19 Rarest and Most Valuable Vintage playing Cards

playing card

Most people have at least one deck of playing cards lying around someplace in their home because they are among the cheapest forms of fun money can buy. Even though the majority of people might not consider playing cards to be very noteworthy, a sizable population enjoys collecting rare and valuable playing cards as a hobby.

The majority of the valuable old playing cards on this list are contemporary collections manufactured in small quantities. However, the world’s most valuable playing cards are kept in an Istanbul museum along with what are thought to be the earliest playing cards ever made.

Some of the 19 most valuable playing cards in the entire world are listed here in this article. You are not to do any cardistry or sleight-of-hand card tricks with these cards!

History of Playing Cards

Card games are thought to have been invented as the ninth century AD in China’s Tang dynasty. In reality, Princess Tongchang played the “leaf” game with her husband’s family and invented the first card game that was ever reported.

Card games then spread across the Middle East and gained popularity in Egypt. One of the oldest complete decks comes from Egypt in the fifteenth century. It has 52 cards and the same four suits as modern playing like cards cups, coins, polo sticks and swords. 

These antique playing cards were all crafted by hand and painted using various materials. For the court cards (the king, queen, and jack), Pierre Marechal created reversible pictures in 1565; this style is still in use today.

On one of the cards, usually the ace of spades, British cards in 1765 required a tax stamp. Around the turn of the 20th century, jokers began to emerge in decks, and the manufacturer found them to be a great vehicle for brand promotion. They are highly collectible since there are so many distinct types of joker cards.

Types of Antique Playing Cards

The history of playing cards is extensive and fascinating. Cards as we know them today are believed to have first appeared in the early 1300s, despite evidence suggesting that they were used in gaming activities as early as the ninth century in China. The art of playing cards immediately captivated people, and by the 1600s, they were starting to appear in collections. There have been numerous variations of playing cards over the course of their long history.

Woodcut Playing Cards

The Cloisters Set of Playing Cards
The Cloisters Set of Playing Cards (Image Credit: The Cloisters Playing Cards)

Woodcut playing cards were among of the first vintage playing cards. This method was widely used by European card producers in the fifteenth century. In fact, playing cards were so widely used at the time that woodcuts were mostly used to depict them. These vintage playing cards were first produced, and then they were hand-painted or stenciled. The Cloisters Set of Playing Cards, sometimes referred to as the Flemish Hunting Deck, is the oldest complete deck of playing cards from that time period and is kept at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Early Paper Playing Cards

18th Century Playing Cards
18th Century Playing Cards (Image Credit: 1stdibs)

Paper playing cards ultimately replaced those that were cut from wood or etched. The common material used to create these vintage paper playing cards was rough paper stock, occasionally combined with linen.

Up to the 1870s, the back of playing cards was typically blank while the front was frequently richly ornamented. The images of famous people or fictional characters would frequently appear on court cards.

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Modern Design with Numbers

Bourbon Bicycle Playing Cards

The late 1800s playing cards saw the development of contemporary card designs. Since players could keep the cards in a “hands” and look at all of them at once during this time, reversed figures and little numbers gained popularity. The 1870s saw the rise of the bicycle card, which was used in numerous vintage decks.

Souvenirs Playing Cards

Antique Tom Jones The Rocky Mountain Souvenir Playing Cards 1899 1900 Acceptable
Antique Tom Jones The Rocky Mountain Souvenir Playing Cards 1899 1900 Acceptable

This particular deck of playing cards was well-liked until the first decade of the 20th century. Several well-known tourist destinations were intended to be depicted on the souvenir playing cards, along with hotel and airline logos.

They could be purchased for very little cost or even handed out as gifts to travelers because they were so inexpensive to create. These factors make these decks quite collectible, but don’t anticipate getting too much cash for them.

Antique Playing Cards with Plain Backs

19 VINTAGE SWAP PLAYING CARDS BLANK BACKS
19 VINTAGE SWAP PLAYING CARDS BLANK BACKS

The backs of the majority of playing cards were blank until the middle of the 19th century. The numbers or figures on the front side have elaborate ornamentation. In certain instances, there were even hand painting and gilded designs. Shakespeare, Joan of Arc, and other well-known figures were commonly depicted on face cards.

Tourist Playing Cards

circa 1950s Complete Double Deck Playing Cards Irish Tourist Board Ireland Views
circa 1950s Complete Double Deck Playing Cards Irish Tourist Board Ireland Views

Tourism-related cards were first created by businesses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some included images or patterns inspired by popular tourist destinations. featured the symbols for hotels, airlines, railroads, and other businesses. To encourage clients to return, the logo cards were frequently given away for free. These tourist cards are still available in antique shops today.

