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Catalan Playing Cards

Published October 16, 2014 Updated June 25, 2023

With a distinct history stretching back to the early middle ages, many Catalans think of themselves as a separate nation from the rest of Spain.

Catalonia Spain Heraclio Fournier Mas-Reynals Naipes Comas NEGSA Varitemas Catalan Pattern Add to Collection

The Modern Spanish Catalan pattern

With about 16% of the Spanish population and a distinct language and culture of its own, Catalonia is one of Spain’s richest and most independent-minded regions. What is known today as the “Modern Spanish Catalan” playing card pattern (to avoid confusion with the French Catalan style) began to emerge with an identity of its own during the early 19th century and became fully developed by the end of the 19th century. It was primarily manufactured by makers in the Barcelona region (Bertschinger, Sebastian Comas y Ricart, Wenceslao Guarro, Giráldez, Juan Roura, etc) but is now regarded as a standard pattern throughout Spain and beyond. Packs usually contain 40 or 48 cards.

Catalan pattern produced by Sarbat y Solé, Barcelona, 1847. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Above: Catalan pattern produced by Sarbat y Solé, Barcelona, 1847. Stencil-coloured woodcuts. © The Trustees of the British Museum • Sarbat y Solé, Barcelona, 1847

The design was exported to many South American countries (in particular Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay) and is also produced today as far afield as India and China.

See also: Baraja Marca “Tití”

Non-Standard Catalan playing cards

With a distinct history stretching back to the early middle ages, many Catalans think of themselves as a separate nation from the rest of Spain. During the last hundred years or so several ‘Catalan’ decks of playing cards were produced celebrating this independent national identity. Invariably these are Spanish-suited but with non-standard suit symbols associated with Catalan culture. More recently these have been tending towards a re-affirmation of Catalan people’s desire for independence (mainly the separatist Catalan Republican Left). A selection is shown below (click the ‘plus’ signs):


‘Visca Catalunya’ - 1935

‘Visca Catalunya’ playing cards, originally titled ‘Visca La Sardana’, designed by Lluís Vidal Molné (1907-1970) in 1935. Molné was particularly noted for his illustration work and these playing cards are inspired by traditional rural imagery.

‘Visca Catalunya’ playing cards designed by Molné in 1935

Above: ‘Visca Catalunya’ playing cards designed by Molné and first published by Heraclio Fournier in 1935. The cards are in the style of Spanish-suited cards but with non-standard symbols replacing the conventional coins, cups, swords and clubs.


‘Baraja Catalana’

In ‘Baraja Catalana’ the four suit symbols are representative of the regional culture: barretinas (woolly hats or berets), castellers (towers), roses (Saint George) and mushrooms. Building human towers - “castells” - is a Catalan tradition originating in the 18th century which can be seen performed at local carnivals. Mushrooms are an important part in Catalan cuisine. The court cards show historical persons or attributes of the four suit symbols. The designs are slightly unusual in that there are no ‘pintas’, or border breaks, and no corner pips. Instead there are miniature outline maps of Catalunya in the corners.

‘Baraja Catalana’ playing cards published by Varitemas

Above: ‘Baraja Catalana’ playing cards published by Varitemas (Mas-Reynals Naipes). 48 cards + 2 Jokers. The reverse shows the Catalan flag.


‘Cartes Catalanes’ - 2006

Inspired by Catalan history and folk imagery, with court cards depicting historical figures and legendary heroes in a medieval style, this deck seeks to bring Catalan culture back to life. The suit signs are based on the Spanish-suited system but with non-standard symbols.

Above: ‘Cartes Catalanes’ designed by Jou Ramírez, published by Caramba Publicitat and printed by Naipes Comas (NEGSA), 2006 and many editions after that. 52 cards + 2 Jokers + title card + 4 explanatory cards in box. All the texts are in the Catalan language.

See also: La Baralla Catalana

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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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