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.

Naipes Artiguistas, 1816

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

Naipes Artiguistas were published in Concepción del Uruguay, Entre Rios province (Argentina) in 1816, by Fray Solano García (1784-1845) at a special moment in Uruguayan history.

Solano García was a Chilean Franciscan friar living in Argentina who supported the cause of the Uruguayan Gervasio de Artigas. Political slogans incorporated into some of the numeral cards relate to the activities of General Artigas, whose campaigns were also supported in neighbouring provinces in Argentina. The political and cultural climate of the moment is captured in these cards.

Naipes Artiguistas, Entre Rios (Argentina), 1816

40 cards, 8.6 x 5.3 cms, printed from woodblocks and hand-coloured, based upon the traditional Spanish National type which had been imported into South America. Thanks to Juan Carlos Recarey for help with historical information. Images from reproduction of cards held in the Museo Histórico Nacional de Montevideo (Uruguay).

avatar

By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

View Articles

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

Recommended

Dutch costume playing cards

Dutch costume playing cards

Dutch costume playing cards made for the Dutch market in the second half of the 19th century.

Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne

Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne

“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.

Wüst Spanish pattern

Wüst Spanish pattern

Wüst Spanish pattern c.1910 advertising Cuban ‘Tropical’ beer.

72: The Ace of Spades

72: The Ace of Spades

In standard English packs the Ace of Spades is associated with decorative designs. This is a historical survey of why this should be.

Dubois

Dubois

Dubois card makers from Liège in the Walloon Region of Belgium.

PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History

PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History

PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History

A. Camoin & Cie

A. Camoin & Cie

This deck was inherited from ancestors, it has has a family history surrounding it. Details of the lives of previous owners make it all so fascinating.

History of Playing Cards explained in 5 Minutes

History of Playing Cards explained in 5 Minutes

Video by Art of Impossible. In this video you will get a short overview of the most important historical facts about playing cards and their history.

Panko

Panko

Panko (Votes for Women) suffragette card game published by Peter Gurney Ltd, c.1912.

Toledo, 1584

Toledo, 1584

Archaic Spanish-suited deck with 48 cards made in Toledo in 1584.

Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages

Gambling and Vice in the Middle Ages

Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern

“Deck with French suits”

“Deck with French suits”

A facsimile of an early 19th century French-suited deck from the collection of F.X. Schmid.

Victory

Victory

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

Heraldic playing cards

Heraldic playing cards

Reproduction of Richard Blome’s Heraldic playing cards, 1684, presented to lady guests at WCMPC Summer Meeting in 1888.

Le Jeu de la Guerre

Le Jeu de la Guerre

Facsimile of “Le Jeu de la Guerre” designed by Gilles de la Boissière in 1698.

Corner Indices

Corner Indices

Corner Indices were a major innovation in playing card production.

Baraja Carlos IV by Félix Solesio, 1800

Baraja Carlos IV by Félix Solesio, 1800

Baraja Carlos IV, Félix Solesio en la Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya, 1800.

71: Woodblock and stencil: the hearts

71: Woodblock and stencil: the hearts

A presentation of the main characteristics of the wood-block courts of the heart suit.

70: Woodblock and stencil : the spade courts

70: Woodblock and stencil : the spade courts

This is a presentation in a more straightforward fashion of the work done by Paul Bostock and me in our book of the same name.

Woman’s Hour

Woman’s Hour

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

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

66: Adverts and related material 1862-1900

Some further material relating to cards from nineteenth and twentieth century periodicals.

Tyrolean Playing Cards

Tyrolean Playing Cards

Facsimile of patriotic 1878 Tyrolean playing cards published by Piatnik in 1992.

65: Adverts and related documents 1684-1877

65: Adverts and related documents 1684-1877

Here are a few early advertisements relating to cards from newspapers 1684-1759 and a number of later 19th century documents of interest.

Atouts de la Vie

Atouts de la Vie

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

Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War

Hand-made playing cards by French prisoners of war in Porchester Castle, Hampshire, c.1796.

64: The descendants of the French regional patterns: 2

64: The descendants of the French regional patterns: 2

A continuation of the development of the off-spring of the Paris patterns and a few examples of how the French regional figures have inspired modern designers.

63: The descendants of the French regional patterns: 1

63: The descendants of the French regional patterns: 1

A great many regional patterns were exported from France and subsequently copied elsewhere. Some of them became local standards in their own right.

62: French regional patterns: the queens and jacks

62: French regional patterns: the queens and jacks

Continuing our look at the figures from the regional patterns of France.

61: French regional patterns: the kings

61: French regional patterns: the kings

On page 11 I illustrated several examples of the regional French patterns from Sylvia Mann's collection; this is a more in-depth look at the figures of these patterns ("portraits" in French).

Iohann Christoph Hes Tarot c.1750

Iohann Christoph Hes Tarot c.1750

Facsimile of Tarot de Marseille by Iohann Christoph Hes, Augsburg, c.1750.

Notgeld - Emergen¢y Money

Notgeld - Emergen¢y Money

Notgeld - Emergency Money - was in rare cases issued on playing cards.

60: Some less common Goodall packs, 1875-95

60: Some less common Goodall packs, 1875-95

There are some interesting packs from Goodall in the last quarter of the 19th century.

World Leaders Snap

World Leaders Snap

World Leaders Snap published around WW2, c.1940.

Bicycle Playing Cards, 1st edition

Bicycle Playing Cards, 1st edition

1st edition of famous Bicycle Playing Cards printed by Russell & Morgan Printing Co., Cincinnati, 1885.

Trentine Pattern

Trentine Pattern

Trentine Pattern

Primiera Bolognese

Primiera Bolognese

Primiera Bolognese by Modiano, c.1975

Johannes Müller c.1840

Johannes Müller c.1840

Facsimile edition of Swiss suited deck first published by Johannes Müller in c.1840.

Pedro Varangot, 1786

Pedro Varangot, 1786

Archaic Navarra pattern produced for the Pamplona General Hospital Monopoly by Pedro Varangot in 1786.

Navarra Pattern, 1682

Navarra Pattern, 1682

Navarra pattern produced for the Pamplona General Hospital Monopoly in 1682.

Hermanos Solesi

Hermanos Solesi

“Money Bag” pattern by Hermanos Solesi, late 18th c.