Playing Cards



Playing Cards are a global fun game whether it is Gin Rummy, Old Maid, War or a high bank poker game, cards have been popular for years.

The cards are standard size and design now but they have changed over the years. It is estimated playing cards came about during the late 1300s and early 1400s in Europe. Yet similar early cards were in the 12th century in the Asian continent.

When playing cards first emerged in Europe, they were almost exclusively for nobility and royalty; the cards were designed by hand and featured ornate drawings, making them expensive to acquire. In France in the later 1400s, the French decided to differentiate suits by shape and color and changed them to red hearts (“rouge coeurs”), black spades (“noir piques”), red diamonds (“rouge carreaux”), and black clubs (“noir trefles”). Eschewing more ornate iconography for the numbered cards, they opted for simplified symbols, which also translated to easier printing methods.

Playing cards became increasingly popular with the public towards the end of the 18th century when German inventor Alois Senefelder created lithography, a cheaper, more efficient printing method, which in return made playing cards more accessible.

In America, playing cards were printed in the mid-1800s and introduced two major design changes: corner indices and jokers. Corner indices — the suit value in the upper left and lower right corners — first appeared in 1864 but didn’t become mainstream until 1871. The addition of corner indices was revolutionary to the pastime as it made it easier for people to recognize the value of their hands without having to spread out their cards.

It was in 1860 the joker card was introduced and was invented as a trick option for the popular game Euchre. Later the joker became a wild card in poker.

The front has the face of the card (5 of diamonds, etc) and the back a design. Playing cards are typically palm-sized for convenient handling and usually are sold together in a set as deck of cards or pack of cards with the standard 52 cards in a deck.

Playing cards can be found everywhere nowadays and is still just as popular.

Photo: Playing Cards

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Ancestors and Crossword Puzzles

Classic Children’s Games

History of Dominoes

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