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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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23 Articles

Maya Deck

The Maya Deck produced by Stancraft for Hoyle, 1976.

Maya Deck

Tonalamatl

Baraja Tonalamatl Mexican Aztec playing cards based on the prehispanic Codex Borgia manuscript.

Tonalamatl

Trinidad Carnival Playing Cards

“Allfours Carnival Playing Cards” designed by Gabby Woodham, Trinidad, 1995

Trinidad Carnival Playing Cards

Cartas Precolombinas

Spanish playing cards with Pre-Columbian designs from Argentina, 2001.

Cartas Precolombinas

Apache Playing Cards

Apache Indian Playing Cards made on rawhide, first recorded 1875.

Apache Playing Cards

Maya

“Maya” playing cards designed by Russian artist V. M. Sveshnikov and first published by The Colour Printing Plant, St Petersburg, in 1975.

Maya

Mapuche Indian Playing Cards

Spanish-suited playing cards made on rawhide and said to have been used by Chilean Mapuche Indians, XVI-XVII century

Mapuche Indian Playing Cards

Maya Playing Cards

The designs of Mayan artists shown here give a general idea of their enormous artistic and cultural potential.

Maya Playing Cards

Guatemala

Playing Cards from Guatemala

Guatemala

Mayan Cards

Mayan Playing Cards from Guatemala / Baraja Maya / containing illustrations of archaeology, art, folklore, history and mythology of the Mayans.

Mayan Cards

Inka Culture

Inka Culture playing cards, Peru, c.2000, promoting alpaca and cotton.

Inka Culture

Calendario Inka

“Calendario Inka” playing cards published by Power Casinos, Lima, Peru, c.2004.

Calendario Inka

El Ferrocarril

Naipe El Ferrocarril made by La Cubana, S.A. (Fabrica de Naipes El Aguila), Mexico, c.1960

El Ferrocarril

Playing Cards from Mexico

MEXICO shares a long tradition with Spain in the field of playing cards. The Estanco de Naipes (playing-card monopoly) was established in 1576.

Playing Cards from Mexico

Latin American Playing Cards

Playing cards had been introduced to the Americas with explorers such as Columbus or Cortés, whose fellow countrymen were keen gamblers. Cards were imported from Spain since the 16th century. Local production usually imitated Spanish cards.

Latin American Playing Cards

Cusco Inca Souvenir

Pre-Incas & Incas Souvenir Playing Cards, Cusco, Peru, 2000.

Cusco Inca Souvenir

Inka-Dynasty

'Inka-Dynasty' playing cards are based on historic 16th century designs by the Peruvian chronicler Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala, and printed by Power Casinos, Lima, Peru, c.2004.

Inka-Dynasty

Las Cartas de Tacuabe by Manos del Uruguay

Tacuabé was a Charrúa native from Uruguay, an indigenous tribe that became extinct following European conquest and colonisation.

Las Cartas de Tacuabe by Manos del Uruguay