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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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ephemera

22 Articles

Wrappers

Playing cards were traditionally sold inside paper wrappers, which were usually thrown away.

Wrappers

Leather Card Case Patent Application

In 1932, a patent was granted to Colin Hart and George Franklin for a leather case in the form of a book cover for playing cards.

Leather Card Case Patent Application

Patience Cards and their Boxes

Patience Cards and their Boxes by Tony Hall.

Patience Cards and their Boxes

Cigar Bands

A collection of 24 cigar bands with miniature playing cards.

Cigar Bands

68: Playing cards in glass

My wife and I have recently commissioned a unique pair of stained glass windows for our home.

68: Playing cards in glass

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

47: Welch’s postcards and De La Rue’s redrawing

There are a number of court card designs that have never actually been produced as cards. It's a shame some of them never were.

47: Welch’s postcards and De La Rue’s redrawing

Magic Poker Cards

“Magic Poker Cards” are often found inside Christmas crackers along with party hats, puzzles and jokes...

Magic Poker Cards

The Odd Trick

The Odd Trick - a bit of Edwardian naughtiness.

The Odd Trick

Whist and Gaming Counters and Markers

History.of Whist and Gaming Counters and Markers from the 18th Century to modern times.

Whist and Gaming Counters and Markers

Music Manuscripts

Artwork featuring playing cards in Music Manuscripts

Music Manuscripts

De Reszke Cigarettes “What the Stars Say”

De Reszke Cigarettes “What the Stars Say” astrology cards issued by J. Milhoff & Co., 1934.

De Reszke Cigarettes “What the Stars Say”

Draughts League Medals

Arthur Charles Prince worked for De la Rue as a playing card cutter and later was promoted to supervisor of a small team of workers of same until his death aged 50.

Draughts League Medals

Pope Joan Trays

Some traditional Pope Joan boards comprise a circular tray, others are square, divided into sections labelled Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Intrigue and Matrimony. In the game, the Nine of Diamonds is “Pope Joan”.

Pope Joan Trays

15: Perforated Cards, Metal Finish and Other Oddities

There are some unusual designs in playing cards, even the shape of the card.

15: Perforated Cards, Metal Finish and Other Oddities

Secondary Uses

The unprinted backs of playing cards have led people to use them for secondary purposes such as memorandum slips, bibliographic index cards, for declarations of love, rendezvous notes, emergency money, visiting cards and so on.

Secondary Uses

Games Leaflets

Thos De la Rue & Co. & Gibson's Games Leaflets.

Games Leaflets

Cigarette Cards and other ephemera

Cigarette Cards, Trade Cards, Miniature Playing Cards and other ephemera.

Cigarette Cards and other ephemera

Playing Cards in other cards

Secondary applications of playing cards.

Playing Cards in other cards

Lottery Scratch Playing Card

Move your mouse over the scratch area...

Lottery Scratch Playing Card

Roldan Tobacco Cards, Peru

Tobacco cards with miniature playing cards inset into top corners, printed by Litografía y Tipografía Fabbri Hermanos, for Roldan y Cia Tobacco, Lima, c.1895.

Roldan Tobacco Cards, Peru