A simple deck of cards is rich in history. There are many hidden meanings behind many aspects of cards. They are split between historical facts and speculative purposes, yet many persist till today. Playing cards are as popular now as it’s ever been, with online options joining traditional ones. The U.S. Playing Card Company is the single biggest playing card manufacturer globally, selling over 100 million packs of cards a year! The origin of playing cards was in 9th century China; however, they scarcely resembled the playing cards we know and love today. They transversed the world from Asia to Europe in the late 14th century and gradually evolved into the playing cards we know today. The original playing cards used in Europe incorporated four suits; Swords, Staves, Cups, and Coins. Here are ten facts about playing cards you probably haven’t heard yet.
1 – The Oldest Deck of Cards in the World
The world’s rarest and oldest deck of cards is presently displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, New York, USA. It is a hand-painted tarot deck estimated to be from the mid-15th century. It was unearthed in the Netherlands in pristine condition, which suggests People barely used them. A collector purchased the rare deck of cards for around $2,300 in the 1970s before spending years researching the pack’s history. He then sold the deck to the Metropolitan Museum in New York for $143,000. Another ancient pack of cards, the Mamluk, resides at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, while the University of Yale owns a centuries-old deck of cards.
2 – One Manufacturer Dominating The Playing Card Market
The US Playing Card Company is the biggest manufacturer of playing cards globally and the first choice for the casino industry. Brands include Aviator, Bee, Tally-Ho, and even the infamous Bicycle cards are by the company. The Belgian card company Cartamundi is a rival, claiming to be the largest manufacturer of cards in the world. Combined, they are responsible for many varieties of card games in diverse markets.
3 – Warfare
Military forces have long utilized cards. Where weight and size do matter, playing cards make for a compact form of entertainment and gambling. Due to that factor, playing cards have long been utilized in war efforts throughout history. Gamblers used playing cards during the Vietnam war that started in 1966; moreover, the Viet Cong was superstitious. The Ace of spades was, at that time, a symbol of death in fortune-telling. American soldiers used cards as psychological warfare against the Viet Cong. They sent decks of cards consisting of only the Ace of spades to overseas troops. They scattered around thousands of playing cards throughout the jungle, instilling fear in the Viet Cong soldiers. During World War II, troops hid maps within the decks of playing cards they sent over to prisoners of war behind enemy lines. When these cards got wet, one could peel off the top layer to reveal an escape map. It would lead them to freedom. In 2003, the American Playing Card Company printed playing cards depicting the 52 Most Wanted Men in Iraq. They were essentially a rouge’s gallery of the Iraqi leaders, from Saddam Hussein, who was the Ace of spades, to Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, who represented the five of hearts. They were shipped out to American troops to help them with their hunt for Iraqi leadership.
4 – Backs of Cards
There are typically two backs that are a big deal to card workers, magicians and casinos alike. Most decks of cards feature a variety of back designs. However, the more durable and visually pleasing decks are a little more simple than that. Usually toned with only one or two colours, they feature symmetrical designs. There’s a critical feature that magicians look for: Borders. Does a back design reach the edge of a card, or does it have a border? Without giving away tricks of the trade, both formats hide different things. The other backs represent many casino operators, who go through tremendous expense to fight against cheats and scams. The U.S. Playing Card Company doesn’t discuss backs much with regular customers. Still, if a customer has a casino, the company has plenty to advertise about what kind is better for different games.
5 – The Joker
The Joker is the only made in America card. Although the deck’s court cards take their inspiration from tarot cards, the joker isn’t inspired by the Fool. Before poker became America’s most popular card game, people went nuts for euchre, a trick-taking game. Cardmakers in the 1800s assisted in presenting bower cards, including big and little bowers. However, as poker spread up and down the Mississippi River, they found their way into the deck of cards as Wilds. Designers corrupted the German juker card into a joker, adding bells and hats to bike-riding bowers. The joker has been standard features of decks ever since.
6 – Face Cards
The ornate kings and queens illustrated on your winning hand may seem random; however, they depict real-life monarchs of the past. In British and French decks of cards, the kings always show a similar roster of famous rulers like King Charles, King David, Caesar, and Alexander the Great. The queen cards were more varied; however, Pallas, Judith, Rachel and Argine were prevalent choices.
7 – Ace of Spades
The popularity of card games dates back to the 1700s. The government started levying tax on packs of cards at that time, and the Ace of Spades was designed with extra blank space stamped when someone had paid their taxes. To this very day, the Ace card gives you extra space; however, for branding rather than for taxation.