19 Rarest and most Valuable Playing Cards

1. Mamluk Playing Cards sold for $67.43

Mamluk Playing Cards
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In addition to having the oldest and rarest deck of cards in existence, a deck of Mamluk playing cards, also known as Mulk wa-nuwwb (kings and deputies), is also the most common. In the 15th or 16th centuries, these playing cards were created. The European playing cards that we still use today are said to have their roots in the Mamluk playing cards.

2. Scarlett Tally-Ho Legacy Edition

Scarlett Tally-Ho Legacy Edition
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A limited edition of playing cards bearing the name of designer Jackson Robinson’s daughter, Scarlett, were the subject of a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 by the playing card firm Kings Wild Project. The Scarlett Tally-Ho playing cards were created in three distinct variations, each in a small quantity. One deck of the Scarlett Tally-Ho Legacy Edition playing cards cost $600 on eBay because they are so rare.

3. Jerry’s Nugget Playing Cards

Jerry’s Nugget Playing Cards

In the 1970s, Jerry’s Nugget Casino in Las Vegas produced this deck of cards, but it was never used for gambling. Instead, the stock remained in a storeroom and was finally sold at the casino’s gift shop for a few dollars each.

The deck rose to prominence, though, once well-known magician Lee Asher learned about it and began to publicly praise it. Despite the fact that a modern edition of the deck exists, the original sets continue to demand incredibly high prices.

4. Venexiana Gold

Venexiana Gold
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A very small number of Lotrek’s well-liked Venexiana playing cards were produced by Half Moon Playing Cards. Only 212 decks of Lotrek’s Venexiana Gold playing cards were made after he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money. One account claims that a deck of Venexian Gold playing cards cost $425.

5. White Centurions

White Centurions
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In 2008, the renowned Bicycle Centurions playing cards from custom card manufacturer Theory11 were issued in a limited edition. People were quickly intrigued to the look of the cards when they first saw the White Centurions design in magician Chris Kenner’s 1-on-1 effect Blueprint technique. Less than 1,100 decks were subsequently produced by Theory 11 and they immediately sold out. On occasion, a White Centurions deck will appear on eBay and worth hundreds of dollars. These antique playing cards worth for $325.

6. Unbranded Black Limited Edition Reserve Note

Unbranded Black Limited Edition Reserve Note
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Designer Jackson Robinson is renowned for creating some of the most uncommon decks of playing cards. Robinson frequently uses Kickstarter to raise money for brand-new playing card designs, all of which are financed and sold out very quickly. Robinson only produced 1,000 of these extremely uncommon cards in 2013, and according to collectors of playing cards, the unbranded black Limited Edition Reserve Note is rarely offered for sale. However, it was purchased for $250 at auction.

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7. Zenith

Zenith
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In 2014, Zenith, a limited-edition deck of cards designed by the company’s founder Paul Carpenter, was made available. The first deck in Encarded’s Signature Series, Zenith, had a limited run of 1,000 decks, each with a unique number. Being one of the rarest full productions in the world of modern playing cards, the Zenith playing cards were so scarce that even Encarded advertised it.

8. Smoke & Mirrors Gold Private Reserve

Smoke & Mirrors Gold Private Reserve
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Smoke & Mirrors playing cards by Dan and Dave Buck are so hard to get that you can only buy them in person at their San Diego, California, showroom. Because Dan and Dave’s showroom is by appointment only and isn’t open to the general public, the Smoke & Mirrors Gold Private Reserve deck is even more rare. This pack of cards is valued at $149.00.

9. Fontaine Futures 500

Fontaine Futures 500
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It was a first for the playing card community in 2019 when Fontaine Cards released limited edition decks in blind bags. There were six distinct decks in the collection, which was called Fontaine Futures, and each had a unique manufacturing number. The 500 deck was the most uncommon Fontaine Futures card. These rare playing cards are priced between $250 and $350.

10. David Blaine’s “Create Magic”

David Blaine’s “Create Magic”
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David Blaine’s “Create Magic” deck is one of the most sought-after ones among playing card collectors. The deck, which was created especially for a Microsoft event in 2015 with David Blaine as the entertainment, was never made available to the general public. The Create Magic cards are extremely difficult for card collectors to locate anywhere. However, occasionally certain items that cost between $800 and $1000+ appear on eBay.

11. The Boss Deck

The Boss Deck
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Artists Ashley Edge and Elinor Rooks created the Draw Like a Boss Kickstarter campaign, which included a special backer add-on called The Boss Deck. There were only 2,500 copies of the special deck, which featured Edge and Rooks’ artwork. The Bicycle cards used in The Boss Deck were printed by United States Playing Card Company. It is valued at more than $100.

12. Brown Wynn Playing Cards

Brown Wynn Playing Cards
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Exclusively for the Las Vegas Wynn Casino and Hotel, Wynn Playing Cards were created. Many notable magicians, like Chris Kenner and Daniel Garcial, described the Wynn Casino Playing Cards as the replacement for Jerry’s Nugget Playing Cards because to its distinctive feel and excellent handling. Almost never do they show up online for resale.

