A playing card is a piece or thin plastic of paper that is used for playing card games. The complete set of cards is called a deck or pack.
Many card games can be played using playing cards, including blackjack, bridge or rummy. They can also be used for magic tricks and cartomancy.
The earliest Western playing cards were made of rectangular layers of paper or thin cardboard pasted together to form a flat, semirigid material. They were uniform in size and shape, and could be easily fanned so that the identifying marks on each one could be seen.
Early playing cards were hand-made and expensive. As a result, they were not widely available until the 1500s, when the invention of the printing press allowed for faster production.
One of the most important innovations in the 19th Century was the introduction of indices. These are small numbers printed on opposite ends of each card. This allowed players to hold their cards in a “fan” so they could see the card’s visage, which was difficult to do during a game such as poker or rummy.
The introduction of double-ended and two-sided court card was another innovation. These cards made viewing royal cards easier by allowing them to be held in a fan so that they could be seen from both the front and back without turning the card.
A 52-card deck of cards has 13 ranks, divided into four suits (clubs. diamonds. hearts. spades). Each suit also contains three court cards: Jack, Queen, and Jack. The reversible (double-headed?) images are included in the King, Queen, or Jack. Each court card can be associated with a specific individual, such as King David (“Spades”) Charlemagne “Hearts”, Julius Caesar’s (Diamonds), Alexander The Great (“Clubs”)
The kings represent the highest cards in any suit. In the 1500s, however, special significance was given to the lowest card, which is now called an ace. This concept is also reflected in the English version of poker, where a king is usually the highest card and a deuce or two are the lowest.
In the 16th Century, court cards were often printed with the names of celebrities. This was a way to market the cards as souvenirs and collectibles.
It was customary to print important elements on the court cards, in addition to the names of famous persons. Images of pharaohs, gods, and goddesses were among the most popular.
The cards also contained other symbols such as animals and flowers. Some cards featured geometric designs.
The French also dominated this period and court cards from France were famous for their distinctive design. In the late 1600s French manufacturers began to give their court cards names based on classics like King David (Spades), Alexander the Great(Clubs), Julius Caesar (“Diamonds”), and Charlemagne (“Hearts”).