*1* WORLD PLAYING CARD VARIETIES
(in roughly the order they first appeared)
You can see some examples of these cards in the Worldwide Time Machine threads for the respective countries.
- The first playing cards were likely made in China following the invention of paper sometime between 140 and 86 B.C. Traditional Chinese cards are generally long, narrow, and belong to 4 different types: Domino cards, Money-Suited cards, Character cards and Chess cards. Historically the different card types appear to have originated in that order - Domino cards first and Chess cards (from Chinese Chess) last.
- These are round cards in large decks of 8 or more suits, 12 cards to each suit. There are 2 court cards in each suit, a king (or lord, or rajah, etc.) and a general (second in rank), and pip cards from 1 - 10. Used to play a game called Ganjifa the cards may have been based on the now extinct Persian cards for the anciant game of As-Nas. The name Ganjifa comes from the Persian word ganjifeh (گنجفه), meaning playing card, and is used to refer to cards in India, Nepal, Iran, some Arab countries and Turkey. The traditional Ganjifa cards used in India were, and are, handmade and hand painted, each single card being a work of art.
- Are still used today in Spain, Italy, South and Central America, the Philipines, some parts of France and North Africa. The Spanish use 4 suits of Copas (Cups/Hearts), Oros (Coins/Diamonds), Bastos (Clubs) and Espadas (Swords/Spades). The one-way courts are all male with Sota (Jack), Caballo (Knight) and Rey (King). The pip cards go from 1 to 9 for a 48 card deck, with sometimes the 8s and 9s being droppped for a popular 40 card game. In most of Italy playing cards use the same suits as Spanish decks and have the courts Re (king), Cavallo (horseman) or Donna (Woman), and Fante (infantry soldier). The Latin card family is based on earlier Arabic (Mamluk) cards which used coins, cups, swords, and polo sticks. The archaic Italian word for "playing cards", naibi or naibbi, and the Spanish equivalent, naipes, still used, both come from the Arabic word na'ib, meaning "delegate" or "deputy", which was one of the four court cards in the old Arabic deck.
- France first used imported Italian and Spanish decks. By the 1480s they had started using the new suits diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs, and a queen in the courts. The simple French suits were very easy to print, using the stencil and woodblock technology of the time, and were produced in great quantity, soon spreading to England, and, through the English and French, to North America. This suit family is also now known as the International deck and is used all around the world for many modern decks.
- The Portuguese brought their version of Latin playing cards to Japan in the 1500s and the Japanese made their own versions of them in the traditional tile-like form they were already using. Originally painted on sea shells, traditional cards are small and thick like tiles and can only be shuffled by being placed face down and mixed. Oldest is the Game of Poets and most popular is Hanafuda. There were many different playing card decks and games invented to get around gambling laws. The gaming company Nintendo was first started in 1889 for the sole purpose of making and selling the popular Hanafuda decks.
- At the end of the 1500s, though Spanish suits were sometimes used, the German suits of hearts, acorns, bells and leaves were created and are still in use today. Before that the earliest playing cards were hunting decks - hand painted, and later wood block printed - with varying symbols of the hunt as their 4 suits, ie. deer, falcon, dogs, ducks heron, etc. Germany experimented with more playing card suits than any other nation before, and even after, establishing the official German suits.
*Many nations of the world did not develop their own cards and have adopted either Latin or French playing card designs, sometimes with their own innovations, such as the dragons on the aces of traditional Portuguese Latin based cards.