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People are often surprised when we tell them we collect playing cards.They all know how to play games with cards and have all held them in their hands before, but they’ve never realized that ordinary playing cards come from a long history of ancient patterns, in Europe dating back as far as the 14th century.

Each decade or century shows its characteristics on its playing cards.

Can you imagine what “pin-up” cards looked like in the Victorian age? And when the process of photography was discovered, it didn’t take long before the first application was featured in playing cards too.

Congress cards are now typically sold in coordinated sets of two decks to facilitate the common bridge practice of alternating decks between hands.

Playing cards evolved from a variety of gambling games established in the Middle East and Asia, including chess and backgammon.

Among the oldest known card decks is the “Marmalukes of Egypt,” a set marked with swords, cups, coins, and polo sticks.

Cards arrived in Europe sometime in the late 14th century, likely passing through the major port of Venice.

There were collectors of antique decks only, collectors of Dutch decks only, collectors of non-standard decks with certain topics.

But there were also collectors of single cards only: joker collectors and collectors of advertising backs, mostly with preferences for certain topics like airlines, tobacco, or beer only.

Local standard patterns appeared, disappeared or evolved over the centuries and different patterns, regional or by country, are still used within the European territory.

Besides standard patterns, normally used for everyday playing, special non- standard decks have been printed and published since the introduction of playing cards in Europe.

Discriminating players appreciate Congress cards for their attractive designs and enduring quality.

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