13. Blue Blood Playing Cards

Blue Blood Playing Cards
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The first publication in Uusi’s exclusive 6-part series was a deck of playing cards called Blue Blood. With hand-drawn artwork by artists Peter Dunham & Linnea Gits and printing by the United States Playing Card Company on quality Bicycle material, each exquisite deck was entirely unique. These unique playing cards were only made available in 2,500 decks, and they were rapidly sold out.

14. Red Fontaine Playing Cards

Red Fontaine Playing Cards
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Vintage casino playing card designs have long captivated card player Zach Mueller. As a result, he created and purchased his own unique deck of cards in 2013. The Red Fontaine Playing Cards were based on this one prototype.

15. Original Stud Playing Cards

Original Stud Playing Cards
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The playing card and magic worlds were shocked in 2006 when Walgreens revamped its Stud Playing Card Brand. The extremely thin stock, balanced feel, and vibrant colors that made Stud Playing Cards so adored were absent from these new decks. these playing cards are rare and challenging to find.

16. Bicycle Playing Cards

Bicycle Playing Cards
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The USPCC’s original brand and product is the well-known line of standard playing cards known as Bicycle. The United States Printing Company has been producing cards under the Bicycle brand since 1885; in 1894, it changed its name to the United States Playing Card Company of Cincinnati.

17. Golden Nuggets

Golden Nuggets
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The Golden Nuggests playing cards come in nine different varieties. The original Golden Nuggets deck may include two variations of an IRS 1-pack tax stamp on the tuck. This deck was produced somewhere between 1961 and 1965.

18. White Monarchs

White Monarchs
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The White Monarchs Limited Ed. is a high-end deck created by Theory11 that is designed to satisfy even the most stringent specifications.

This limited edition’s stunning, embossed tuck case and gold foil are similar to those of the original Monarch decks. The cards’ backs have borders that are quite thin. It costs $20.

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19. Gold Arcane

Gold Arcane
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The Gold Arcane playing cards come in a single deck like this. They resemble the standard Black Arcane deck but have golden ink added to it, giving it a thousand times greater appearance. Printed by the USPCC and made by Ellusionist. They are very rare. 

How to Find Value of Your Antique Playing Cards?

There are several things to take into account when estimating the value of a card or deck of cards. Most cards are valued less than that, but some of the oldest, rarest versions can command hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The following factors may have an effect on playing card valuation.

  • Condition

When trying to sell an old object, its condition is one of the most crucial factors. Due to the fact that antique playing cards are typically utilized extensively in card games, this is particularly crucial. Therefore, a few natural usage marks are okay and won’t drastically lower the value of your cards.

The quality of ancient playing cards varies, just like that of other trading cards. The condition of a card can range from poor to mint depending on the quantity and type of damage it bears.

You must be realistic while attempting to value your cards on your own.

  • Age

The oldest cards typically have a higher value. That’s because there aren’t as many of these instances, and they frequently have beautiful hand painting and artwork.

  • Theme

Last but not least, a deck built around a certain theme may be worth more than you initially thought. Many collectors will pay more for a deck that has their favorite cards because they only collect decks with specific themes.

Military-related motifs are popular, notably those from World Wars I and II. Numerous people also like collecting sets featuring various airlines or railroads.

  • Completeness

For antique playing cards to function properly, they must be complete because sets were intended to be sold separately. Find out if the deck is complete before attempting to estimate the value of antique playing cards.

The deck’s original box, if you still have it and it’s in good condition, should also be included because it will raise the price of your collection considerably.

  • Supply & Demand

The supply and demand of old playing cards is another important aspect of their worth. It might even be more crucial at times than the state of the deck. If you possess a deck that is extremely uncommon and in flawless shape, but there is no market for it, its value will be considerably reduced.

If your deck is a conventional 52-card deck, check to see if it has all 52 cards. Also, check to see if there are any extra cards in the deck, such as jokers, as these can greatly enhance the worth of your set.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I date my old plying cards?

The dating code engraved on the joker or ace of spades at the time it was produced is an accurate technique to date decks produced by the United States Playing Card Company (USPCC). The code is often made up of a letter and a number.

Which cards are rare, and how do I know?

A black circle, black diamond, and a black star are used to designate which cards are common, uncommon, and rare, respectively. The simplest method for figuring out a card’s rarity like this. For example, there are several distinct types of rarities for rare cards.

Bottom Line

The market’s most well-liked collectibles without a doubt are Antique playing cards. The majority of them are simple to locate, but the very rare or antique decks can be pricey and challenging to locate.

Anyhow, start searching for some playing cards to add to your collection, whether they are new or vintage. You’re never sure what kind of hidden treasure you’ll uncover.

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