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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.

127 Articles

Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

Retired Airline Pilot, interested in: Transformation Playing Cards, Karl Gerich and Elaine Lewis. Secretary of the EPCS. Treasurer of the IPCS.

The latest articles from Barney Townshend

Fortune-Telling Cards

Comic Fortune-Telling Cards published by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850. • Mar 07, 2022

Comic Question & Answer cards

Comic Question & Answer cards by Josh. Reynolds & Sons, circa 1850. • Mar 07, 2022

Anonymous possibly Kaspar Traugott Knaut.

The maker is possibly Kaspar Traugott Knaut (1799-1881). • Mar 05, 2022

Schweizer Trachten

Schweizer Trachten No.174 (Costumes Suisses) by Dondorf. • Feb 15, 2022

Karl Gerich No.22: “Rouennais”

Karl Gerich’s hand-made design No.22: “Rouennais”, Victoria P.C.C, Bath (UK), 1990. • Nov 27, 2017

Thomas Walters Transformation

Hand-drawn transformation pack dated 1874 with the name Thomas Walters on the ace of spades. • Oct 24, 2015

A Motley Pack

A book titled “On The Cards” or “A Motley Pack” by Garnet Walch (1843-1913) was published in Melbourne (Australia) and illustrated by George Gordon McCrae in 1875. • Oct 19, 2015

A Pair of Transformation Packs

Two similar but fascinatingly different hand-drawn transformation decks by the same artist, c.1875 • Oct 04, 2015

Transformation c.1880

Transformation playing cards hand-drawn on a pack manufactured by Hunt’s Playing Card Manufacturing Co Ltd c.1880 • Apr 27, 2015

Carl Arnold Transformation

Transformation playing cards designed by Carl Johann Arnold (1829-1916), the court artist for King Friedrich Wilhem IV of Prussia • Dec 17, 2014

International Playing Cards

Designed by Reuben Townroe (1835‑1911), the artist who designed the ornamented terra cotta work on the exterior of the Royal Albert Hall in London. • Apr 12, 2013


Aluminium playing cards manufactured by Häusermann United Chemical and Metal Engraving Co., Vienna, c.1925 • Apr 09, 2013


Publicity playing cards for the Dutch credit company Sitters & van der Kar. The four Aces and Joker feature abstract geometric designs in the style of Art Deco. • Apr 07, 2013

Past-L-Eze Playing Cards

On “Past-L-Eze” playing cards Kings, Queens and Jacks are no longer stodgy and conventional but pleasingly reflect suspicion, flirtation and worry. • Apr 04, 2013

Badische Spielkartenfabrik

Sports-themed playing cards published by Badische Spielkartenfabrik, Baden, c.1930 • Apr 04, 2013

Crowquill Transformation

Transformation playing cards designed by the illustrator, comic artist and stage designer ‘Alfred Crowquill’ (Alfred Henry Forrester, 1804-72), printed by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850. • Apr 03, 2013

Austrian Lloyd Steamship Company

Possibly one of the most beautiful decks produced for commercial purposes, this was printed by Modiano for the Austrian Lloyd Steamship Company of Trieste in c.1895 • Mar 31, 2013

Submarine Cards

Lighting in submarines involved wearing red goggles to preserve night vision for viewing instrument panels. The goggles solved one problem but created another: the red suits on playing cards were not visible through the red goggles. • Mar 28, 2013

Ritter & Cie, 1933

A colourful re-working of the standard Anglo-American pattern in Art Deco style. • Mar 26, 2013

Kimberley’s Royal National Patriotic playing cards, c.1902

This edition has standard corner indices replacing the words King, Queen and Jack, and also contains a “Jolly Joker” depicting a lady holding an Ace of Hearts. • Mar 24, 2013

Rummy No.210

Period cartoon images from the 1930s. The Kings are in fancy dress ready to party, the Queens appear ready for socialising whilst the Jacks are already on the go. • Mar 23, 2013

Warburg Luxus Bridgekort

“Luxus Bridgekort” was specially designed by Barbara MacDonald in a vibrant Art Deco style for Warburg of Denmark in c.1930, and printed by Universal Playing Card Co. Ltd (England). • Mar 22, 2013

Matyó-Bridge No.50

The court cards in this delightful Art Deco pack represent persons in various colourfully embroidered folkloric costumes. Designed by Hungarian artist Ilona Radnainé Szöredi. • Mar 21, 2013

26th Yankee Division

“26th Yankee Division Playing Cards” was designed by Alban B. Butler, Jr and printed by the Press of the Woolly Whale, New York, in 1933. • Mar 15, 2013

Paramount Film Stars

Promotional playing cards for the Paramount film company with film stars on the court cards. • Mar 14, 2013

J.L. & J. Turnbull

An ‘Old Frizzle’ Ace of Spades was assigned to them in 1833. In 1853 James L. & J. Turnbull were listed as ‘Makers of Playing Cards, Pasteboard, Paper Glossers and Pressers and Drawing Board Makers. • Mar 12, 2013

Film Star Playing Cards

Promotional playing cards for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film company with film stars on the court cards. • Mar 10, 2013

Merry Andrew

There are two Aces to each suit; one plain and the other with figures of a young woman and man, presumably Merry Andrew and his girl-friend. • Mar 08, 2013

Brussels Euro Joker Club 1998

Brussels Euro Joker Club's 10th Anniversary deck, with artwork by Yvette Cleuter, was produced in a limited, signed and numbered edition of 400 copies. • Jan 27, 2013

Walter Scharff

Walter Scharff was of Jewish descent. After some early experiences working in a cardboard factory and printing business cards, Walter Scharff established a playing card factory in 1923 and published a small but elegant range of German, Swiss and French-suited decks. There was a lot of competition in... • Jan 24, 2013

Karl Gerich No.31: Triton

“Triton”, KG31, was published by Karl Gerich in 1989 trading as Victoria Playing Card Co with double-ended courts based on the XP17 or “Bongoût” pattern of Van Genechen and other Turnhout makers. • Jan 21, 2013


A series of fifty-five original designs (including frontispiece, back and Joker) for a Pickwick pack of playing cards, in which are introduced all the principal & many of the minor characters figuring in the great humorous classic. • Dec 24, 2012

Ceska Graficka Unie AS

Playing Cards printed by Ceska Graficka Unie AS, Czechia, Prague, 1890-1925. • Dec 16, 2012


The Russians were no strangers to propaganda cards. Clubs represent the Russian Orthodox church, Hearts Roman Catholicism, Spades Confucianism and Diamonds represent Judaism. • Dec 02, 2012

Basler Fasnachts-Karten

The Basler Fasnachts deck is designed each year by a different local artist. • Dec 01, 2012

Karl Gerich No.20: Rouennais A

The Aces are decorated with the pip in a central circle and two different figures at each end of the card. The courts are lavishly illustrated. • Nov 25, 2012

Hauptstadte Spiel

Each Ace shows views of two European capital cities. • Nov 24, 2012

Fynste Java Speelkaarten

Dondorf's "Fynste Java Speelkaarten No.17" was published to commemorate the second marriage of King William III with Princess Emma of Waldeck-Pyrmont, on January 7, 1879. • Nov 22, 2012