Antique playing cards four kings spades hearts diamonds clubs - Stock Image

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These four 19th century King playing cards (King of spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs) date from around 1864. They were printed by Thomas de la Rue in London. The cards are 62mm x 88mm in size, and they have no indices (no letters or numbers at the top and bottom).

It was typical of this time that, on a court card, the suit symbol might lie on the left- or the right-hand side. With kings, all lie on the left. The pictures are, as in modern court cards, reversible top-to-bottom.

Cards such as this, depicting a person, are called face cards. Since they show Kings, they are also court cards. Relatively modern designs such as this have their roots in the French manufacturing centre of Rouen, in the 16th century.

Thomas de la Rue was born in Le Bourg, Guernsey, in 1793. Here he gained his knowledge of printing from his father, before moving to London in 1818. By 1853, the author Charles Dickens was praising the company for its fine work, in an article titled A Pack Of Cards. Thomas de la Rue became known as 'the father of the English playing card'.

Below: links to more playing cards (not antique).

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