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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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11 Articles
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Art Deco Gypsy Oracle

Art Deco fortune telling deck published by Piatnik, 1936 • Apr 19, 2014

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Hycrest Modern Royalty

Published by the Hycrest Playing Card Co., New York, c.1931. The large suit symbol behind each figure enhances the visual impact of the deck, as does the splendid back design & Joker. • Apr 18, 2013

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Jeux L.G.L., Paris

• Feb 18, 2010

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Orient-Express Playing Cards

Orient Express playing cards evoking a bygone era of chauffeurs, monocles and exoticism. Manufactured by Waddingtons, c.1990 • Aug 02, 2014

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Past-L-Eze Playing Cards

On “Past-L-Eze” playing cards Kings, Queens and Jacks are no longer stodgy and conventional but pleasingly reflect suspicion, flirtation and worry. • Apr 04, 2013

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Ritter & Cie, 1933

A colourful re-working of the standard Anglo-American pattern in Art Deco style. • Mar 26, 2013

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Promotional playing cards printed by Dondorf for Saks & Company, New York, late 1920s. • Jul 21, 2012

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Smart Set 400

The “Smart Set 400” brand with named backs was introduced in c.1906 by the Kalamazoo Playing Card Co. in Michigan. Kalamazoo subsequently merged with the Russell Playing Card Co. in around 1913 or 1914. Thereafter the “Smart Set 400” series continued to be published by the Russell Playing Card Co. • Jan 15, 2013

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Tungsram Playing Cards

Tungsram Playing Cards, Art Deco playing cards from Hungary • Feb 17, 2010

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Vac-tric Electric Vacuum Cleaners

Vac-tric Electric Vacuum Cleaner playing cards manufactured by De la Rue, 1930s. • Mar 28, 2016

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Intended to attract donations on behalf of the Imperial Royal Austrian Military Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund, this elegant and refined deck was designed by Nellie Stern. The deck was printed by Ferdinand Piatnik & Söhne, Vienna in 1916. • Aug 22, 2012