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Who Invented Playing Cards | History, Myths, & Facts

By Shubham Saxena February 27, 2023

Playing Cards: The Inception, History, Myths, And Facts 

Card games have been around for centuries and continue to be a favourite pastime for many people across the globe. These playing cards have been used for many purposes all over the world, including as a royal game, a festive event and for educational and artistic purposes as well. Each part of the globe has its own card decks and styles of playing cards, and thus card games are like a window into each area’s culture and history. 

Now, it is even possible for you to play a variety of fun card games online by downloading and using the First Games App. If you want to know more about the history of who invented card games and how old are playing cards, then let us first see who invented playing cards and where did this concept start. 

Who Invented Playing Cards?

According to historical records, the first evidence of playing cards was found in China before AD 1800. It is believed that in 868 CE, a Chinese writer named Sue wrote a description of princess Tong Chen playing a game with leaves (yezi ge) with her in-laws. 

There is also evidence that these games had popular folklore characters and stories involved. According to reports, there are also speculations that card games were invented alongside dominos and mahjong and were used as play money for gambling purposes. 

What Is The Oldest Card Deck?

Playing card decks evolved over time and moved throughout many locations, and have now taken on many different variations. But it is believed that the oldest card deck dates back to the late 15th century and was called the Cloisters Deck. It was named after the mediaeval Cloisters' location at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as it was found there. 

This deck was most likely made in the Netherlands and has 52 cards with faces and numbered cards. The other famous old deck of cards was the Mamluk cards that were found around the 16th century at the Topkapı Palace Museum in Istanbul.

History Of Playing Card Suits

The four suits that we know today slowly evolved over time and have become the standard norm now. Let us look at the history of playing card suits and how they evolved into the four suits that we know today. 

  • The four suits in a deck of cards: Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs evolved around the 15th century and are a French design.
  • The idea of these suits was way more ancient, though and began in Asia in the 10 century.
  • The first recorded suits were found in the Muslim playing cards and were known as Polo Sticks, Cups, Swords and Coins.
  • These decks then started being used in Southern Europe. Since the people were not familiar with polo sticks, this suit was changed to Batons, Sceptres, or Cudgels.
  • As cultures evolved, there were many new suits added to the deck of cards and even royalty cards were used.
  • In France, four suits were chosen in 1480, and each of these represented a class: Spades- Royalty, Clubs - Peasants, Hearts- Clergy and Diamonds- Merchants.
  • The French also made the modern flat, single-coloured designs of the four suits that can be made with simple stencils.
  • These inexpensive cards flooded the markets all over Europe and reached America as well, and now this is the main suit design that we know and use in our card games.

Myths Surrounding The Deck Of Cards

There were many urban myths surrounding the fifty-two deck of cards that we use today. The most common one is a symbolic one and is related to the calendar and weather and states that each of the four suits represents the four seasons. The 52 cards, on the other hand, represent the 52 weeks in the calendar. This was considered a way to try and explain that cards were not invented for gambling purposes so that people could keep using them.

History Of Playing Cards Timeline

To help you better understand how playing cards evolved over time, let us create a timeline of the events that led to the modern deck that we use widely all across the globe.

  1. 868 CE

The origin of playing cards was traced back to 868 CE. This was the earliest evidence of playing cards where leaves were used as cards in China in 868 CE. A Chinese writer Sue states that Princes Tong Chen played the leaf game with her in-laws.

      2. 1000 CE

 

This idea of playing cards then spread across the Asian continent from Persia to India. Later on, it even spread to Egypt and then started becoming common in Southern Europe. 

     3. 1377 CE

 

An ordinance is passed in Paris where playing cards are mentioned as a game, and the rules of the game are also given. This was done to maintain decorum and keep the players in check. From this point on, there was strong evidence of this game in Europe in the history of playing cards.

     4. 1418 CE

 

Card makers in Augsburg, Nuremberg and Ulm now started using woodblocks to mass produce decks of playing cards. After the woodblock painting, these cards were then coloured using stencils or by hand.

     5. 1480 CE

 

France now started using the four suits: Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs in their deck of playing cards. The Spade design is a stylish leaf, whereas the Clubs represent an acorn design.

    6. 1500 CE

 

A Parisian design of the 52-card deck became popular in Europe and across the globe and is still the most widely used design.

   7. 1790 CE

 

After the French Revolution, the Ace card became one of the highest top card ranks and replaced the King as the highest-ranking card in its suit. 

    8. 1860 CE

 

It was in America that the joker card was invented for the game of Euchre. This game spread from Europe to America after the American Revolutionary War. In 1875, the joker was used as a wildcard in one of the variations of poker. The joker has now become an important card in many card game variations and is a key trump card to win many games.

    9. 1881 CE

 

In 1881 CE, Russel and Morgan printed their first deck of cards which became special because these decks had a glossy coat that made them stand out. These cards also had a paper finish and were called Bicycle deck cards. These are now the standard card deck that is famous all across America and the globe and is used for a variety of card games.

   10.  2016 CE

 

A US company started allowing people to manufacture their own cards with their own designs and finishes to create a variety of different card decks.

Symbolism Of Suits

The four suits: Diamonds, Hearts, Clubs and Spades evolved over time and are known to represent nature’s elements like earth, water, fire, and wind. They are also said to represent cardinal directions and the seasons. These cards are meant to symbolise the struggle of all these different forces to achieve victory. The thirteen cards of each suit also represent the thirteen lunar months.

Now with globalisation, the card deck and playing card games have become standard across the globe and are very widespread. You can now even play a variety of card games online on the First Games App powered by Paytm and try your hand at rummy and poker variations. You will soon become a pro at card games and learn all the tricks and trades of these fun and exciting card games.

FAQ’s

  • What was the first card game? Arrow
    It is said that the first card game was invented in China in the 9th century in 868 CE and was played with leaves. But the first card game that was recorded where the rules are known and recognised as the Karnoffel card game started in Bavaria, Europe, in 1426.
  • Where did the card game originate from? Arrow
    It is believed that the card game originated in China before AD 1000 in 868 CE. According to some reports, the Chinese writer Sue wrote a report where she described Princess Tong Cheng playing a game of leaves with her in-laws.
  • When was the 52 deck invented? Arrow
    Evidence suggests that the 52-card Deck existed in the 1400s in Europe, where playing cards were denounced as a gambling activity. The earliest cards with the English pattern only began in 1516, and Britain started producing these 52-card decks in the late 16th century.
  • What is the world's oldest card game? Arrow
    Karnoffel is the world’s oldest recorded card game which originated in Bavaria, Germany, in 1426. It was first played at an annual festival in the region and grew in popularity from there. This trick-taking card game is still played across Europe and the world and is a fun and exciting card game.
  • Who invented playing card suits? Arrow
    The four playing card suits that we know today were invented in France in 1480. They were organised in the form of classes, and each suit represented a particular class: Spades- RoyaltyClubs - PeasantsHearts- ClergyDiamonds- Merchants

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