Canasta is a card game of the Rummy family which is believed to have been invented in the old Jockey Club of Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1947. By 1948 it was exceedingly popular in the fashionable clubs of Argentina and from there it spread to the rest of South America. In 1949 it was introduced into the USA where it quickly became the most popular card game before being knocked off the top place by contract bridge. The word “Canasta” is Spanish, meaning “basket”.
Canasta is best played by four players forming two partnerships using two identical decks each of 52 cards plus two jokers (which are wild cards, hence they sometimes carrying the legend ‘wild’ rather than ‘joker’ in Canasta decks), totalling 108 cards. It is for this reason that manufacturers commenced adding two jokers to packs of playing cards, rather than just one, in around 1950. Unusually, only two suits are recognised in Canasta - red and black, and different denominations of cards score differently. This has led to the production of custom Canasta cards, without suit signs, and ordinary decks with scores printed on the cards. Custom dual decks of cards, not dissimilar to those produced for bridge, but with the same back-design and colour have also been marketed by among others the US Playing Card Company, Waddington’s, De La Rue and Piatnik.
A number of patent applications relating to Canasta began to appear after 1949. These include table covers for Canasta games (1949), simplified card decks for Canasta (1953) and shuffling devices (1953).
Variations of Canasta include three-deck Canasta, using three identical decks of 52 cards plus six jokers and Samba which also uses three decks and six jokers.
Member since February 01, 1996View Articles
Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.
Another pack of Dutch costume playing cards c.1880.
Dutch costume playing cards made for the Dutch market in the second half of the 19th century.
“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.
In standard English packs the Ace of Spades is associated with decorative designs. This is a historical survey of why this should be.
Dubois card makers from Liège in the Walloon Region of Belgium.
PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History
This deck was inherited from ancestors, it has has a family history surrounding it. Details of the lives of previous owners make it all so fascinating.
Video by Art of Impossible. In this video you will get a short overview of the most important historical facts about playing cards and their history.
Archaic Spanish-suited deck with 48 cards made in Toledo in 1584.
Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern
A facsimile of an early 19th century French-suited deck from the collection of F.X. Schmid.
Reproduction of Richard Blome’s Heraldic playing cards, 1684, presented to lady guests at WCMPC Summer Meeting in 1888.
Facsimile of “Le Jeu de la Guerre” designed by Gilles de la Boissière in 1698.
Corner Indices were a major innovation in playing card production.
Baraja Carlos IV, Félix Solesio en la Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya, 1800.
Parisian style Spanish deck by Grimaud for export to Uruguay.
A presentation of the main characteristics of the wood-block courts of the heart suit.
This is a presentation in a more straightforward fashion of the work done by Paul Bostock and me in our book of the same name.
“TDC Inc.: a 20th Century American Playing Card Maker” by Michael Cooper.
Some further material relating to cards from nineteenth and twentieth century periodicals.
Facsimile of patriotic 1878 Tyrolean playing cards published by Piatnik in 1992.
Here are a few early advertisements relating to cards from newspapers 1684-1759 and a number of later 19th century documents of interest.
Hand-made playing cards by French prisoners of war in Porchester Castle, Hampshire, c.1796.
A continuation of the development of the off-spring of the Paris patterns and a few examples of how the French regional figures have inspired modern designers.
A great many regional patterns were exported from France and subsequently copied elsewhere. Some of them became local standards in their own right.
Continuing our look at the figures from the regional patterns of France.
On page 11 I illustrated several examples of the regional French patterns from Sylvia Mann's collection; this is a more in-depth look at the figures of these patterns ("portraits" in French).
Facsimile of Tarot de Marseille by Iohann Christoph Hes, Augsburg, c.1750.
Notgeld - Emergency Money - was in rare cases issued on playing cards.
There are some interesting packs from Goodall in the last quarter of the 19th century.
1st edition of famous Bicycle Playing Cards printed by Russell & Morgan Printing Co., Cincinnati, 1885.
Dal Negro Bridge set featuring old Vienna pattern courts.
Primiera Bolognese by Modiano, c.1975
Spectrum Bridge by Cartamundi
Five Suit Bridge was invented in Vienna in 1937 by Walter W. Marseille and Dr. Paul Stern.
Facsimile edition of Swiss suited deck first published by Johannes Müller in c.1840.
Archaic Navarra pattern produced for the Pamplona General Hospital Monopoly by Pedro Varangot in 1786.
Navarra pattern produced for the Pamplona General Hospital Monopoly in 1682.
“Money Bag” pattern by Hermanos Solesi, late 18th c.