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How Playing Cards Came About

Playing cards have been around for thousands of years and they have been the inspiration behind many games.  The traditional deck of playing cards has 52 cards with four suits with 13 ranks in each suit.  There is also one card, the joker which is kind of the odd man out.  The different suits made of Kings, Queens and Knights traditionally dressed in the dress of the English nobility are the basis for the cards we have today.  It is thought that playing cards found their way to Europe in the 1350s and during this time playing card games were forbidden on a Sunday.

Origins of Playing Cards

Archaeological findings date cards back to the 12th century China and these findings were in the form of a paper cards used for money.  This deck had a range of coins in various formats numbered from 1 to 9.  These cards it is thought were used as currency.  During this time the cards were played with and also used to place bets.  It is also thought that cards originated in Egypt and went across to the Mediterranean during the 14th century.  In Egypt the cards looked a little different, but still had 52, and were divided into suits of swords, sticks, cups and coins numbered 1 to 10.  There were also royal titles in the form of geometric patterns.  The cards we use today for real money blackjack and other games evolved into hearts, bells, leaves and acorns designed by the Germans and Swiss and it was the French who came up with hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds.

Refined in Europe

In Europe the cards received faces and the titles king, chevalier and valet originated.  At this time there was also some confusion with regard to how many cards should be in a deck, some having 48 or 56.  During the 15th century the number 52 was decided upon.  The designs changed many times with many changes taking place in France.  During the 14th century the Ace became the highest card in place of the king and during the French revolution games Aces high was played.  At some point it was even discussed to do away with the royal family, but this idea was soon lost.

Playing Cards in the US

The ace of spades is the face of the deck of cards and is often used to show the logo and brand of the card.  During the 19th century the cards looked like what we have today with kings, knaves and queens in four suits hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds.  Playing cards were printed as the demand increased.  Playing cards made their way to the US through the colonies or immigrants and card games became a popular pastime in bars and saloons.  America began printing cards and a problem came up at the time.  The cards had always been called king, queen and knave and these abbreviations could be found in the corner of each card as K, Q and KN, which was confusing so the knave became the jack.  Jokers appeared and became a member of the royal household and in Europe the joker was portrayed as a court jester or fool.  The joker is considered a wild card and can be the solution to problems and always wins.

This popular item has made its way through the centuries and has undergone many challenges and changes to bring us what we have today.

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