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Spanish Playing Cards

Spain has played a pivotal role in the history of playing cards in Europe and Latin America.

Above: archaic Moorish playing cards, XV century.

Above: early XV century cards.

Above: XV Century Catalan Playing Cards.

Gothic Spanish-suited cards with female pages

Above: Gothic Spanish-suited cards.

Francisco Flores, Seville

Above: Archaic sixteenth century playing cards by Francisco Flores.

Above: 17th-18th century Spanish playing cards.

Above: Joan Barbot, San Sebastian, c.1780.

Above: Litografía Madriguera, c.1896.

Above: Domino Cinematográfico, Barcelona, c.1925.

Above: Zoo Comics, 1968.

Above: Baraja Andaluza.

Baraja 'Te Amo' 'I Love You'

Above: Baraja 'Te Amo'.

Spanish Playing Cards ~ La Baraja Española

Spanish suit symbols are cups, swords, coins and clubs (termed copas, espadas, oros and bastos) but the form and arrangement differs from Italian cards.

Spanish Cup suit sign

SPAIN has played a pivotal role in the history of playing cards in Europe and Latin America. One view is that the early history of playing cards in Europe was related to the invasion of North Africa, Spain and Sicily by Islamic forces during the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt which ended in 1517. This coincided with the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada (13th - 15th century), the last Islamic stronghold in the Iberian Peninsula, which was linked to North Africa via the Strait of Gibraltar. Spain has had a complex colonial history and Spanish playing cards have travelled to the ‘New World’ where the legacy of Spanish-suited playing cards still prevails today from Mexico to Patagonia, as well as other remote parts of the globe.

Baraja Española 1707

Above: archaic Spanish playing cards dated 1707.

Mapuche Indian Playing Cards

Above: Mapuche Indian Playing Cards.

Above: Xilografías de Mallorca, mid-18th C.

Above: Recreo Infantil, 1888.

Above: Spanish Conjuring Cards, 1890.

Juan Roura, Barcelona - La Hispano-Americana

Above: Juan Roura, Barcelona.

Above: Baralla Galega, 1983.

Above: ‘El Cid Campeador’ 1999.

Above: Capel Vinos, 2001.

Above: Don Quijote IV Centenario, 2004.

An abundance of early literary references are in the Spanish language. Playing cards have been popular in Spain since their very first introduction there. Early sources refer to playing cards and card games in dictionaries and merchants’ inventories, to various card-makers and to prohibitions of card games, mostly around Barcelona and Valencia, in the late 1300s and early 1400s. Historical archives from Barcelona, 1380, mention a certain Rodrigo Borges, from Perpignan, and describe him as “pintor y naipero” (painter and playing card maker). He is the earliest named card-maker. Other card makers named in guild records include Jaime Estalós (1420), Antonio Borges (1438), Bernardo Soler (1443) and Juan Brunet (1443). The types of cards mentioned include “large cards, painted and gilded” as well as “Moorish” cards and “small” cards.

Maciá pattern

With the marriage in 1468 of the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille, the Spanish nationality came into existence in its definitive form. The catholic monarchs inherited the trading routes linking the Cantabrian ports with Flemish and French production centres. To this they soon added trade routes to England, North Africa and Italy. Catalonia experienced a revival of its importance in the Mediterranean reaching as far as Egypt. And, of course, Columbus discovered the 'New Indies' in 1492… thus Spain became a sort of emporium for the exchange of goods and artefacts from a very broad compass reaching almost literally to all four quarters of the globe.

Some of the earliest-known tarot cards, hand painted and illuminated in the 15th century, were supposed to have been discovered in Seville although the game of tarocchi has never been played in Spain. At the same time many Spanish-suited packs were engraved in Germany during the second half of the fifteenth century. Other 15th and 16th century evidence of Spanish playing cards have turned up in Latin American museums and archives. An interesting example are the archaic Spanish-suited cards unearthed in the Lower Rimac valley, Peru during archaeological excavations which are very similar to cards by Francisco Flores preserved in the Archivo de Indias (Seville).

Above: detail from “La Sala de Las Batallas” mural painting in El Escorial palace (Madrid) produced by a team of Italian artists, late 16th century.

The Spanish state playing card monopoly was first established during the reign of Felipe II, in the 16th century. It was divided into several regions, including Mexico and ‘New Spain’, Toledo, Castile and Seville. Leases for these respective monopolies were awarded on a competitive basis to the highest bidder and subject to strict controls. Lease holders also enjoyed the protection of laws governing the playing card monopolies, which included the outlawing of contraband playing cards   read more →.

