBM Linux One

IBM Linux One playing cards, c.2018.

IBM Linux One

Lion Coffee

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

Lion Coffee

Gas Warm Homes

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

Gas Warm Homes

Havermout Kwartetspel

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

Havermout Kwartetspel

Werbung die Sticht

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

Werbung die Sticht

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

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

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Dundas & Wilson Deal Winners

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

Dundas & Wilson Deal Winners

Happy Gas Families

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

Happy Gas Families

My Goodness my Guinness

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

My Goodness my Guinness

Hamm’s Beer

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

Hamm’s Beer

Nationale-Nederlanden

Nationale-Nederlanden insurance company, 1984.

Nationale-Nederlanden

Investors Overseas Services

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

Investors Overseas Services

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

Playtex

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

Playtex

Jeu de Memoire

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

Jeu de Memoire

Lever Brothers miniatures

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

Lever Brothers miniatures

Deutsche Nutzpflanzen

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

Deutsche Nutzpflanzen

Cow & Gate ‘Snap’

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

Cow & Gate ‘Snap’

Blue Brand Snap Up

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

Blue Brand Snap Up

Mr Bok

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

Mr Bok

Parkinson’s Happy Families

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

Parkinson’s Happy Families

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.

Qantas

Capilettor

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

Capilettor

Cefacidal

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

Cefacidal

Cigar Bands

A collection of 24 cigar bands with miniature playing cards.

Cigar Bands

Carousel Playing Cards

Carousel Playing Cards commissioned by Tesco stores, 2019.

Carousel Playing Cards

Chocolat du Planteur

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

Chocolat du Planteur

Adverto

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

Adverto

Alphabetti Spaghetti

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

Alphabetti Spaghetti

Piwiarnia Pub in Warsaw

Advertising Deck for the Piwiarnia Pub in Warsaw.

Piwiarnia Pub in Warsaw

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

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

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

Hendrick’s Gin

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

Hendrick’s Gin

67: Adverts and related material after 1900

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

67: Adverts and related material after 1900

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

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

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

Guinness Posters

Classic Guinness Posters, 1999.

Guinness Posters

Hearts of London

Hearts of London for British Heart Foundation 2009.

Hearts of London

Davenol Cough Linctus

Davenol Cough Linctus Happy Families published by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

Davenol Cough Linctus

Garuda Indonesia

Souvenir playing cards from Garuda Indonesia Airlines, the national airline of Indonesia.

Garuda Indonesia

Naipes Parliament por Caloi

Carlos Loiseau, better known as ‘Caloi’, was a cartoonist whose designs for Parliament Cigarettes were first published in the early 1970s.

Naipes Parliament por Caloi

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Gold plated souvenir playing cards from the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel in Dubai.

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Benadryl®

Benadryl ® family fun playing cards, c.2000.

Benadryl®

Castle Lager

Castle Lager playing cards, c.2012.

Castle Lager

Pilsner Urquell

Pilsner Urquell publicity deck from Czech Republic featuring beer drinkers.

Pilsner Urquell

Intecta Interior Design

Intecta playing cards designed by Paul Reissmüller, 1982.

Intecta Interior Design

BMW Promo Top Trumps

BMW Promo Top Trumps produced as a promotion for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

BMW Promo Top Trumps

Lovely Day for a Guinness

Lovely Day for a Guinness deck published by Shamrock Gift Co Dublin, c.1980.

Lovely Day for a Guinness

Coricidin Demilets

Coricidin Demilets pharmaceutical playing cards, 1967.

Coricidin Demilets

Belle Vue Gueuze

Promotional playing cards designed by Wim Simons, Belgium, 1960s.

Belle Vue Gueuze

DSA Textil Berlin

Special deck for Erste Deutsche Sack-Centrale / DSA Textil Berlin manufactured by VEB Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, c.1970.

DSA Textil Berlin