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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.

F. X. Schmid Mini-Patience

Miniature Patience playing cards in Rococo style published by F. X. Schmid, c.1960

Miniature patience playing cards published by F. X. Schmid, c.1970. The double ended courts depict stylized portraits in 18th century rococo fashion. The backs have an image of swallows in 2 different colours. The cards come as dual packs, each with 52 cards plus 3 jokers, in an orange PVC wallet

Miniature Patience playing cards published by F. X. Schmid, c.1970
Miniature Patience playing cards published by F. X. Schmid, c.1970

Above: Miniature Patience playing cards published by F. X. Schmid, c.1970. Card size 23mms x 35mms. Images courtesy Matt Probert.

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By Matt Probert

Member since March 02, 2012

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I have adored playing cards since before I was seven years old, and was brought up on packs of Waddington's No 1. As a child I was fascinated by the pictures of the court cards.

Over the next fifty years I was seduced by the artwork in Piatnik's packs and became a collector of playing cards.

Seeking more information about various unidentified packs I discovered the World of Playing Cards website and became an enthusiastic contributor researching and documenting different packs of cards.

I describe my self as a playing card archaeologist, using detective work to identify and date obscure packs of cards discovered in old houses, flea markets and car boot sales.

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Bone Playing Cards

Bone Playing Cards

My late mother found these miniature cards in a skip around 50 years ago.

Panto People

Panto People

Panto People published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.

Hats-Off!

Hats-Off!

Hats-Off! miniature card game published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.

Zoo-Boots

Zoo-Boots

Zoo-Boots published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.

Gibbs Happy Families

Gibbs Happy Families

Gibbs Happy Families card game promotion, both full sized and miniature versions, c.1946.

Lever Brothers miniatures

Lever Brothers miniatures

Two miniature card games promoting Vim Scouring Powder and Sunshine Soap, 1930s.

Patience Cards and their Boxes

Patience Cards and their Boxes

Patience Cards and their Boxes by Tony Hall.

Mary Whitmore Jones and her Chastleton Patience Board

Mary Whitmore Jones and her Chastleton Patience Board

Mary Whitmore Jones and her Chastleton Patience Board by Tony Hall.

Solitaired

Solitaired

As we are becoming separated from friends and families we worked with the Solitaired team to customize this game using traditional woodblock courts.

Schwarzer Peter

Schwarzer Peter

Schwarzer Peter No.831 by F.X. Schmid, c.1960s.

Spider Solitaire

Spider Solitaire

Spider Solitaire is a free web site offering new versions of the classic solitaire card game

Barribal patience

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Waddington’s Patience Cards from the Barribal Series, c.1929.

Hansa-Karte

Hansa-Karte

Bechstein design reprinted by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken AG former Schneider & Co., c1925.

Bucktrout & Co. Ltd

Bucktrout & Co. Ltd

Half-sized cigarette playing cards published by Bucktrout & Co., Ltd (Guernsey) c.1930.

Tesseract Mobile Solitaire Games

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Tesseract Mobile’s new Solitaire card games for Android devices features dynamic playing cards that change style...

Prince of Wales National Relief Fund 1914

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A two-pack patience set produced by Thomas De la Rue on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund in 1914.

Comtesse

Comtesse

“Comtesse” by Bielefelder Spielkarten Fabrik GmbH, 1960s.

Piccadilly Patience

Piccadilly Patience

Piccadilly Patience by Piatnik, c.1955

Rococo Playing Cards

Rococo Playing Cards

Piatnik’s Rococo style playing cards issued as “Rococo Patience”, “Luxus-Patience”, “Empire Patience”, “White Horse Patience”, “Patience-Whist No.140”, “Mini Patience” and “Lady Patience”

Baroque No.2118

Baroque No.2118

“Baroque” by Ferd Piatnik & Sons, Vienna, reflecting a bygone era of fashion.

Nestlé ‘Happy Families’

Nestlé ‘Happy Families’

‘Happy Families’ published by Nestlé in 1935.

F. X. Schmid Mini-Patience

F. X. Schmid Mini-Patience

Miniature Patience playing cards in Rococo style published by F. X. Schmid, c.1960

British American Tobacco patience

British American Tobacco patience

Patience deck for British American Tobacco printed by Speelkaartenfabriek Nederland c.1940

Royal Dutch Mail

Royal Dutch Mail

Elegant “Nieuw Neerlandia” pattern designed by M.A. Koekkoek and produced by Speelkaartenfabriek Nederland, c.1930s

Magic Poker Cards

Magic Poker Cards

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

Permalon Ltd

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Miniature playing cards advertising "Perma" smoking-related products featuring the "Perma Girl" on the backs and Joker.

Czech Patience Cards

Czech Patience Cards

Patience size playing cards published by Obchodni Tiskarny of Prague, under the brand “Casino”, with cartoon courts in the style of wood engravings.

Rococo No.2130

Rococo No.2130

Piatnik: Rococo No.2130 playing cards designed by Prof. Kuno Hock, c.1975

Miniature Disney deck

Miniature Disney deck

Mickey Mouse card game is part of a promotion for Rübezahl Schokoladen GmbH (Germany).

Wills Scheme

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The W.D & H.O. Wills Playing Card promotion of the early 1930s

Billiken Minicartas

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Children’s toy cards published in Argentina by Editorial Atlántida in the magazine “Billiken”, 1964.

Collecting Playing Cards

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How I began Collecting Playing Cards by Robert S. Lancaster

Goodall & Son’s Patience & Miniature packs

Goodall & Son’s Patience & Miniature packs

Goodall & Son’s Patience & Miniature packs came in various styles of box and back design, c.1890-1930.

Modiano Patience

Modiano Patience

Patience cards published by Modiano, c.1945.

Carte per Signora

Carte per Signora

“Carte per Signora” patience pack was produced by Fratelli Armanino, Genova, in c.1897.

Birkel Schwarzer Peter

Birkel Schwarzer Peter

The Birkel company has produced several promotional “Schwarzer Peter” packs over the years and this one is themed on the circus.

Pop Rocky

Pop Rocky

“Pop Rocky” miniature playing cards with double-ended caricatures of celebrities and pop stars, originally published inside a magazine, c.1970.

Kamarát Toy Cards

Kamarát Toy Cards

Kamarát miniature toy playing cards from Czechoslovakia.

Otto Tragy Jugendstil Spielkarten

Otto Tragy Jugendstil Spielkarten

Special Jugendstil playing cards designed by Otto Tragy and first published by Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik Schneider & Co. in c.1898.

Merry Andrew

Merry Andrew

There are two Aces to each suit; one plain and the other with figures of a young woman and man, presumably Merry Andrew and his girl-friend.