ⓘ Playing card
A playing card is a piece of specially prepared card stock, heavy paper, thin cardboard, plastic-coated paper, cotton-paper blend, or thin plastic that is marked with distinguishing motifs. Often the front and back of each card has a finish to make handling easier. They are most commonly used for playing card games, and are also used in magic tricks, cardistry, card throwing, and card houses; cards may also be collected. Some types of cards such as tarot cards are also used for divination. Playing cards are typically palm-sized for convenient handling, and usually are sold together in a set as a deck of cards or pack of cards.
Playing cards are available in a wide variety of styles, as decks may be custom-produced for casinos and magicians sometimes in the form of trick decks, made as promotional items, or intended as souvenirs, artistic works, educational tools, or branded accessories. Decks of cards or even single cards are also collected as a hobby for monetary value. Different types of card decks can be found in different areas of the world - while the standard 52-card deck is known and used internationally, other types of cards such as Japanese hanafuda and Italian playing cards are well-known in their locales. Cards may also be produced for trading card sets or collectible card games, which can comprise hundreds if not thousands of unique cards.
Playing cards were first invented in China during the Tang dynasty.
1.1. History China
Playing cards may have been invented during the Tang dynasty around the 9th century AD as a result of the usage of woodblock printing technology. The first possible reference to card games comes from a 9th-century text known as the Collection of Miscellanea at Duyang, written by Tang dynasty writer Su E. It describes Princess Tongchang, daughter of Emperor Yizong of Tang, playing the "leaf game" in 868 with members of the Wei clan, the family of the princess husband. The first known book on the "leaf" game was called the Yezi Gexi and allegedly written by a Tang woman. It received commentary by writers of subsequent dynasties. The Song dynasty 960–1279 scholar Ouyang Xiu 1007–1072 asserts that the "leaf" game existed at least since the mid-Tang dynasty and associated its invention with the development of printed sheets as a writing medium. However, Ouyang also claims that the "leaves" were pages of a book used in a board game played with dice, and that the rules of the game were lost by 1067.
Other games revolving around alcoholic drinking involved using playing cards of a sort from the Tang dynasty onward. However, these cards did not contain suits or numbers. Instead, they were printed with instructions or forfeits for whomever drew them.
The earliest dated instance of a game involving cards occurred on 17 July 1294 when "Yan Sengzhu and Zheng Pig-Dog were caught playing cards that has ever been gathered together".
2. Modern deck formats
Contemporary playing cards are grouped into three broad categories based on the suits they use: French, Latin, and Germanic. Latin suits are used in the closely related Spanish and Italian formats. The Swiss-German suits are distinct enough to merit their subcategory. Excluding jokers and tarot trumps, the French 52-card deck preserves the number of cards in the original Mamluk deck, while Latin and Germanic decks average fewer. Latin decks usually drop the higher-valued pip cards, while Germanic decks drop the lower-valued ones.
Within suits, there are regional or national variations called "standard patterns." Because these patterns are in the public domain, this allows multiple card manufacturers to recreate them. Pattern differences are most easily found in the face cards but the number of cards per deck, the use of numeric indices, or even minor shape and arrangement differences of the pips can be used to distinguish them. Some patterns have been around for hundreds of years. Jokers are not part of any pattern as they are a relatively recent invention and lack any standardized appearance so each publisher usually puts their own trademarked illustration into their decks. The wide variation of jokers has turned them into collectible items. Any card that bore the stamp duty like the ace of spades in England, the ace of clubs in France or the ace of coins in Italy are also collectible as that is where the manufacturers logo is usually placed.
Usually the cards have their pips printed only in the upper left corner, assuming they will be held in the right hand. This design is often uncomfortable for left-handed people who may prefer all four corners of the card to be used. Other designs have the pips in all four corners, eliminating this problem.
2.1. Modern deck formats French-suited decks
French decks come in a variety of patterns and deck sizes. The 52-card deck is the most popular deck and includes 13 ranks of each suit with reversible "court" or face cards. Each suit includes an ace, depicting a single symbol of its suit, a king, queen, and jack, each depicted with a symbol of their suit; and ranks two through ten, with each card depicting that number of pips of its suit. As well as these 52 cards, commercial packs often include between one and six jokers, most often two.
