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Six Iconic Playing Card Brands: A Deep Dive into the History and Features

The history of playing cards goes back hundreds of years, with origins tracing back to China in the 9th century. While the oldest known European playing cards date back to the late 14th century, the popularity of playing cards reached its peak during the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and the United States.

Playing cards have been used for a wide range of purposes throughout history. In Europe, playing cards were used as a form of entertainment, with card games often played in public squares and markets.

As time passed, the use of playing cards expanded beyond mere entertainment. During the 15th century, tarot cards emerged in Italy as a popular form of divination and fortune-telling.

The cards were later adapted for use in Northern European occult practices and became a fixture in the world of western esotericism. In the United States, playing cards have been a staple form of entertainment throughout history.

From solitaire to poker, card games are a defining feature of Americana. The popularity of playing cards allowed for the growth of several companies dedicated to manufacturing and distributing high-quality gaming cards.

Here, we will take a look at some of the top playing card brands on the market today and explore the history and unique features that make each brand stand out.

Top Six Playing Card Brands

1. Bicycle Cards

Bicycle Cards are the most iconic playing cards that are still used today.

The company responsible for their manufacture, Russell, Morgan & Co., was founded in 1867 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The brand has since become synonymous with high-quality cards that are perfect for a variety of games.

One of the most recognizable features of Bicycle Cards is the signature Ace of Spades. Many different designs have been created over the years, but the most iconic design features a winged centaur on a Bicycle wheel.

Bicycle Cards are a popular choice for magicians and cardists due to their smooth finish and ease of handling. The cards are also a favorite among gamblers due to their durability and resistance to wear and tear.

2. KEM

KEM playing cards were first introduced in the United States in the early 1930s.

The company became well-known for their durable plastic cards that were resistant to bending and warping. Today, KEM playing cards are still manufactured in the United States and are considered to be among the highest quality playing cards available.

KEM cards feature a unique Cellulose Acetate material that is durable, waterproof, and resistant to wear and tear. The cards are also washable, making them ideal for use in outdoor settings or in environments where spills and accidents may occur.

In addition to their durability, KEM cards are also known for their high-quality printing and intricate designs. The cards are available in both standard and jumbo-sized formats, making them suitable for a wide range of games.

3. Hoyle

The Hoyle brand has been a fixture in the world of playing cards for over 200 years.

Originally published by Edmond Hoyle in the mid-18th century, the brand has since been acquired by the United States Playing Card Company. While the Hoyle brand is primarily associated with standard playing cards, the company also produces themed decks for a variety of occasions, including holidays and special events.

These themed decks feature unique designs and artwork that are perfect for collectors or as gifts for special occasions. Hoyle playing cards are known for their high-quality printing and smooth finish.

The cards are also available in both plastic-coated and linen finishes to suit the needs of different players. 4.

Bee Playing Cards

Bee Playing Cards are another popular brand of playing cards that have been around for over 100 years. The cards are known for their precision printing and smooth finish, making them a favorite among cardists and magicians.

One of the distinctive features of Bee Playing Cards is their diamond back design. The diamond pattern is designed to reduce glare and improve readability, making the cards easier to use in different lighting conditions.

Bee Playing Cards are also notable for their durability and flexibility. The cards are made from a unique blend of materials that allows them to maintain their shape and resist wear and tear despite regular use.

5. Tally-Ho Playing Cards

Tally-Ho Playing Cards were first introduced in the 1880s and quickly became a popular choice among gamblers and card players.

Today, Tally-Ho cards are still considered to be a high-quality option for both gaming and cardistry. One of the most notable features of Tally-Ho cards is their linen finish.

The finish provides a smooth, non-slip surface that makes the cards easy to handle and shuffle. Tally-Ho cards are also available in both red and blue backs, as well as in jumbo-sized formats.

Another unique feature of Tally-Ho cards is their custom court cards. Unlike standard playing cards, Tally-Ho cards feature customized characters on the face of the cards, giving them a unique and modern feel.

6. Aviator

Aviator playing cards were first introduced in the 1920s as a more affordable alternative to other high-end brands.

The cards feature a classic look that is perfect for a range of games and styles. Aviator cards are known for their smooth finish and easy handling.

