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Published March 31, 1999 Updated June 10, 2023

Spanish Playing Cards

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

Latin America Spain Heraclio Fournier Moorish Spanish Suited Add to Collection

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
1,440 Articles

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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