Don't Get Lost in the Shuffle:
A Guide to Collecting Playing Cards

by Lee Asher

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Most experts believe playing cards started in China sometime in the ninth century during the Tang Dynasty. This early pack contained thirty-two cards; the faces resembled the spots on a set of dominoes. During the Ming Dynasty, the faces of playing cards featured characters from popular novels. Chinese Money Cards established the concept of four “suits.” The four suits that we now recognize as standard – Spades, Hearts, Clubs, and Diamonds – originated in France around 1480. Regardless of where it all started, we can agree that playing cards have been a focal point of fascination ever since the beginning.

Some people gamble with them; others play with them for fun. For magicians, cards are our tools. We practice and perform with them, and ultimately express ourselves by whimsically manipulating them in a manner that produces the sensation of the impossible. The common denominator, by which all of us are bound, is a shared love of playing cards and all the satellite activities revolving around them.

Playing cards can also transcend their use as apparatus and become highly valuable objects of desire. The idea of collecting playing cards has been around as long as the cards themselves. It’s possible that you’ve acquired a small collection of decks because of all the magic you practice and perform.

The question now becomes: do you consider yourself a collector? Probably not. Yet with time (and perhaps by the end of this article), you might consider collecting more playing cards.

Quick Classification of Collectors

  • A quick and simply way of determining the type of card collector you are is by the age and the provenance of the decks you collect.
     
  • If the majority of your deck collection predates the 1930s, you’re considered an antique collector.
  • If your deck collection dates from 1931-1995, you’re a vintage collector.
  • If the majority of your deck collection dates from 1996 until the present day, you’re a modern collector.

Equally important is where the majority of the decks you collect were manufactured.

Read the full article here.

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