Decks with fewer than 52 cards are known as stripped decks. The piquet pack has all values from 2 through 6 in each suit removed for a total of 32 cards. It is popular in France, the Low Countries, Central Europe and Russia and is used to play piquet, belote, bezique and skat. It is also used in the Sri Lankan, whist-based game known as omi. Forty-card French suited packs are common in northwest Italy; these remove the 8s through 10s like Latin suited decks. 24 card decks, removing 2s through 8s are also sold in Austria and Bavaria to play schnapsen.
A pinochle deck consists of two copies of a 24 card schnapsen deck, thus 48 cards.
The 78 card tarot nouveau adds the knight card between queens and jacks along with 21 numbered trumps and the unnumbered Fool.
Today the process of making playing cards is highly automated. Large sheets of paper are glued together to create a sheet of pasteboard; the glue may be black or dyed another dark color to increase the card stocks opacity. In the industry, this black compound is sometimes known as "gick". Some card manufacturers may purchase pasteboard from various suppliers; large companies such as USPCC create their own proprietary pasteboard. After the desired imagery is etched into printing plates, the art is printed onto each side of the pasteboard sheet, which is coated with a textured or smooth finish, sometimes called a varnish or print coating. These coatings can be water- or solvent-based, and different textures and visual effects can be achieved by adding certain dyes or foils, or using multiple varnish processes.
The pasteboard is then split into individual uncut sheets, which are cut into single cards and sorted into decks. The corners are then rounded, after which the decks are packaged, commonly in tuck boxes wrapped in cellophane. The tuck box may have a seal applied.
Card manufacturers must pay special attention to the registration of the cards, as non-symmetrical cards can be used to cheat.
4.1. Design and use Casinos
Gambling corporations commonly have playing cards made specifically for their casinos. As casinos go through large numbers of decks each day, they may sometimes resell used cards that were "on the floor" - however, the cards sold to the public are altered, either by cutting the decks corners or by punching a hole in the deck.
4.2. Design and use Collecting
In addition to being used for games, playing cards may also be collected. According to Guinness World Records, the largest playing card collection comprises 11.087 decks and is owned by Liu Fuchang of China. Individual playing cards are also collected, such as the world record collection of 8.520 different Jokers belonging to Tony De Santis of Italy.
4.3. Design and use Custom designs and artwork
Custom decks may be produced for myriad purposes. Across the world, both individuals and large companies such as United States Playing Card Company USPCC design and release many different styles of decks, including commemorative decks and souvenir decks. Bold and colorful designs tend to be used for cardistry decks, while more generally, playing cards as well as tarot cards may focus on artistic value. Custom deck production is commonly funded on platforms such as Kickstarter, with companies as large as USPCC and Cartamundi offering card printing services to the public.
In 1976, the JPL Gallery in London commissioned a card deck from a variety of contemporary British artists including Maggie Hambling, Patrick Heron, David Hockney, Howard Hodgkin, John Hoyland, and Allen Jones called "The Deck of Cards". Forty years later in 2016, the British Council commissioned a similar deck called "Taash ke Patte" featuring Indian artists such as Bhuri Bai, Shilpa Gupta, Krishen Khanna, Ram Rahman, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Arpita Singh, and Thukral & Tagra.
4.4. Design and use Cold case cards
Police departments, local governments, state prison systems, and even private organizations across the United States have created decks of cards that feature photos, names, and details of cold case victims or missing persons on each card. These decks are sold in prison commissaries, or even to the public, in the hopes that an inmate or anyone else might provide a new lead. Cold case card programs have been introduced in over a dozen states, including by Oklahomas State Bureau of Investigation, Connecticuts Division of Criminal Justice, Delawares Department of Correction, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Rhode Islands Department of Corrections, among others. Among inmates, they may be called "snitch cards".
5. Symbols in Unicode
The Unicode standard for text encoding on computers defines 8 characters for card suits in the Miscellaneous Symbols block, at U+2660–2667. Unicode 7.0 added a unified pack for French-suited tarot nouveaus trump cards and the 52 cards of the modern French pack, with 4 knights, together with a character for "Playing Card Back" and black, red, and white jokers in the block U+1F0A0–1F0FF.
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