The cards are available in both red and blue backs, as well as in jumbo-sized formats for those who prefer larger cards. One of the most notable features of Aviator cards is their customized court cards.

The cards feature unique designs and artwork that are inspired by aviation and military themes, giving them a distinctive and stylish feel.

Conclusion

Playing cards have been a popular form of entertainment and divination for centuries. With the vast array of brands and styles available today, players and collectors have a wide range of options to choose from.

From classic brands like Bicycle and Hoyle to modern options like Tally-Ho and Aviator, each brand has its own unique features and history. Whether you are a serious gambler or a casual player, finding the right deck is an important part of enjoying your favorite games.

3) KEM

KEM playing cards are renowned for their durability and innovation. This mass-produced plastic playing card is so tough that it can be washed and bent without losing its shape.

From casinos to poker rooms, KEM is a popular choice for players worldwide. KEM cards were first introduced in the early 1930s and have since become a symbol of quality and safety.

The company uses a unique cellulose acetate material that ensures the cards are waterproof and easy to handle, even in humid environments. One of the most distinctive features of a KEM card is the presence of blue and red arrows located on the corners of each card.

This helps players to identify the orientation of the card quickly. KEM cards also come in bridge size or poker size, allowing players to choose the size that best suits their needs.

KEM cards have been a favorite of poker players for years and have even become a staple of the World Series of Poker. The blue and red arrow design is highly visible both in live and televised tournaments, making KEM cards a popular choice for many professional players.

The company’s innovative designs, coupled with its commitment to quality and durability, have helped cement KEM as a top contender in the playing card industry.

4) Hoyle

Origins and Edmond Hoyle

The Hoyle brand was established by the Brown & Bigelow Company and has been a fixture in the world of playing cards for over 200 years. Originally published by Edmond Hoyle in the mid-18th century, the brand has since been acquired by the United States Playing Card Company.

Hoyle was an English writer who is best known for his works on the rules of card games. Not only did he author a comprehensive handbook on the rules of popular games, but he also provided a detailed description of the etiquette of card playing in the 18th century.

Hoyle’s book quickly became an indispensable guide for players across Europe and North America. The book went through multiple editions and was updated with new games and rules as they became popular.

Hoyle’s name became synonymous with skill, fairness, and respect for the rules of the game.

Art Style and Back Design

Hoyle playing cards are known for their distinct and intricate back design. Many Hoyle decks feature a complex back pattern that includes images of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, clutching his trident.

Other decks use a clamshell design that incorporates bold, angular lines. In addition to their unique back design, Hoyle cards also feature custom court cards.

The king, queen, and jack cards are adorned with images that are specific to the theme of the deck. For example, a Hoyle deck featuring a maritime theme might include images of sailors, ships, and sea creatures.

Hoyle playing cards are available in both plastic-coated and linen finishes, making them a versatile choice for a range of games. From classic games like poker and bridge to new and popular card games, Hoyle cards can suit the needs of any player.

Conclusion

Playing cards have come a long way since their inception. From simple paper cards to highly durable and intricately designed plastic cards, the history of playing cards is rich and varied.

The KEM brand has set the standard for durability and innovation, while Hoyle has remained a symbol of quality and timeless design. As players continue to adapt and evolve new games, the demand for high-quality playing cards is sure to remain high.

Whether you are a casual player or a professional gambler, choosing the right deck is an important step in ensuring an enjoyable and successful game.

5) Bee Playing Cards

Bee Playing Cards are one of the oldest brands of playing cards still being produced today. The brand was first launched by the New York Consolidated Card Company in the late 19th century and has since become synonymous with quality and precision.

Bee cards are known for their borderless backs, which feature a subtle diamond pattern. This pattern is partially revealed on the corners of each card, which makes them ideal for seamless sleight-of-hand moves.

The cards are made from premium cardstock, which ensures they are durable and can withstand regular use. Bee cards are popular among magicians and cardists for their precision printing and easy handling.

The cards also feature a unique coating that allows them to maintain their shape and resist wear and tear.

6) Tally-Ho Playing Cards

Tally-Ho Playing Cards are a popular brand that has been around for over a century. The brand was founded by Andrew Dougherty, a prominent manufacturer of playing cards in the late 19th century.

