The World of Playing Cards Logo

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.

Martin Mystère

Martin Mystère based on the comic book by Alfredo Castelli. The cards were designed by Giancarlo Alessandrini.

Martin Mystère is a cartoon character who investigates the great mysteries of the world, based on the comic book by Alfredo Castelli. The cards were designed by Giancarlo Alessandrini and published by Lo Scarabeo. See the Box

Martin Mystère is usually accompanied by Java, a Neanderthal man from Mongolia who is shown on the jack of spades. Further characters from the stories are depicted on the other court cards. The numeral cards and back design have vignettes alluding to the timeless mysteries which the protagonist encounters. The leaflet explains some conjuring tricks involving illusionism and telepathy so that the pack can also be used to impress your friends. See the leaflet

Martin Mystère by Lo Scarabeo, Italy c 2005 Martin Mystère by Lo Scarabeo, Italy c 2005 Martin Mystère by Lo Scarabeo, Italy c 2005

Above: Martin Mystère poker published by Lo Scarabeo, Torino, Italy. 52 cards + 2 jokers + leaflet + extra card in box. Limited edition of 666 numbered decks, c 2005.

avatar

By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

View Articles

Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.

Recommended

Müller: Richelieu

Müller: Richelieu

This deck is named after Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu (1585-1642), a French Roman Catholic Clergyman and statesman, Chief Adviser to King Louis XIII, noted for the authoritarian measures he employed to maintain power.

Schweizer Trachten

Schweizer Trachten

Schweizer Trachten No.174 (Costumes Suisses) by Dondorf.

Transformation Cards for Christmas

Transformation Cards for Christmas

Hand-drawn Transformation cards, c.1870.

Alice

Alice

Alice with artwork by Jesús Blasco, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2003.

Liberty

Liberty

Liberty playing cards designed by Antonella Castelli, published by Lo Scarabeo, 2003.

Baracca & Burattini

Baracca & Burattini

Baracca & Burattini puppetry deck printed by Dal Negro, 1998.

Crikey!

Crikey!

Crikey! Classic British Comics playing cards published by Bird Playing Cards, 2013.

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes deck with caricatures by Jeff Decker published by Gemaco Playing Card Co. 1989

Martin Mystère

Martin Mystère

Martin Mystère based on the comic book by Alfredo Castelli. The cards were designed by Giancarlo Alessandrini.

Aventuras de Sport-Billy

Aventuras de Sport-Billy

The Adventures of Sport-Billy by H. Fournier, 1981.

Seefahrers II

Seefahrers II

‘Seefahrers’ maritime deck designed by Klaus Ensikat for Deutsche Seereederei Rostock, GDR.

Sanyo Ukiyo-E

Sanyo Ukiyo-E

Ukiyo-E deck by Nintendo for Sanyo Enterprise Co.

Year of the Child

Year of the Child

Year of the Child commemorative deck designed by Jhan Paulussen, 1979.

Maya Deck

Maya Deck

The Maya Deck produced by Stancraft for Hoyle, 1976.

Einhorn

Einhorn

‘Einhorn’ designed by Richard König, c.1986.

Bicycle Steampunk

Bicycle Steampunk

Bicycle Steampunk playing cards with Gothic artwork by Anne Stokes, 2015.

New Figures by A. I. Charlemagne, 1862

New Figures by A. I. Charlemagne, 1862

“Renaissance” playing card designs by A I Charlemagne, 1862.

Bicycle Knights

Bicycle Knights

Bicycle Knights playing cards designed by Sam Hayles in 2018.

Friendly Felines

Friendly Felines

‘Friendly Felines’ playing cards designed by Azured Ox, 2017.

Gods of Egypt

Gods of Egypt

Gods of Egypt playing cards dedicated to the culture of Ancient Egypt.

Bicycle 808 Bourbon

Bicycle 808 Bourbon

Bicycle 808 Bourbon themed deck by US Playing Card Company 2017.

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland playing cards designed by Sasha Dounaevski, 2018.

Kaiserkarte

Kaiserkarte

“Kaiserkarte” first published by Schneider & Co in 1895-1897 for the Imperial Court.

Age of Dragons

Age of Dragons

Age of Dragons by Anne Stokes, 2017.

Anne Stokes Collection

Anne Stokes Collection

Anne Stokes Collection playing cards, 2010.

The Deck of Cards

The Deck of Cards

The Deck of Cards by Andrew Jones Art, 1979.

68: Playing cards in glass

68: Playing cards in glass

My wife and I have recently commissioned a unique pair of stained glass windows for our home.

Chinese Jokers

Chinese Jokers

Chinese playing card makers have probably produced the widest variety of jokers of any single part of the world.

Ken McCarthy

Ken McCarthy

An unknown deck by Ken McCarthy, c.2018.

Les Grandes Figures de L’Histoire Bretonne

Les Grandes Figures de L’Histoire Bretonne

Les Grandes Figures de L’Histoire Bretonne

Kalevala

Kalevala

Kalevala playing cards by Sunish Chabba and Ishan Trivedi inspired by ancient Finnish mythology.

Hearts of London

Hearts of London

Hearts of London for British Heart Foundation 2009.

1893 Worshipful Company Pack

1893 Worshipful Company Pack

Worshipful Company Pack manufactured by Chas Goodall & Son, 1893.

Roman Empire

Roman Empire

Roman Empire playing cards designed by G. Wyatt for Green Board Game Co Ltd., 2011.

Virginie Houdet

Virginie Houdet

Virginie Houdet “Cartes à Jouer” limited edition, 2017.

Bharata Playing Cards

Bharata Playing Cards

Bharata Playing Cards - Series 2, based on Indian folk art, published by Sunish Chabba, 2018.

Salon-Karte No.66

Salon-Karte No.66

Salon-Karte No.66 designed by Walter Krauss, c.1970

Conjuring Decks

Conjuring Decks

Conjuring Decks by Universal Playing Card Co (Alf Cooke) and others...

Leipzig Exhibition Skat, 1897

Leipzig Exhibition Skat, 1897

“Leipziger Skat-Karte” depicting scenes from the Leipzig Industry and Trade Exhibition designed by Arthur Lewin, 1897.

Neue Deutsche Spielkarte

Neue Deutsche Spielkarte

Neue Deutsche Spielkarte (Reformkarte) conceived by Dr. Timon Schroeter, 1883.