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Published July 03, 1996 Updated June 12, 2023

Playing Cards from Ireland

During the nineteenth century playing cards were being produced in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

Ireland Irish Playing Card Mfg Co Ormond Printing Co Celtic Add to Collection

Irish Playing Cards

Heroic playing-cards Heroic playing-cards

Right: Irish 'Heroic' playing cards, Belfast, 1919   more

Not a lot is known about the early history of playing cards in Ireland, but during the nineteenth century playing cards were being produced in Dublin (John Young), Cork and Limerick. From the surviving specimens these were crudely drawn and the court cards often turned the wrong way for no apparent reason. During the twentieth century the Irish Playing Card Manufacturing Company (Cork) and The Ormond Printing Co. Ltd (Dublin) were producing cards for the Irish market, and subsequently there have been advertising, tourist souvenir packs and also art and design packs manufactured in Ireland and abroad.

It is enjoyable to recognise traces of Celtic decorative patterns in Irish playing card designs. Formerly the Celts inhabited central and western Europe long before the Christian era but ultimately they were confined to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and Brittany.

Above: a) Commemorating the establishment of the Irish Free State by treaty with England in December 1921, design by Edward Cunningham of Goodall & Son, 1922.   b) Aer Lingus compliments pack.   c) Joker from Irish Souvenir deck.   d) Joker from Irish ‘Heroic’ set, 1919.   e-f) 2 cards from Irish ‘Historic’ set, c.1920.

The Celts loved personal splendour and self-display as well as fighting. Surviving examples of their art include shields, swords, manuscripts, metalwork, jewelry, poetry and literature. Irish playing card designers often take their inspiration from these sources.

Irish playing cards

Above: Playing card designs based on motifs from early Irish manuscripts and metalwork   See more →


Irish Historic Playing Cards, 1920

Above: Irish Historic Playing Cards, 1920.

Irish Tourist Association Souvenir playing cards

Above: Souvenir playing cards published by C. T. Co. Ltd, Dublin, c.1950s. Several editions of these cards are known, with either green or orange coloured backs.

“Cultúrlán” Celtic myth playing cards

Above: “Cultúrlán” Celtic myth playing cards.

See also:  Irish Playing Card Mfg Co.Irish ‘Heroic’ packIrish ‘Historic’ packOrmond Printing CoIrish SouvenirViews of IrelandCatherine KellyGuinness PostersIrish Hospice packCeltic JourneyQuantum“Cultúrlán” Celtic mythology

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder 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.


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