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Plastic Playing Cards

A brief history of plastic playing cards

Today's omnipresent plastic playing cards have a unique and varied history. Playing cards are believed to have originated in Central Asia around the 10th century, when the Chinese used paper dominoes. They eventually evolved into the more familiar four-suited decks that spread to Europe before 1370. Back then, cards were hand-painted and thus only popular among the wealthy. We can thank France for the card designs that we recognize today. The king of hearts represented Charlemagne, the king of diamonds was Julius Caesar, the king of clubs was Alexander the Great, and the king of spades was King David from the Bible. France was instrumental to the burgeoning popularity of playing cards, which eventually arrived in America. Then came additional design revisions: mirror-image court cards (so the card wouldn't have to be always be upright), and varnished surfaces with rounded-corner edges for durability and ease of shuffling. These were the forerunners of the plastic playing cards that are today's constant companion of poker chips, accessories, dice, and more.

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