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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.

Hello Kitty

“Hello Kitty” playing cards published by Sanrio, manufactured in China, 2013

“Hello Kitty” is a fictional character produced by the Japanese company Sanrio, created by Yuko Shimizu and launched in 1974. The character is currently designed by Yuko Yamaguchi. By clever marketing the brand has achieved worldwide success. By 2008 there were over 50,000 different “Hello Kitty” branded products in more than 60 countries. By 2014, when Hello Kitty was 40 years old, she was worth about $7 billion a year, all without any advertising  Wikipedia→

“Hello Kitty” playing cards published by Sanrio, manufactured in China, 2013

Above: “Hello Kitty” playing cards published by Sanrio, manufactured in China, 2013. Images courtesy Matt Probert.

Hello Kitty has spawned a multibillion-dollar industry since Sanrio introduced it in 1974, adorning everything from pencil cases and pyjamas to double-decker buses and airliners   more

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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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Chad Valley Co. Ltd

Chad Valley Co. Ltd

Chad Valley Co. Ltd (incorporating Johnson Brothers (Harborne) Ltd, the long-established UK brand bought by Woolworths in 1988 and now sold at Argos.

Lion Coffee

Lion Coffee

Lion Coffee Mother Goose card game, late 19th C.

Pato Donald

Pato Donald

Donald Duck card game © Walt Disney Productions, by Naipes Fournier, 1984.

The Bristol Pack

The Bristol Pack

The Bristol Pack, an exhibition of playing cards designed by Bristol artists, 2005.

Werbung die Sticht

Werbung die Sticht

“Werbung die Sticht” deck with artwork by Fritz Bünzli to promote advertising on playing cards by AG Müller 1982.

Norwegian Troll Cards

Norwegian Troll Cards

Norwegian Troll Cards published by Aune Forlag of Trondheim, c.2000.

Crikey!

Crikey!

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

Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget

The Adventures of Inspector Gadget quartet game published by Fournier in 1983.

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes, featuring Feliz and Bonzo, 1920s.

Christmas Playing Cards

Christmas Playing Cards

Christmas Playing Cards published by Novelty Playing Cards, Syracuse, New York, 1986.

Loriot Rummy

Loriot Rummy

Delightful comical deck designed by Loriot, the German cartoonist and comedian, 1973.

Hamm’s Beer

Hamm’s Beer

Hamm’s Beer promotion deck with bear cartoons by Frank M. Antoncich 1968.

Year of the Child

Year of the Child

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

Fairy Snap

Fairy Snap

Fairy Snap by Norvic Mill, c.1920s.

Biff! Bang!! Wallop!!!

Biff! Bang!! Wallop!!!

Biff! Bang!! Wallop!!! family card game published by H.P. Gibson & Sons Ltd, 1939.

Capilettor

Capilettor

Capilettor cartoon playing cards published by VASS, Leinfelden, 1978.

World of Harry Potter

World of Harry Potter

World of Harry Potter playing cards produced by Winning Moves under Waddingtons Number 1 brand, 2019.

Animal Misfitz

Animal Misfitz

Animal Misfitz designed by George Lambert for Faulkner Games, c.1900.

Carousel Playing Cards

Carousel Playing Cards

Carousel Playing Cards commissioned by Tesco stores, 2019.

Golly Misfitz

Golly Misfitz

Golly Misfitz from c1905.

Boekenkwartet

Boekenkwartet

Boekenkwartet featuring illustrations from children's books, 1970s.

Bicycle Cybertech

Bicycle Cybertech

Bicycle Cybertech playing cards inspired by cyberpunk genre, illustrated by Jamie Meza, 2019.

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

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

Flintstones Happy Families

Flintstones Happy Families

Flintstones Happy Families by J. W. Spear and Sons, c.1960.

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, 2005.

Happy Families

Happy Families

Happy Families by Norvic Mill, c.1920s.

Emoticon

Emoticon

Emoticon playing cards designed by Buy Design Studios, 2016.

Shuffled Symphonies

Shuffled Symphonies

Shuffled Symphonies published by Pepys Games in association with Walt Disney, 1939.

Naipes Parliament por Caloi

Naipes Parliament por Caloi

Carlos Loiseau, better known as ‘Caloi’, was a cartoonist whose designs for Parliament Cigarettes were first published in the early 1970s.

Lego Batman Movie

Lego Batman Movie

Lego Batman Movie playing cards, 2017

Monty Gum ‘Stars Play’

Monty Gum ‘Stars Play’

‘Stars Play’ card set published by Monty Gum, Leiden, 1988.

Mickey’s Fun Fair

Mickey’s Fun Fair

Mickey’s Fun Fair published by Pepys Games in collaboration with Walt Disney, 1939.

007 Die Another Day

007 Die Another Day

“007 Die Another Day” James Bond themed playing cards, 2002.

Gulliver’s Travels

Gulliver’s Travels

Gulliver’s Travels by Pepys Games, based on the cartoon film, 1940.

Film Stars

Film Stars

Film Stars from the 1960s with photography by Sam Levin.

Calavera Playing Cards

Calavera Playing Cards

Calavera playing cards designed by Jirs Huygen for Cartamundi, 2015

Hogwarts

Hogwarts

Harry Potter Hogwarts playing cards, c.2016.

Moviestars

Moviestars

Moviestars from the golden age of cinema by Offason AB of Sweden, c.2000s.

Mordillo Skat

Mordillo Skat

Mordillo Skat designed by Guillermo Mordillo, c.1979

Story Magazine

Story Magazine

Dutch singers, TV and theatre artist playing cards for “Story” magazine, 1978.