A playing card is a piece of paper or thin plastic that is used to play 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 are also often used for other purposes, such as cartomancy and magic tricks.
The first Western playing cards were made from thin cardboard or rectangular layers of paper, which were then glued together to form a 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. They were thus not widely available before the 1500s when the printing press enabled faster production.
Indicators, which are small numbers printed on opposite sides of each card, was one of the most important innovations of the 19th century. This allowed players the ability to hold the cards in a “fan”, and not need to turn them to see the face of the card, which was difficult during a game like poker or rummy.
The introduction of double-ended, two-sided court cards was another innovation. These cards made it easier for royal cards to be held in a fan. They could be seen from both sides of the card without needing to turn it.
A 52-card deck contains 13 ranks in four different suits (clubs.diamonds.hearts.spades) but each suit also has three court cards: Jack (king, queen, and queen), with reversible images (double-headed). Each court card is associated with a specific person, such as King David (Spades), Charlemagne (Hearts), Julius Caesar (Diamonds) or Alexander the Great (Clubs).
The kings are always considered the highest cards of a suit. However, in the 1500s special significance was added to the lowest card, now known as 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.
It was common for court cards to include the names of famous people in the 16th century. This was done to make the cards collectibles and souvenirs.
Other than the names of famous people, it was common to include important elements on court cards. Images of pharaohs, gods, and goddesses were among the most popular.
The cards also featured animals and flowers as symbols. In addition, some cards featured geometric designs.
The French dominated this field during this time, and French court card designs were well-known. 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”).