In spite of the fact that playing cards are very ordinary products, each and every one of them has a unique characteristic that sets it apart from the others. They have the power to instantly transfer us to times and places that we have not experienced in a very long time, reviving beloved memories from our childhood that we had long ago forgotten. There is always a deck of playing cards hidden away in one of our home’s drawers, and this is true regardless of the number of video games, PlayStations, tablets, and other technological gadgets that we own. Let’s have a look at some of the interesting things that we know about them.
1. Playing Cards Are Said to Be From China
The use of woodblock printing technology is thought to have given rise to playing cards in China during the Tang Dynasty in the 9th century. At the time, a deck of playing cards contained 30 individual cards. This is regarded as the most credible explanation for the origin of playing cards.
Ancient Chinese playing card decks
They arrived in Europe around the year 1360 from the Mamluk Empire in Egypt, having originated in China and migrated from there to India and Persia. Mameluke costumes included goblets, polo clubs, gold money, and swords. Both Italy and Spain were responsible for transforming them into various weapons, cups, and coins. Acorns, leaves, hearts, and bells were all popular card-making motifs in Germany. The French version of playing cards was published around 1480. The German shapes were simplified in this version to trefle (clover), pique (pike-heads – a type of weapon), coeur (hearts), and carreau (paving tiles).
The French version became popular in England, but the playing cards were given different names by the locals: hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades.
2. Real Historical People Were Used as Inspiration for the Face Cards
The Kings, Queens, and Jacks on a deck of cards are all based on real-life historical figures. The designs were created in France, just before the French Revolution, when card games were extremely popular among the country’s nobility. They have all evolved over time, and the four Kings we know today first appeared in the 18th century.
3. The Symbology of Playing Cards
The two colours represent day and night, respectively. The red cards represent midday, while the black cards represent nighttime.
The four suits represent the four seasons:
Spring = Hearts
Summer Time = Clubs
Autumn = diamonds
Winter = Spades
Furthermore, the four suits represent the four fundamental constituents of nature: water, fire, earth, and air.
- The thirteen cards correspond to the thirteen weeks that comprise each season.
- The 52 cards in this deck represent the 52 weeks in a year.
- The 12 Royals represent the 12 months of the year.
4. The World’s Oldest Complete Deck of Playing Cards Dates Back to the 15th Century
In 1983, the Metropolitan Museum of Art paid a total of $143,000 for a 52-card deck of South Dutch playing cards. The playing cards were from the 15th century and were in remarkable condition, despite the fact that history had almost completely forgotten about them. When the pack was sold in the 1970s, an antique dealer in Amsterdam asked $2,800 for it. At this point, it is generally agreed that this particular pack of playing cards is the world’s oldest complete deck of playing cards known to exist.
The cards contain a lot of interesting details on their own. Instead of the traditional suits, the four-card categories are based on various pieces of hunting equipment. Hunting horns, dog collars, hound tethers, and game nooses are examples of this equipment. (Source)
5. A Stack Has 365 Playing Cards in Total, Including the Joker
The total number of days in a year is 365, which can be calculated by adding the ace as 1, the jack as 11, the queen as 12, and the king as 13, plus one for the joker.
6. Bicycle Cards
The most iconic cards that aided American troops in escaping German captivity were Bicycle Cards.
The US Playing Card Company’s Bicycle brand playing cards are probably the most recognizable decks of playing cards in gaming history. They first appeared in 1885, and magicians, gamblers, and card players all over the world have used them in their shows ever since.
During World War II, special decks of Bicycle playing cards were distributed to American POWs held by the enemy. When the cards became wet, they ripped apart, revealing a hidden escape map when reassembled in a specific way. Kidnapped soldiers were able to escape from their captors by following this map.
Decks of these cards are said to have been responsible for at least 32 successful escapes from Colditz Castle, as well as 316 additional attempts to flee the castle. The exact number of decks produced is unknown, but the only two known to have survived are housed at the International Spy Museum in Washington, District of Columbia.
7. Ace of Spades
During the Vietnam War, US troops used playing cards as a form of psychological warfare. The ace of spades is traditionally the top card in a standard deck of playing cards. In a number of myths and legends, it is also known as the Death Card.
At the time, it was believed (later proven to be a myth) that Viet Cong soldiers were superstitious about the card and would flee battle if they saw it resting on the body of one of their dead. As a result, the company sent entire crates of Ace of Spades cards to American troops in Vietnam. This was done to ensure that US troops were ready for anything.
8. The “Suicide King” Is Also Known as King of Hearts
The King of Hearts is known as the “Suicide King” because he is depicted with a sword behind his head and lacks a moustache, making him unique among the Kings. This is due to poor copying practices used by English card makers over several centuries, which resulted in the loss of the king’s axe head.