Spanish playing cards are today divided into several distinctive types or patterns, some more ancient than others, which are often associated with different regions, as well as a wide range of non-standard cards which testify to the creative genius of Spanish artists. The suits are usually numbered through 1 - 12. A peculiarity to be observed in Spanish cards is that the suits of cups, swords and clubs have respectively one, two and three gaps or intervals in the upper and lower marginal lines of every card, called pintas.

Moorish CardsGothic Spanish-suited cardsSouth German EngraverEarly German Engraved CardsBenita la BrujaPhelippe Ayet/Jean PounsPere RotxotxoNavarra patternSpanish National patternBenoist LaiusMoney Bag patternRotxotxo Workshop Inventories, BarcelonaJoan BarbotXilografías de MallorcaReal Fábrica de MacharaviayaNaipes ComasBaraja Constitucional, 1822José Gombau, 1833Torras y Sanmarti, 1830Sanmarti, 1840Maciá PatternJosé Martínez de Castro (Madrid)Baraja Mitológica, c.1815Fournier Hermanos (Burgos) 1860Baraja de Amor, Hijos de Taboadela, 1871Heraclio Fournier S.A. (Vitoria)Castilian patternFournier: El FundadorIbero-American DeckRepública Española SouvenirHija de B. Fournier (Burgos)Jaime Margarit Naipes Instructivos, 1888Antonio Moliner (Burgos) 1890Conjuring cards, c.1890Litografía Madriguera, 1896“El Perú” Fabrica de Cigarrillos Roldan y CiaHistoria de España, 1896French Catalan patternSpanish Catalan patternS. Giráldez (Barcelona) c.1910Simeon Durá (Valencia)Belgian Spanish CardsBaraja Cinematográfica, c.1925Domino Cinematográfico, c.1925Artistas del Cine, c.1926Cine Manual, c.1927El Monoplano, c.1926Baraja Boxeo, c.1930Baraja Hoja de AfeitarRomance EspañolDescubridores y Colonizadores de America, c.1952Monumentos de España, c.1955ClassicAmérica, 1960Europe, 1962Baraja Marca “Tití”Juan Roura (Barcelona)Zoo Comics, 1968Heráldica CastanyerSpanish Regional CostumesBaraja Andaluza, 1980Baralla Galega, 1983Naipes Milano 1988Baraja Digital, 1990Vic Joc de Cartes, 1990Naipes “El Castillo”, 1991Baraja Canaria, 1995El Cid Campeador, 1999Baraja Gallega, 2002Mas-Reynals: Baraja Edad Media, 1993Catalan patternNaipe Español Ref.201Naipe Español 2003Gabriel Fuentes 2003Asescoin: Baraja Marinera, 1995Baraja Asescoin 1998Baraja Taurina 1999Baraja Clavería 2001Baraja Literaria, 2002Baraja Hispanoamericana, 2003Baraja "Te Amo"Don Quijote IV CentenarioRepoker Político Diario 16La Baralla Espanyola de Regió 7Málaga Souvenir Playing CardsCapel Vinos, 2001Salvador Dalí

Philippe Ayet, 1574 Félix Solesio, 1786 José Martinez de Castro, Madrid, 1810
Baraja Taurina, c.1916 Baraja Cinematográfica, c.1925 Artistas de Cine Mudo, c.1926 Baraja 'Hoja de Afeitar', c.1938

Spanish street name in Naipes Españoles


Agudo Ruiz, Juan de Dios: Los Naipes en España, Diputación Foral de Álava, 2000

Denning, Trevor: The Playing-Cards of Spain, Cygnus Arts, London, 1996

Pratesi, Franco: Cinco Siglos de Naipes en España, in La Sota nº 16, Asescoin, Madrid, March 1997, pp.27-51

Spanish Card Players

By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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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.

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1998 Baralla amb Iconografia Medieval Valenciana

Baralla amb Iconografia Medieval Valenciana

Issued to mark the opening of line 3 of the metro in Valencia, 1998.

1920 Chocolate playing cards with scenes from World War 1

Chocolate playing cards with scenes from World War 1

An extraordinary Spanish pack of chocolate advertising playing cards dating from 1920

1850 Alphonse Arnoult Spanish-suited pack

Alphonse Arnoult Spanish-suited pack

Luxurious Spanish-suited pack made by Alphonse Arnoult, Paris, France, c.1850.

1970 Naipe de Bridge

Naipe de Bridge

Standard English pattern pack made in Ecuador, c.1970.

