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.

83 Articles

Rod Starling

Member since January 09, 2013

Rod Starling is one of the founding members of the 52 Plus Joker card collectors club. He has written many articles for the club's quarterly newsletter, Clear the Decks. His collection still encompasses both foreign and American decks. Rod has also authored a book titled The Art and Pleasures of Playing Cards.

Also by Rod Starling

Download as Adobe PDF files:

"Playing Card Art Collectors Extraordinaire"

"Some Facts About Facsimiles"

"Something New and Topical"

"Tales From the Stage"

"Shuffling Along With History"

"Steamboat Cards and the Mississippi Mystique"

"Piatnik: High Quality & Longevity"

"Three Rare Playing Card Back Designs"

The latest articles from Rod Starling

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. • Feb 21, 2022

Is Card Collecting an Investment?

“Is Card Collecting an Investment?” - an article by Rod Starling. • Oct 12, 2019

A Look Back with Hope for the Future

“A Look Back with Hope for the Future” by Rod Starling • Dec 17, 2018

Leipzig Exhibition Skat, 1897

“Leipziger Skat-Karte” depicting scenes from the Leipzig Industry and Trade Exhibition designed by Arthur Lewin, 1897. • Apr 04, 2018

No.4 Special Whist

No.4 Special Whist (American Skat) playing cards made by the Russell & Morgan Printing Company, 1889. • Mar 22, 2018

The Traveler’s Companion

The “Traveler’s Companion”, Union Playing Card Co., New York, c.1886. • May 03, 2016

Cartes Imperiales et Royales

‘Cartes Imperiales et Royales’ published by B. P. Grimaud & Cie representing imperial rulers and consorts from Austria, England, France & Russia, mid-19th century • Nov 11, 2015

Goodall c.1845-60

Goodall’s earliest cards were traditional in appearance but in around 1845 ‘modernised’ courts were designed • Aug 10, 2014

Vienna Melange

“Vienna Melange” Playing Cards by Piatnik with a historical feel representing the four races that make up the cultural background of Vienna • Aug 07, 2014

Card Fabrique Company

Card Fabrique Company had connections with several other manufacturers and their complete history is yet to be unravelled. • Dec 18, 2013

Deutsches Schützenfest 1884

This deck was apparently made to commemorate a Shooting Festival held in Leipzig in 1884 • Jul 11, 2013


Each court figure is richly decorated and holding something different: a letter, a wreath, a quill pen, a mace, a bird, a flower, a cushion, a goblet, a flute, etc. • May 29, 2013

Sport No.31

Van Genechten first registered an Ace of Spades for English playing cards in 1885 followed by the ‘Sailor’ Joker. • May 08, 2013

Standard Playing Card Co.

Standard Playing Card Co. started producing playing cards in c.1890 but was in business for only about four years before United States Playing Card Company acquired it in 1894. • May 05, 2013

American Bank Note Company

The American Bank Note Company was a long-established firm producing national currency, finely engraved stock certificates and other security printing, including postage stamps. They also entered the playing card market c.1908-1914. • Apr 28, 2013

Perfection Playing Card Co.

Tip-Top No.350 playing cards manufactured by Perfection Playing Card Company, Philadelphia, c.1887 • Apr 27, 2013

L’union fait la force

“L’Union Fait la Force”, sometimes known as “the Allied pack”, has the four suits dedicated to the victorious nations of the Second World War. • Apr 26, 2013

The Fortune Teller's Deck

The Fortune Teller’s Deck was published in 1995 in conjunction with a book written by Jane Lyle. The deck was designed by Neil Breeden and the court cards incorporate traditional symbolism. • Apr 25, 2013

Épinal Tarot

The woodcuts were produced by Francois Georgin (1801-1863), a famous engraver during the Napoleonic period, retaining the composition and general features of the Tarot de Marseille. • Apr 24, 2013

Stairs of Gold Tarot

Whilst the titles of the cards are in Italian, the Hebrew and Sanskrit letters on the Trump cards denote, respectively, associations with the Cabbala and Vedic metaphysics. • Apr 21, 2013

Corona Ferrea

Trumps depict historical scenes primarily of the political period known as the Holy Roman Empire from the 6th to 16th century. • Apr 12, 2013

