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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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ethnicity

82 Articles

Irish Legendary

Irish Legendary deck featuring figures in the Legends of Ireland, designed by Rachel Arbuckle, 1990.

Irish Legendary

Ethiopian

Ethiopian playing cards designed for the Ethiopian Tourist Organization by Afewerk Teklé.

Ethiopian

Tonalamatl

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

Tonalamatl

National Misfitz

National Misfitz published by C.W. Faulkner & Co c.1900.

National Misfitz

Many Folk Misfitz

Many Folk Misfitz published by C.W. Faulkner & Co., c.1906.

Many Folk Misfitz

Casais Portugueses

Matching game by Majora, Lisbon, c.1970, featuring figures in national dress from Portuguese provinces and colonies

Casais Portugueses

Ethiopian Air Lines

Ethiopian Air Lines playing cards designed by Melles Habtezghi with courts wearing regional costumes, c.1969.

Ethiopian Air Lines

Naipes Criollos

“Naipes Criollos” Gaucho playing cards, 1995.

Naipes Criollos

Naipes Cardón

Naipes Cardón designed by Mario Luis Rivero depicting traditional Argentine culture and identity, 2002.

Naipes Cardón

Characters of “The Water Margin”

Characters from the Chinese novel “The Water Margin” - 水滸撲克.

Characters of “The Water Margin”

Folklore No.169

Austrian Folklore deck first published by Piatnik in 1934.

Folklore No.169

Happy Families of the World

Happy Families of the World published by Pepys Games, 1963.

Happy Families of the World

Garuda Indonesia

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

Garuda Indonesia

Native American Warriors

Native American Warriors from the Wild West Series published by SPCC, 2018.

Native American Warriors

Far East

Far East playing cards with designs by Isabel Ibáñez de Sendadiano, c.1980.

Far East

Papua New Guinea

Souvenir playing cards from the culturally diverse southwestern Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea

Mongolian Mask Dancing

Mongolian Religious Mask Dancing playing cards, c.2010

Mongolian Mask Dancing

Trinidad Carnival Playing Cards

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

Trinidad Carnival Playing Cards

African Art

“African Art” Playing cards by John J. Beckvermit III, 1994

African Art

Fair Play cross cultural playing cards

“Fair Play” cross cultural playing cards illustrated by Canadian artist Stephen B. MacInnes.

Fair Play cross cultural playing cards

Eastern

“Eastern” playing cards dedicated to ethnic Buryat culture, 2015

Eastern

Baraja Gaucha

“Baraja Gaucha” fantasy deck designed by Mateo Tikas Plechas for Argentina, 1998.

Baraja Gaucha

Les Artisans Tunisiens

“Les Artisans Tunisiens” Jeu de Sept Familles published by Éditions de la Mediterranée, Alpha S.A., Tunis

Les Artisans Tunisiens

Four Races

“Four Races” playing cards designed by Latvian artist Vilnis Rasa in 1989.

Four Races

Gaucho Naipes

‘Gaucho’ Spanish-suited deck, anonymous manufacturer, made in Argentina, 2001.

Gaucho Naipes

Naipe Criollo Caraí Pujol

‘Naipe Criollo Caraí Pujol’ with Gaucho designs by Julio F. Parada Seifert capturing the spirit of Argentine country life, 2005.

Naipe Criollo Caraí Pujol

Strange People

“Strange People” card game produced by the Fireside Game Co., Cincinnati, 1895.

Strange People

Nationalities

“Nationalities”, the people of many nations, published by the Fireside Game Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, c.1897.

Nationalities

Reshuffle

“Reshuffle” by Reetta Hiltunen, Finland, is a playing card installation stemming from the traditional Finnish children's card game Pekka-game or Funny Families.

Reshuffle

Learn Thai

“Learn Thai” cards published by Lanna Innovation Co. Ltd, 2009.

Learn Thai

Spin & Old Maid

Lovely Victorian family card game with illustrations by the famous humorous artist, cartoonist and illustrator Richard Doyle (1824-1883)

Spin & Old Maid

Ainu culture

A terrific deck of cards made by Nintendo c.1979 with original designs on every card showing the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan.

Ainu culture

Naipes Argentinos Patagonia

“Naipes Argentinos Patagonia” with court cards depicting gauchos and native Indians, c.2000.

Naipes Argentinos Patagonia

Iceland Mythology

Iceland Mythological Playing Cards designed by Sigurlinna Pétursson, 1958

Iceland Mythology

Clans & Tartans of Scotland

“Clans & Tartans of Scotland” deck of cards designed and illustrated by Romilly Squire, 1997.

Clans & Tartans of Scotland

Baraja Charra Ernesto Icaza

“Baraja Charra” with paintings by Ernesto Icaza, 2002

Baraja Charra Ernesto Icaza

Apache Playing Cards

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

Apache Playing Cards

Boutros Arabic Playing Cards

Arabic playing cards designed by Evy Maros & Mourad Boutros, c.1990

Boutros Arabic Playing Cards

Mongol Playing Cards

Mongol Playing Cards with courts in traditional costume

Mongol Playing Cards