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.

Anonymous Novelty Cards

Miniature novelty playing cards from the late 1940s or early 1950s with a charm of their own. Probably published as small prizes at fairground or seaside amusement arcades.

miniature novelty playing cards from the late 1940s or early 1950s

Above: miniature novelty playing cards from the late 1940s or early 1950s with a charm of their own. Probably published as small prizes at fairground or seaside amusement arcades (such as the 'Rotary Merchandiser'), the cards measure 50mm by 29mm and were produced with red or blue background. Images and nostalgia submitted by Peter Ford.

miniature novelty playing cards from the late 1940s or early 1950s miniature novelty playing cards from the late 1940s or early 1950s

Above: a dual-deck pack of miniature playing cards, one red one blue, and the box clearly states "Made in England". 52 cards + joker in each pack, very cheaply made, square cut. Images courtesy Matt Probert.

Fairylite • Empire Made

Fairylite miniature novelty playing cards from the late 1940s or early 1950s Fairylite miniature novelty playing cards from the late 1940s or early 1950s

Above: "Fairylite" containing 52 cheaply-made cards + one joker. The ace of spades is different but they are in the same style of box with the legend "Junior Playing Cards" top and bottom. These are "Empire made" so there may be a time period over which production shifted. Unusually, it looks like they printed sheets of each single card and then cut them out, rather than sheets of complete decks. Images courtesy Matt Probert.

Above: another anonymous "British Made" children's pack, late 1940s or early 1950s, containing 52 cards + one joker. Images courtesy Matt Probert.


Miniature “Perma” playing cards promoting smoker’s requisites, probably from just after WW2 c.1948 more→

avatar

By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

View Articles

Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

Recommended

Notched Construction Cards

Notched Construction Cards

Two Notched Construction Card Sets by Shackman & Co, N.Y. 1970s.

Bone Playing Cards

Bone Playing Cards

My late mother found these miniature cards in a skip around 50 years ago.

Panto People

Panto People

Panto People published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.

Hats-Off!

Hats-Off!

Hats-Off! miniature card game published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.

Zoo-Boots

Zoo-Boots

Zoo-Boots published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.

Gibbs Happy Families

Gibbs Happy Families

Gibbs Happy Families card game promotion, both full sized and miniature versions, c.1946.

Lever Brothers miniatures

Lever Brothers miniatures

Two miniature card games promoting Vim Scouring Powder and Sunshine Soap, 1930s.

Patience Cards and their Boxes

Patience Cards and their Boxes

Patience Cards and their Boxes by Tony Hall.

Spider Solitaire

Spider Solitaire

Spider Solitaire is a free web site offering new versions of the classic solitaire card game

Barribal patience

Barribal patience

Waddington’s Patience Cards from the Barribal Series, c.1929.

Hansa-Karte

Hansa-Karte

Bechstein design reprinted by Vereinigte Stralsunder Spielkartenfabriken AG former Schneider & Co., c1925.

Bucktrout & Co. Ltd

Bucktrout & Co. Ltd

Half-sized cigarette playing cards published by Bucktrout & Co., Ltd (Guernsey) c.1930.

Tesseract Mobile Solitaire Games

Tesseract Mobile Solitaire Games

Tesseract Mobile’s new Solitaire card games for Android devices features dynamic playing cards that change style...

Prince of Wales National Relief Fund 1914

Prince of Wales National Relief Fund 1914

A two-pack patience set produced by Thomas De la Rue on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund in 1914.

Mundialito de Radiolandia 2000

Mundialito de Radiolandia 2000

‘Mundialito’ toy football playing cards published inside the magazine ‘Radiolandia 2000’, Argentina, 1978.

Piccadilly Patience

Piccadilly Patience

Piccadilly Patience by Piatnik, c.1955

Nestlé ‘Happy Families’

Nestlé ‘Happy Families’

‘Happy Families’ published by Nestlé in 1935.

F. X. Schmid Mini-Patience

F. X. Schmid Mini-Patience

Miniature Patience playing cards in Rococo style published by F. X. Schmid, c.1960

British American Tobacco patience

British American Tobacco patience

Patience deck for British American Tobacco printed by Speelkaartenfabriek Nederland c.1940

Magic Poker Cards

Magic Poker Cards

“Magic Poker Cards” are often found inside Christmas crackers along with party hats, puzzles and jokes...

Permalon Ltd

Permalon Ltd

Miniature playing cards advertising "Perma" smoking-related products featuring the "Perma Girl" on the backs and Joker.

Czech Patience Cards

Czech Patience Cards

Patience size playing cards published by Obchodni Tiskarny of Prague, under the brand “Casino”, with cartoon courts in the style of wood engravings.

Miniature Disney deck

Miniature Disney deck

Mickey Mouse card game is part of a promotion for Rübezahl Schokoladen GmbH (Germany).

Space Puzzles

Space Puzzles

The Space Puzzles Game published by Gametoy Development Co., Inc, Orlando, Fl, 1991.

Wills Scheme

Wills Scheme

The W.D & H.O. Wills Playing Card promotion of the early 1930s

Billiken Minicartas

Billiken Minicartas

Children’s toy cards published in Argentina by Editorial Atlántida in the magazine “Billiken”, 1964.

Collecting Playing Cards

Collecting Playing Cards

How I began Collecting Playing Cards by Robert S. Lancaster

Goodall & Son’s Patience & Miniature packs

Goodall & Son’s Patience & Miniature packs

Goodall & Son’s Patience & Miniature packs came in various styles of box and back design, c.1890-1930.

Modiano Patience

Modiano Patience

Patience cards published by Modiano, c.1945.

Carte per Signora

Carte per Signora

“Carte per Signora” patience pack was produced by Fratelli Armanino, Genova, in c.1897.

Birkel Schwarzer Peter

Birkel Schwarzer Peter

The Birkel company has produced several promotional “Schwarzer Peter” packs over the years and this one is themed on the circus.

Pop Rocky

Pop Rocky

“Pop Rocky” miniature playing cards with double-ended caricatures of celebrities and pop stars, originally published inside a magazine, c.1970.

Kamarát Toy Cards

Kamarát Toy Cards

Kamarát miniature toy playing cards from Czechoslovakia.

Fabrica de Cigarrillos Roldan y Cia, Lima, Peru

Fabrica de Cigarrillos Roldan y Cia, Lima, Peru

The design of the figures is very agile with excellent colour harmony and execution.

Wüst Oval Patience

Wüst Oval Patience

C. L. Wüst Oval Patience Karten No. 240, beautifully printed by chromolithography, c.1910.

Einar Nerman Patience

Einar Nerman Patience

Einar Nerman (1888–1983) was a talented Swedish artist born in Norrköping who designed playing cards during the 1920s.

Lettische Patience

Lettische Patience

Karl enjoyed experimenting with design and production and this work was published in 1994 as a 32-card pack with one joker. The double-ended courts are, by Gerich's standards, plain with simple costume designs based on the designs of Arturs Duburs.

Cartes Turques Patience

Cartes Turques Patience

Derived from “Cartes Turques” first made by Glanz, then later by van Genechten, Brepols & Piatnik. 3 double-ended dragon Aces and one Adam/Eve Ace with a coiled serpent.

Patience Indien

Patience Indien

Karl Gerich's “Patience Indien No.16”, published in 1991, is adapted from Grimaud's “Whist Indienne” (c.1900). The double-ended courts are dressed in Arab garb.

Patience No.21

Patience No.21

‘Patience No.21’ is a 52-card miniature deck with double-ended courts and a Joker holding a fan of cards.