1910 Wüst Spanish pattern

Wüst Spanish pattern

Wüst Spanish pattern c.1910 advertising Cuban ‘Tropical’ beer.

1584 Toledo, 1584

Toledo, 1584

Archaic Spanish-suited deck with 48 cards made in Toledo in 1584.

1969 Corrida de Toros

Corrida de Toros

Bull fighting card game publshed by Naipes Comas, 1969.

1981 El Gato con Botas

El Gato con Botas

Puss in Boots card game manufactured by H. Fournier, 1981.

1500 Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages

Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages

Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern

1992 Quinto Centenario del Descubrimiento de América

Quinto Centenario del Descubrimiento de América

Fifth Centenary of the Discovery of America by Heraclio Fournier, 1992.

1984 Pato Donald

Pato Donald

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

1981 Caperucita Roja

Caperucita Roja

Caperucita Roja card game published by H. Fournier, 1981.

1981 Pulgarcito


Pulgarcito (Tom Thumb) card game published by H Fournier, 1981.

1983 Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget

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

1920 Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

Periquito y Tontín Dominoes

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

1979 Familias de 7 Paises

Familias de 7 Paises

“Familias de 7 Paises” card game published by Naipes H. Fournier S.A, Vitoria, 1979.

1972 Parejas del Mundo

Parejas del Mundo

“Parejas del Mundo” matching pairs card game by Naipes H. Fournier, 1972.

1981 Aventuras de Sport-Billy

Aventuras de Sport-Billy

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

1984 Chinese Costumes

Chinese Costumes

Chinese Costumes from the Winterthur Collection, published by Fournier, 1984.

1995 Educación Vial

Educación Vial

Educación Vial (Road Safety) card game published by H. Fournier, 1995.

1800 Baraja Carlos IV by Félix Solesio, 1800

Baraja Carlos IV by Félix Solesio, 1800

Baraja Carlos IV, Félix Solesio en la Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya, 1800.

1995 101 Dalmatas

101 Dalmatas

101 Dalmatas by Naipes Fournier, 1995,

Parisian style Spanish deck by Grimaud

Parisian style Spanish deck by Grimaud

Parisian style Spanish deck by Grimaud for export to Uruguay.

1895 Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair No.41 Playing Cards by the United States Playing Card Co, 1895. All the number cards have been imaginatively transformed.

1995 Naipes Criollos

Naipes Criollos

“Naipes Criollos” Gaucho playing cards, 1995.

1966 Baraja Turística de España

Baraja Turística de España

Baraja Turística de España by Heraclio Fournier, 1966.

1997 Hercules


Hercules card game published by Herclio Fournier, 1997.

1996 A Goofy Movie

A Goofy Movie

A Goofy Movie card game published by Heraclio Fournier, 1996.

1975 Sarde Pattern

Sarde Pattern

Sarde pattern published by Modiano, c.1975, based on early XIX century Spanish model.

1786 Pedro Varangot, 1786

Pedro Varangot, 1786

Archaic Navarra pattern produced for the Pamplona General Hospital Monopoly by Pedro Varangot in 1786.

1682 Navarra Pattern, 1682

Navarra Pattern, 1682

Navarra pattern produced for the Pamplona General Hospital Monopoly in 1682.

Hermanos Solesi

Hermanos Solesi

“Money Bag” pattern by Hermanos Solesi, late 18th c.

1994 Kem ‘Spanish’ playing cards

Kem ‘Spanish’ playing cards

Kem ‘Spanish’ playing cards appear to depict Spanish conquistadors © 1994.

1793 Navarra Pattern, 1793

Navarra Pattern, 1793

Navarra pattern by an unknown cardmaker with initials I. I., 1793.

1760 Anonymous Spanish Suited pack, c.1760

Anonymous Spanish Suited pack, c.1760

Anonymous archaic Spanish Suited pack, c.1760

1814 Goyesca


Baraja ‘Goyesca’ facsimile of original deck published in Madrid by Clemente de Roxas, 1814.

1980 Venezuela Baraja Turística

Venezuela Baraja Turística

Venezuela Souvenir deck by Heraclio Fournier, c.1980s.

1980 Far East

Far East

Far East playing cards with designs by Isabel Ibáñez de Sendadiano, c.1980.

1959 Loewe


Deck designed by J. L. Picardo for Loewe, 1959.

1961 Romance Español

Romance Español

“Romance Español” designed by Carlos Sáenz de Tejada and published by Heraclio Fournier in various editions since 1951.