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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.

Children’s miniature football player cards, Montevideo, c.1928

Miniature children’s playing cards with photographs of football players on the reverse.

Mini-Naipes FUTBOL -  Children’s football player cards, anonymous manufacturer, Montevideo, c.1928

Children's miniature football player cards, Montevideo, c.1928 Mini-naipes fútbol para niños, Montevideo, c.1928 box from 'Gauchito' children's miniature playing cards, Montevideo, c.1928

Right: the cards stored inside a match box →

Above: Miniature children’s playing cards depicting photographs of football players on the reverse, all with shiny haircuts. Similar mini-packs were published showing popular heroes and celebrities and proverbs and maxims. Cards of this type are examples of playing cards used for educational purposes besides providing entertainment value to young people.

Educational or Instructional playing cards have been around since the 16th century. See also: Proverbial Cards, 1698Mechanical Instruments, c.1700Cartes Questions-Devinettes, c.1840Happy FamiliesJaques' Illustrated Proverbs, c.1885Spanish Instructional Cards, 1888Children's Maxim Cards from UruguayChange for a Shilling, c.1930Indian Alphabetical Cards, c.1940Wild Flower Sevens card game, 1960Snip Snap, 1968.

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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

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