The distinctive fan-back pattern on Tally-Ho cards is instantly recognizable. The pattern features feather-like spokes that radiate from the center of the card to create a geometric design.

The rounded corners and double-sided cards make them ideal for fanning and spreading moves. One unique feature of Tally-Ho cards is the numbers in the corners of the cards.

This makes it easy to identify the value of each card, even when they are fanned out or held in the hand. The name “Tally-Ho” is derived from fox-hunting garb.

Dougherty was an avid fox hunter and based the design of Tally-Ho cards on the style of hunting jackets worn by hunters. The signature joker card in Tally-Ho decks is often depicted wearing fox-hunting garb, further emphasizing the brand’s connection to the sport.

Tally-Ho cards are known for their high-quality printing and smooth finish. The cards handle well and are popular among both casual players and professional magicians.

Their unique fan-back design and distinctive joker make them a favorite among collectors as well.

Conclusion

Playing cards have a rich and diverse history that spans centuries, and these six brands are a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of the industry. From the iconic Ace of Spades on Bicycle cards to the intricate back designs of Bee and Tally-Ho cards, each brand has its unique features and story.

Whether you are a casual player or a serious collector, having a quality deck of cards is essential. The durability and precision of brands like KEM and Bee make them ideal for gaming and sleight-of-hand moves, while the intricate designs of Hoyle and Tally-Ho add a touch of elegance and style to any game.

As the playing card industry continues to evolve and adapt, these iconic brands remain a constant reminder of the history and tradition of the art, and their legacy is sure to live on for many more years to come.

7) Aviator

Aviator playing cards are a classic brand that was first introduced in the 1920s. The brand was created in commemoration of Charles Lindbergh’s first-ever flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, which he achieved in the Spirit of St. Louis.

The card backs feature a bordered design that consists of small circles in a repeating pattern. The backs are perfect for various card games and gambling where players need to rely on quick recognition of the card backs.

Aviator cards are known for their smooth finish, which makes them comfortable to hold and shuffle. The cards also have a stylized packaging that features a retro-styled font and an elegant design.

Aviator cards are versatile and are perfect for use by cardists, magicians, and casual players alike.

8) Honorable Mentions

Copag and Modiano are two other high-quality playing card brands that are worth a mention. Both brands have carved out a niche in the industry and are popular choices for serious players and collectors.

Copag is a Brazilian playing card brand that is well-known for its 100% plastic cards. These cards are extremely durable and can withstand frequent use without showing signs of wear and tear.

Copag cards have become a favorite among poker players and are frequently used in poker tournaments around the world. Users can also expect high-quality printing that ensures that the image quality remains sharp throughout the life of the card.

Modiano is an Italian brand that also produces high-quality playing cards that are made from 100% plastic. Modiano cards are made of high-quality platinum acetate, which makes them washable, fade-resistant, and resistant to scuffing and scratching.

As such, they can withstand years of use without showing any signs of wear and staining. The card designs are usually intricate and feature bold, striking colors, making them a favorite among serious collectors.

Conclusion

There is a wide variety of playing cards available in the market, each with its unique characteristics and features. From the classic brands like Aviator and Bee to newer brands like Copag and Modiano, players and collectors have a variety of options to choose from.

Ultimately, the choice depends on the preferences of the player and the intended usage, be it for games, magic tricks, or cardistry. What all these brands have in common is their commitment to quality.

They all take pride in producing cards that are not only beautiful but also durable. With that in mind, players can rely on these brands for years of use and enjoyment.

Playing cards have a rich history and continue to evolve with time, making it one of the most enduring games in the world. This comprehensive article has explored some of the top playing card brands, including Bicycle, KEM, Hoyle, Bee, Tally-Ho, Aviator, Copag, and Modiano, highlighting the unique features and history that make each brand stand out.

Whether seeking a classic brand like Bicycle or a newer brand like Modiano, these options provide players with quality and durable cards that can withstand years of use and enjoyment. FAQs:

1.

What is the oldest brand of playing cards? Bee Playing Cards, introduced in the late 19th century by the New York Consolidated Card Company, is one of the oldest brands still

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