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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.

Royal Playing Cards, 1890s

Royal Playing Cards, 1890s

A special pack showing historical European figures manufactured by The New York Consolidated Card Company in the mid-1890s.

Above: magnificently illuminated "Royal Playing Cards" published in the mid-1890s by The New York Consolidated Card Company to commemorate the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria and Russia (subsequently replaced by Italy). The suits depict personages from Germany (clubs), Austria (diamonds), Italy (hearts) and Russia (spades).

This Ace of Spades and the Gold Medal Joker were first issued c.1880 and subsequently used in "Squeezer" decks.

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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.

Recommended

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.

Dynastie Royale de Belgique

Dynastie Royale de Belgique

Dynastie Royale de Belgique by Mesmaekers, 1934.

A Royal Game

A Royal Game

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

Crown the Queen

Crown the Queen

Crown the Queen card game invented by Elaine Burton, c.1953.

Kings & Queens of England Misfitz

Kings & Queens of England Misfitz

Kings & Queens of England Misfitz, c.1918.

The Royal Historical Game of Cards

The Royal Historical Game of Cards

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.

Queen’s Silver Jubilee 1977

Queen’s Silver Jubilee 1977

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

Hide & Seek with the Kings & Queens of England

Hide & Seek with the Kings & Queens of England

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

Rois de France

Rois de France

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

August der Starke

August der Starke

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

Lapin Brothers

Lapin Brothers

Reprint of Lapin’s Historical Belarusian playing cards.

Royal Pavilion at Brighton

Royal Pavilion at Brighton

The Royal Pavilion, also known as the Brighton Pavilion, is an Asian-style palace built for King George IV when he was Prince of Wales.

Sovereigns of England

Sovereigns of England

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

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.

Pack of Royals

Pack of Royals

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

Carel de Wagenaer

Carel de Wagenaer

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

Peterhof

Peterhof

“Peterhof” deck manufactured at the Leningrad Colour Printing Plant in 1999.

Glorious Russia

Glorious Russia

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

Kaiser Jubiläum

Kaiser Jubiläum

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

Habemus Boda, 2004

Habemus Boda, 2004

“Habemus Boda” deck celebrating the royal wedding of Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Spain with cartoons by Sir Cámara

Cartes Imperiales et Royales

Cartes Imperiales et Royales

‘Cartes Imperiales et Royales’ published by B. P. Grimaud & Cie representing imperial rulers and consorts from Austria, England, France & Russia, mid-19th century

Our Kings and Queens

Our Kings and Queens

An historical & educational card game designed and published by Mazawattee Tea Co., Ltd, London, c.1902

Królewskie

Królewskie

‘Królewskie’ playing cards with Slavic style courts, printed by KZWP-Trefl, 2002.

Royal Old Maid Game

Royal Old Maid Game

This antique card game features English kings and queens from William the Conqueror to Queen Victoria, along with their spouses or consorts.

Rowley & Co - “Monarchs of Europe”

Rowley & Co - “Monarchs of Europe”

In around 1775 Rowley & Co attempted to reform the traditional court cards to portraits of the kings and queens of England, France, Spain and Russia.

Quits

Quits

Jaques' Quits card game, c.1880-85, with portraits of monarchs inside suit symbols in red, blue and yellow, designed to assist in the education of school children in British history.

The Game of Four Queens

The Game of Four Queens

In 1988 the Danish School of Design set the examination project to design a pack of playing cards. Thomas Damkier designed this royalty deck, called “Dronningespillet” (Game of Queens).

Christian IV Anniversary

Christian IV Anniversary

King Christian IV anniversary pack, designed by Thora Fisker and printed by L. Jevison Junior, 1988.

Imperial Royal Pack

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.

Nineteenth Century Pack

Nineteenth Century Pack

A magnificent example of Goodall & Son’s range of chromolithographed Commemorative playing cards from the late nineteenth century..

New Bond

New Bond

The New Bond Fabric Finish Playing Cards, made by the Universal Playing Card Co. Ltd.

Victoria Diamond Jubilee

Victoria Diamond Jubilee

Playing cards commemorating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, manufactured by Chas Goodall & Son, 1897.

Royal Playing Cards, 1890s

Royal Playing Cards, 1890s

Royal Playing Cards, 1890s

King Christian of Denmark

King Christian of Denmark

In 1935 a souvenir pack of playing cards to celebrate the King's 65th birthday was commissioned from the British firm of De La Rue.

L. P. Holmblad - Denmark

L. P. Holmblad - Denmark

Cards from c.1850 by L. P. Holmblad showing fantasy historical Danish Kings and Queens.

Jagiellonskie

Jagiellonskie

Jagiellonskie Playing Cards with Polish Kings and Queens, made in Poland