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The History of Playing Cards

144 Articles

Playing Cards have been around in Europe since the 1370s. Some early packs were hand painted works of art which were expensive and affordable only by the wealthy. But as demand increased cheaper methods of production were discovered so that playing cards became available for everyone...

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Carel de Wagenaer

Facsimile edition of cards first published by Carel de Wagenaer, Amsterdam in c.1698

Carel de Wagenaer

Cotta Transformation playing cards

In 1804, J.C. Cotta, a publisher and bookseller in Tübingen, Germany, produced the first set of transformation cards that was published as an actual deck of playing cards.

Cotta Transformation playing cards

Cries of London

The cards were printed from copper plates, with the red suit symbols being applied later by stencil. The court cards contain interesting miniature versions of the standard full-length figures used on playing cards at the time

Cries of London 1754

Dames de France

“Dames de France” published by J-M Simon based on originals by Armand Gustave Houbigant, Paris, c.1817

Dames de France 1817

David Hurter, Schaffhausen

David Hurter built up a playing card business in Schaffhausen during the 18th century.

David Hurter, Schaffhausen

De la Rue’s 125th anniversary

In around 1955 De la Rue introduced a new coloured joker and a series of aces of spades with a silhouette of Thomas de La Rue which coincided with their 125th anniversary

De la Rue’s 125th anniversary 1957

Dubois

Dubois card makers from Liège in the Walloon Region of Belgium.

Dubois

Dutch costume playing cards

Dutch costume playing cards made for the Dutch market in the second half of the 19th century.

Dutch costume playing cards 1860

Dutch costume playing cards from an unknown maker

Another pack of Dutch costume playing cards c.1880.

Dutch costume playing cards from an unknown maker 1880

Early Anglo-French Cards

Cards produced in Rouen during the sixteenth century. It was cards like these which were imported to England and are the ancestors of the modern 'Anglo-American' pattern.

Early Anglo-French Cards

Early English Playing Cards

Early examples of traditional, standard English playing cards of which the best known are those of Hewson of the seventeenth century, and Blanchard from the eighteenth century.

Early English Playing Cards

Early References

Out of an apparent void, a constellation of references in early literature emerge pointing to the sudden arrival of playing cards, principally in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy around 1370-1380.

Early References

Early Spanish/Portuguese type

Fragment of a sheet of archaic Spanish-suited 'Dragon' playing cards found during restoration of a house in Antwerp built between 1559 and 1574

Early Spanish/Portuguese type

Estanco de Naipes del Perú

In October 1888 the Republic of Peru Congress passed Law no.26 establishing taxes on playing cards, whether imported or locally produced, according to the quality of the cards.

Estanco de Naipes del Perú

Fake Blanchard Ace of Spades

Fake Blanchard Ace of Spades with court cards based on Hall.

Fake Blanchard Ace of Spades

Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages

Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern

Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages 1500

Geographical Playing Cards, c.1682

Geographical playing cards sold by Henry Brome, second edition, c.1682.

Geographical Playing Cards, c.1682 1682

German Saxon Pattern

The German Saxon Pattern or “Schwerdter Karte”.

German Saxon Pattern

Giuseppe Cattino

Playing cards manufactured in Italy by Giuseppe Cattino and Paolo Montanar for Spanish markets.

Giuseppe Cattino

Heraldic playing cards

Reproduction of Richard Blome’s Heraldic playing cards, 1684, presented to lady guests at WCMPC Summer Meeting in 1888.

Heraldic playing cards 1888

Hermanos Solesi

“Money Bag” pattern by Hermanos Solesi, late 18th c.

Hermanos Solesi