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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.

French Costumes

The French taste for elegant, well engraved costume playing cards started during the early 19th century. O. Gibert of Paris produced a series of such fashion packs, or packs depicting historical characters.

O. Gibert, Paris: French Costumes, c.1848

Elegant, romantic and sophisticated!

The French taste for elegant, well engraved costume playing cards started during the early 19th century. O. Gibert of Paris produced a series of such fashion packs, or packs depicting historical characters. This example is known as 'Cartes Parisiennes'. Being hand coloured, there was no consistency from deck to deck. Each version surpasses the last one in exquisiteness, delicacy and charm.

Designs by Jean-Marie Blanquière.

French Costume playing cards published by O. Gibert, Paris, c.1850

Above: French Costume playing cards published by O. Gibert, Paris, c.1850. The cards measure approximately 2¼ x 3½ inches [85x54 mms]. Because they were hand made, they are not all exactly the same size, some cards vary by just a tiny bit. The backs are overall plain pink or blue. Images courtesy Rod Starling.

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By Rod Starling

Member since January 09, 2013

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Rod Starling is one of the founding members of the 52 Plus Joker card collectors club. He has written many articles for the club's quarterly newsletter, Clear the Decks. His collection still encompasses both foreign and American decks. Rod has also authored a book titled The Art and Pleasures of Playing Cards.

Also by Rod Starling

Download as Adobe PDF files:

"Playing Card Art Collectors Extraordinaire"

"Some Facts About Facsimiles"

"Something New and Topical"

"Tales From the Stage"

"Shuffling Along With History"

"Steamboat Cards and the Mississippi Mystique"

"Piatnik: High Quality & Longevity"

"Three Rare Playing Card Back Designs"

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