PLAYING CARDS: A BRIEF HISTORY

Playing cards transformed a lot since its beginnings a long time ago. People believe that playing cards originated in China and spread to India and Persia. It then spread to Egypt during the era of Mamluk control. The Italian and Iberian peninsulas welcomed it into Europe during the second half of the 14th century. That is why European playing cards have an Islamic derivation. It is then that it became a part of popular culture. Only the wealthy patrons, such as dukes or emperors, were able to afford the earliest decks. These were hand-painted works of art that are expensive. A more affordable production method became available so everyone can play cards.

The East

Scholars still debate the precise origin of playing cards, and even the best theories rely more on speculation than proof. But there is clear historical evidence that playing cards appeared first in Europe in the late 1300s and early 1400s. It may have been the gypsies, crusaders, or traders who imported it to Europe. Scholars believe that the invention of playing cards happened during the Tang dynasty. There seems to be evidence of games involving playing cards around the ninth century AD. That places the origins of playing cards before 1000AD, and it may have originated from tile games like dominoes and mahjong.

Others suggest that playing cards were “play money” that represented the stakes used for other betting games. They became part of the games later on. Decks of that era had goblets, gold coins, swords, and polo-sticks, representing the main interests of the Mamluk aristocracy. These suits are parallel to the four suits in the Italian playing cards from the fourteenth century.

Italy and Spain

A German monk from Switzerland mentions the appearance of playing cards and various other card games they played in the 1300s. Playing cards and dice games were examples of denounced gambling activities in the 1400s. People refer to the swords, clubs, cups, and coins as the Latin suits. From the late fourteenth century, the Italian decks contained a set of court cards that included a mounted king, a seated and crowned queen, and a knave. The knave later became Jack to avoid confusion with the King. The Spanish deck had a different set of court cards, having a king, a knight, and a knave. It had no queens. The Spanish cards did not have a 10. It resulted in a forty-card deck with the absence of 8s and 9s in the Spanish national game of ombre.

The real history of playing cards is a long and incredible journey. You can enjoy a modern deck and play with your friends today, or you can also enjoy Super 10 to check out the cards used in the game.