Playing Cards History
Playing cards have been around for centuries and still remain popular today. Some of the first uses of playing cards were believed to be for magical purposes, games simulating combat, for currency and as an alternative to game pieces for chess.
One thing that has not all have come to agreement over is that the invention was a result of a group of people looking for a leisure activity to bring them closer together.
Standard Deck of Playing Cards
Playing cards usually come in a standard deck of 52 cards per deck with four groups or suits of 13 cards. Two black suits consisting of spades and clubs and two red suits made up of hearts and diamonds.
The advent of the four suits has origins that date back to the 1500s in France. An object that looked like a clover was then called the trefle and is now referred to as the clubs suit. Today’s clubs suit was then marked by the tip of a pike called the pique. Hearts remained relatively the same, being referred to as the French translation coeur. The last suit was a square called carreau but was named diamond after its diamond shaped spot.
Each suit of cards consists of cards numbered one to ten with an Ace being substituted for one. Eleven to thirteen is denoted by Jack, Queen and King. King is usually the highest card in of each suit; however, many games use the A card as the highest ranking card.
Cultural Origins of Cards
Today, playing cards can be seen everywhere with countless games and uses. The invention and origins of the cards have been highly debated.
Playing cards date back to China as early as 1,100 A.D. where cards were mainly used for monetary purposes. The “money cards” later inspired various uses of for games and gambling. It is largely believed that these cards later inspired the birth of the classic Chinese Maj Jong tiles. Playing cards were found in Europe as early as the 13th century in various card games. Some suggest that the origins are from India due to the resemblance to many Indian figures and characters found on European cards. How the cards spread across the globe is not known.
During the 13th century in Europe, playing cards were mainly reserved for aristocracy due to the high price of the decks. The earliest cards were mostly handpainted on paper.
It is interesting to note that the first printing press in Europe were not used to publish books or newspapers but were used to produce decks of playing cards due to their great demand. Using a wood block printer, cards were printed by applying ink to a image of playing card carved from wood then applying a card against the wood block to produce a playing card.
In France, the popularity and the spread of the playing cards led to the decks being banned on working days.
Playing Cards as Money
China was one of the first places to use playing cards as currency. Playing cards would again be used as currency in Canada during 1600s. In 1685, playing cards were introduced to Canada as it was still a French colony. Due to slow transit times from France, playing cards were often marked with a value and signed by the governor to mark it as official currency. The cards would be in circulation as money for 70 years.