Tarocco Neoclassico

Gumppenberg published several new decks by artists or engravers of the day. The designs are clear and well-engraved, in the style of the revival of antiquity, preserving the symbolic intensity of the Tarot. • Apr 11, 2013

Clausen Brewing

It was a common practice for card makers to produce decks under fictitious names particularly when producing advertising decks, to avoid promoting their own name at the expense of the client. • Apr 07, 2013

President Suspender

An historic American advertising deck for the C. A. Edgarton Mfg Company, manufacturers of the President Suspender (known as “braces” in England) depicting U.S. Presidents and First Ladies on the courts. • Apr 04, 2013

Kismet Temple

The deck was made to honour Conrad V. Dykeman as Imperial Potentate of the Kismet Temple of the Ancient Arab Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, a spin off of the Free and Accepted Masons. • Mar 29, 2013

Pyramid P.C.C.

The company introduced a number of standard brands until it was absorbed into U.S.P.C.C. and its affiliates, and finally dissolved in 1933. • Mar 29, 2013

Luxus Skatkarten

The cards are from a facsimile edition published by F. X. Schmid, Munich, in 1981. The artist is unknown, but the artwork follows the tradition of German playing card design and conveys a vivid sense of emotion, sensuality and vitality. • Mar 28, 2013

WW1 Commemorative

In 1919 Brepols commemorated the victories of World War I with two new packs featuring portraits of Allied leaders on the court cards and famous battle scenes on the Aces. • Mar 26, 2013

Bavarian Military Cards

The King of Acorns is supposed to represent Prince Otto; the King of Leaves is Maximilian II; the King of Bells is Ludwig II; the King of Hearts is Ludwig I wearing a general's uniform. The court cards are all male, but some of the numeral cards depict women. • Mar 24, 2013


Imagery of slightly eccentric tourists sightseeing in Egypt, or perhaps in the Alps, appears on the back of the box, the Ace of Spades and the Joker. • Mar 22, 2013

American Skat

These decks were produced in various grades for the German immigrant population and feature the German eagle and the German and American flags intertwined. There were two versions: one with German faces and one with American faces. • Mar 21, 2013

Anheuser-Busch Army & Navy

This deck is commonly known as the “Anheuser-Busch Spanish-American War deck”, issued at the end of the war. • Mar 20, 2013

Monarch Bicycle

The company advertised themselves as “The Monarch King of all Cycles” with the lion's head motif inside a bicycle wheel. • Mar 16, 2013

Russell, Morgan & Co

The distinctive Ace of Spades features the Statue of the Goddess of Freedom, based on the bronze statue designed by Thomas Crawford (1814-1857) that, since 1863, has crowned the dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. • Mar 15, 2013

Capitol No.188

“Capitol No.188” was first introduced during the Russell & Morgan Printing Company era in c.1886 and carried through into the U.S.P.C.C's catalogue after 1895. • Mar 14, 2013

Cabinet No.707

Russell & Morgan's “Cabinet No.707” brand was first introduced in 1888. • Mar 11, 2013

Trophy Whist

Trophy Whist No.39 playing cards published by the the United States Playing Card Co., 1895. • Mar 10, 2013

Navy No.303

The second edition of 1883 has slightly larger indices and a more simplified Ace of Spades showing two sailing ships. • Mar 08, 2013

New Era No.46

“New Era No.46”, based around European fashions, was soon followed with “Circus No.47”, “Hustling Joe No.61” and “Ye Witches No.62”. • Mar 06, 2013


The Kings show American admirals and the Jacks have different officers at each end. The Queens are “Our Colonies”. • Mar 06, 2013

Army & Navy No.303

Over the years eight different Aces of Spades were used with this brand and the Joker was also modified several times. • Mar 06, 2013

Army No.303

The Joker is particularly persuasive, whilst the Ace of Spades has a battle scene involving artillery, with Navy ships in the distance and the statue of the goddess of Freedom in the middle. • Mar 04, 2013

Steamboat No.999

Owing to the romantic appeal of gambling on the Mississippi river many manufacturers added “Steamboats” to their range, differentiated by a number, such as 999. • Feb 28, 2013

Kalamazoo Playing Card Co

This firm commenced producing playing cards with the name Kalamazoo Paper Box & Card Co in 1903. • Feb 28, 2013