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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.

Imperial Royal Pack

Imperial Royal Playing Cards published by S. & J. Fuller, 34 Rathbone Place, London, 1828. The court cards show bust portraits of historical figures of England, Spain, Turkey and France.

Imperial Royal Pack

Imperial Royal Playing Cards published by S. & J. Fuller, 34 Rathbone Place, London, 1828. The court cards show sombre portraits of historical figures of England, Spain, Turkey and France. Three of the Aces are decorated with royal insignia whilst the fourth (A♠) is the “Old Frizzle” duty Ace.

K♠ Henry VIII, Q♠ Anne Boleyn, J♠ Cardinal Wolsey
K♥ Francis I, Q♥ Eleonora of Portugal, J♥ Cardinal du Bellay
K♣ Suliman the Magnificent, Q♣ Roxalana, J♣ Bararossa
K♦ Emperor Charles V, Q♦ Isabella, J♦ Cardinal Adrian (afterwards Pope).

Imperial Royal playing cards published by S. & J. Fuller, 1828

Above: Imperial Royal playing cards published by S. & J. Fuller, 1828. Cards from the collection of Barney Townshend.

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By Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

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Retired Airline Pilot, interested in: Transformation Playing Cards, Karl Gerich and Elaine Lewis. Secretary of the EPCS. Treasurer of the IPCS.

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Panko

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Countries of Empire

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“Countries of Empire” published by John Jaques & Son Ltd, c.1930s.

Victory

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“Victory" cards celebrating U.S. participation in the Allied victory, c.1945.

Dynastie Royale de Belgique

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A Royal Game

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A Royal Game featuring Queen Victoria’s children and extended family, published by A. Collier, London, c.1896.

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Kaiserkarte

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“Kaiserkarte” first published by Schneider & Co in 1895-1897 for the Imperial Court.

Woman’s Hour

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The Woman’s Hour playing cards published by David Westnedge, 1996.

Kings & Queens of England Misfitz

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Kings & Queens of England Misfitz, c.1918.

Atouts de la Vie

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“Atouts de la Vie” wartime card game created by Madame Lucien Willemetz, c.1940.

British Empire

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The Royal Historical Game of Cards

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The Royal Historical Game of Cards invented by Jane Roberts and published by Robert Hardwicke, c.1840.

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots and other Tudor period dignitaries, published by Piatnik, 1990.

World Leaders Snap

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World Leaders Snap published around WW2, c.1940.

Queen’s Silver Jubilee 1977

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Queen’s Silver Jubilee playing cards designed by Susan Rae for John Wadddington Ltd, 1977

Hide & Seek with the Kings & Queens of England

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Hide & Seek with the Kings & Queens of England by John Jaques & Son, c.1875.

Rois de France

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Cartes des Rois de France (1644) facsimile edition by Edizioni del Solleone, 1986.

August der Starke

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‘August der Starke und seine Zeit’ designed by Günter Schmitz, 1985.

Lapin Brothers

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Jeu des Quatre Saisons de l’An II

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Sovereigns of England

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Sovereigns of England published by Jaques & Son, c.1875. .

Churchill in WW2

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Churchill ‘Walking with Destiny’ playing cards published by the Imperial War Museum.

Prince of Wales National Relief Fund 1914

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

Pack of Royals

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Willie Rushton’s “Pack of Royals” featuring caricatures of the Royal Family, 1995.

Anti-Fascist Propaganda Pack for the Siege of Leningrad, 1943

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In 1943 a pack of ‘anti-fascist’ playing cards was designed by Vasiliy Andrianovich Vlasov mocking the rulers of Germany and the Axis powers.

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Facsimile edition of cards first published by Carel de Wagenaer, Amsterdam in c.1698

Playing Politics

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“Playing Politics” or “Cabinet Shuffle” specially commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983

Deakin’s 3rd edition

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Back to the USSR

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‘Glorious Russia’ playing cards made in France by Grimaud, c.1995

European Naval Powers

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“XVI Century European Naval Powers” deck illustrated by Isabel Ibáñez de Sendadiano and produced by Heraclio Fournier in 1981.

Kaiser Jubiläum

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Kaiser Jubiläum Imperial playing cards made in Austria by Ferd Piatnik & Sons, Vienna

Skat Politisch

Skat Politisch

Political “Skat Politisch” published by ASS, 1976

Naipes Artiguistas, 1816

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Naipes Artiguistas published in Concepción del Uruguay, Entre Rios province (Argentina) in 1816, by Fray Solano García.

Le Jeu des Alliés

Le Jeu des Alliés

“Le Jeu des Alliés” manufactured by Mesmaekers N.V., Turnhout, 1945.