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 Bibloth