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The History of Playing Cards

The History of Playing Cards

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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Portuguese Type Cards made in Belgium 1878

Portuguese Type Cards made in Belgium

Portuguese Type Playing Cards made in Belgium, c.1878.

Portuguese-suited cards 1613

Portuguese-suited cards

Portuguese-suited cards with dragon aces, made in Italy, 1613.

Primiera Bolognese

Primiera Bolognese

Primiera Bolognese by Modiano, c.1975

Prisoners of War 1796

Prisoners of War

Hand-made playing cards by French prisoners of war in Porchester Castle, Hampshire, c.1796.

Progressive Whist Cards

Progressive Whist Cards

There are references to “progressive whist” or “whist drives” during the 19th and early years of the 20th century but this form of the game came into its own during the 1920s and 30s.

Provence Pattern

Provence Pattern

The 'Provence' pattern contains figures which go back to the fifteenth century.

Qajar Dynasty playing cards

Qajar Dynasty playing cards

Qajar Dynasty playing cards, Iran, 19th century.

Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya

Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya

This is the official Spanish National pattern of the 18th century. Design and production was controlled from Madrid as a source of national or regional revenue. The factory was located in the town of Macharaviaya, in the province of Málaga.

Robert Morden’s Playing Cards 1676

Robert Morden’s Playing Cards

The 52 Counties of England and Wales described as a pack of cards first published in London in 1676.

Rois de France 1644

Rois de France

Cartes des Rois de France (1644) facsimile edition by Edizioni del Solleone, 1986.

Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne 1705

Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne

“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.

Russian Playing Card History - From the Beginnings to 1917

Russian Playing Card History - From the Beginnings to 1917

An in-depth review of the history of card-playing, gambling, legislation, manufacture and taxation of playing cards in Russia.

Russian Playing Card Monopoly 1798

Russian Playing Card Monopoly

The Russian Playing Card Monopoly was established in March 1798 with all revenue going to support the St Petersburg Foundling Hospital. After the construction of the Foundling Hospital's own factory in 1817 (known as the Imperial Playing Card Factory), all subsequent Russian playing card production was located there until the end of the State monopoly in 1961.

Secondary Uses of Playing Cards

Secondary Uses of Playing Cards

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.

Sicilian playing cards by Antonio Monasta

Sicilian playing cards by Antonio Monasta

"Il Leon" Sicilian playing cards, 40-card pack based on Spanish designs, made in Sicily by Antonio Monasta, probably 17th century.

Silver Cards from Peru 1745

Silver Cards from Peru

Spanish-suited silver cards, richly embellished and enamelled, from a former Spanish Viceroy in Peru, dated 1745.

Sola-Busca Tarocchi 1491

Sola-Busca Tarocchi

The Sola-Busca Tarocchi, c.1491

South German Engraver 1496

South German Engraver

Conforming to an archaic format of 52 cards with banner 10s, female 'Sotas', horsemen and kings, the pack is of interest on account of a number of other packs with similar characteristics surviving elsewhere, suggesting an archaic variant of the Spanish-suited pack.

South Sea Bubble 1720

South Sea Bubble

The South Sea Bubble Playing Cards were first published in London by Thomas Bowles in 1720. The cards bear satirical portrayals of the speculators involved in the South Sea Bubble of 1720, providing a unique contemporary record of the feverish atmosphere of the time, as well as the fashions of dress.

Spanish National Pattern

Spanish National Pattern

Probably originating in Spain in the seventeenth century or even earlier, this pattern became strongly established by the Catalan cardmakers Rotxotxo of Barcelona.