Some items, like a deck of cards, are so common place that you never stop to think about them. Which is unfortunate in the case of playing cards, since they are a uniquely interesting piece of human iconography that has been dated back to 9th century China. We can thank the French for popularizing the most common suits (hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs), but it was in the 1800’s, where modern playings cards really took shape and style in the USA. And as long as playing cards have been around, there has been 52 (sometimes 54) reasons for artists to design them. Take a look at these 13 designer-made sets of playing cards and let us know which ones you’d table up to!
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the computer game, Susan Kare’s original artwork for the 1990’s Windows 3.0 version of Solitaire was printed on actual cardstock. Purchasers of this deck also get the never-before-seen Joker cards which are not used in Solitaire, but were designed by Kare specially for the Areaware deck.
Aviator Heritage Edition
The first Aviator playing card deck hit the market in 1927 to commemorate Charles Lindbergh’s famous transatlantic flight aboard the Spirit of St. Louis. The newly released Aviator Heritage edition, almost a century later, celebrates aviation pioneer, Howard Hughes and his H-1 racer.
Woody, Wall-E, and Mr. Incredible are some of my favorite Pixar film characters and now they can be seen on a very cute deck of cards. Designer Chris Anderson created his version of Pixar playing cards as a nostalgic ode to his favorite animation studio.
Theory 11 Monarchs
Touted as “the finest [playing cards] in print today”, Theory 11’s Monarchs are definitely a luxury set. Gorgeously illustrated by Curtis Jenkins and stamped in metallic gold foil, the Monarchs made their public appearance in 2013’s blockbuster hit film, Now You See Me.
Stranger & Stranger’s Ultimate
Stranger & Stranger teamed up with Dan & Dave to create the ultimate deck of playing cards. No detail was too small to go unnoticed… straight down to the gilded edges! The ultimate deck comes in, what else, velvet pouches and matte black magnetic case.
If you have a penchant for sea monsters and scrimshaw art, then look no further than the Kraken playing cards. Every card comes with a unique etched image of fictional sea life or legendary sea creatures.
Alice In Wonderland
Based on Lewis Caroll’s classic fairytale, the Alice in Wonderland limited edition set beautifully captures the surreal world of Alice and her friends. Since much of the story takes place in Wonderland, the parallel worlds inspired designer Steven Watson to make two decks that vary in style.
Misc. Goods Co. Black deck is a prime example of a quality manufactured deck of cards. Every thing from the case to the typography has been re-worked and fine-tuned. Printed on the best Bee card stock and finished with silver foil, the black deck is the new American classic.
Whimsical: Collector’s Edition
Designer Oksal Yesilok printed his vector based line art off the computer and onto playing cards. The result was a new concept in whimsical minimalist design. You’ll notice that the Whimsical: Collector’s Edition features new symbols (skull, cross, heart, and horse) for the suits.
Baralho Esdiano Collective
Designed entirely by students in Rio De Janeiro, the Baralho Esdiano set started out as a graphic design project. Fifty-fours student artists were given four weeks to complete one unique design for their card that would later be printed in a small run of 300.
Mid-Century design and playful forest animals bring life and humor to the Woodland playing cards. Illustrated by Joe Morelli, this set features four different animals found in the Pocono region.
Custom created by Sveta Dorosheva for a client, the Fantastique playing cards are meant to be shuffled like a flip book to produce a magical animation. This deck whose theme is “antique circus” will only produce an animation if the cards are placed in the exact right order.
Bicycle’s Civil War
Card designer Jackson Robinson, of the Kings Wild Project, brought the Civil War back to the forefront with this brilliantly designed deck. Hand-drawn images of major war figures coupled with the U.S currency inspired scrollwork transform this brand new Bicycle Civil War deck into a relic of the past.
What deck do you have handy? Did we miss your favorite deck?