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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.

Gemaco

‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for the Princess Cruises Casino.

Gemaco Playing Card Co.

Formerly ‘Gemaco’ playing cards were manufactured by The George C. Matteson Co. Inc, Independence, Missouri. The business was acquired in 2014 by Gaming Partners International, who now offer five lines of casino quality playing cards, including Gemaco and Paulson brands   more →

‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for the Princess Cruises Casino

Above: ‘Gemaco’ playing cards custom-produced for the Princess Cruises Casino (on board ship one assumes). The courts include the logo of the Princess cruise line, which is rather unusual. The jokers were discarded when the deck was opened for play, as they were not required, and as such don't often survive. Images courtesy Matt Probert.

GPI manufactures and supplies equipment to licensed casinos under the brand names of Paulson®, Bourgogne et Grasset® and Bud Jones®.


At a certain point, cards are no longer in their preferred "mint" or nearly new condition. Casinos look to sell these used decks of cards to the general public, but before doing so they'll either burn the corners of the cards or puncture a tiny hole through them in order to prevent cheating. The cards being sold to the public look identical to the ones being used on the casino floor, so a tiny hole or a burnt corner will prevent any confusion between the cards sold to the public and the newer cards still being used at the casino.

‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for Hooters Casino Las Vegas, c.2000

Above: cancelled ‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for Hooters Casino Las Vegas, c.2000. The "Sentinel Security Series" face features a large letter/numeral in the index coupled with a slightly reduced centre configuration for maximum readability. This design was registered in mid-1999.

‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for the Paradise Island Resort and Casino

Above: hole-punched ‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for the Paradise Island Resort and Casino by The George C. Matteson Company.

‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for Peppermill Hotel Casino

Above: ‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for Peppermill Hotel Casino with a special custom ace of spades, which have been cancelled by marking the edges with red dye. Designed and manufactured by The George C. Matteson Company, 1990.

‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for Powerturbine

Above: ‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for Powerturbine.

‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for Ocean Players Club

Above: ‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for Ocean Players Club, aka Carnival Corporation the cruise liner conglomerate that owns Carnival, Cunard, P&O Cruises, Holland America Line etc. Image courtesy Matt Probert.

‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for the First State Bank of Shannon

Above: ‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for the First State Bank of Shannon.

Gemaco Presidential playing cards produced for Rolls Royce

Above: double deck of Gemaco Presidential playing cards produced for Rolls Royce, supplied in a black hard plastic tray box with clear lid. Image courtesy Matt Probert.

IBM Linux One playing cards produced by Gemaco, c.2018

Above: IBM Linux One playing cards produced by Gemaco, c.2018. From the collection of Marc Pavone.

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By Matt Probert

Member since March 02, 2012

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I have adored playing cards since before I was seven years old, and was brought up on packs of Waddington's No 1. As a child I was fascinated by the pictures of the court cards.

Over the next fifty years I was seduced by the artwork in Piatnik's packs and became a collector of playing cards.

Seeking more information about various unidentified packs I discovered the World of Playing Cards website and became an enthusiastic contributor researching and documenting different packs of cards.

I describe my self as a playing card archaeologist, using detective work to identify and date obscure packs of cards discovered in old houses, flea markets and car boot sales.

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‘Gemaco’ playing cards produced for the Princess Cruises Casino.

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‘Paulson’ playing cards produced by Gaming Partners International, manufactured in Mexico, for Hooters Casino Hotel, Las Vegas

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Naipes Conrad Punta del Este Casino playing cards produced specially for Conrad Punta del Este Resort & Casino. .

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Playing cards for Radisson Hotels - Casinos del Estado - Victoria Plaza, Montevideo, Uruguay, c.2009.