U.S. Games Systems, Inc   Welcome to the World of Playing Cards

Welcome to the World of Playing Cards

Playing cards do not suggest to most people a subject of historical importance. We rarely question their design and they have become a part of our social life.

Yet the development of playing cards since the 15th century closely parallels the history of printing. The images printed on the faces of the cards often reflect social events and the customs of the times.

Collectors of cards may focus on a variety of subjects that include the military, theater, art, history and polities. Other specialties include souvenir decks, transformation packs, advertising cards, tobacco inserts, railroad issues, fortune telling, magic and novelty decks.

The subject matter associated with playing cards is so broad there are many by-paths in which the collector also may become involved. Related subjects include game boxes and compendiums, French P.O.W. bone and straw work boxes, sterling silver card holders, trump indicators for whist and bridge, poker chips, tallies, cribbage boards, dominoes, ephemera and card games. Theories abound as to the origin of playing cards. The earliest prohibition against cards appears in 1367 in Bern, Switzerland. Similar prohibitions appeared in Spain, Italy, France, and Germany.

As printing developed, the production of playing cards became more readily available to all classes, and suit signs varied in some countries.

Important playing card collections are housed at the Biblothèque Nationale, Paris; the British Museum, London; The Cary Collection at The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; and the Playing Card Museum at The United States Playing Card Company, Cincinnati.

Children's card games have been popular family entertainment for generations. Favorite games include Old Maid, Snap, Dr. Busby, Peter Coddles and Authors.

The game of Authors was first published in 1861 by G.M. Whipple and A.A. Smith, Salem, MA. Over 200 different versions have appeared and many are represented in the Collection. Not only are the graphics on many card games very attractive, the colorful box wraps reveal a visual slice of life from the past.

Several organizations encourage and support playing card and game collecting. They include 52-PlusJoker, The International Playing Card Society, Chicago Playing Card Collectors, American Game Collectors Association and The Ephemera Society. Since addresses of the secretaries of these organizations tend to change depending upon volunteers, interested parties may contact U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for current correspondents.

Part of the enjoyment for a collector is the opportunity to share one's specialized interest with other people. We hope that your viewing experience of Antique Playing Cards is both entertaining and educational.

Stuart R. Kaplan