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    Oct 16, 2017

    17 Culturally Diverse Decks Of Playing Cards That Will Blow Your Mind

    Bored with the same old white Kings & Queens? Mix it up with these beautifully diverse decks of cards.

    The Decks Are Stacked... With White People

    We talk about representation in film and TV — but what about a standard deck of cards? Playing cards originated in China, then spread to India, Persia, and Egypt. But what we think of as a standard deck goes back to England and France in the 15th–17th centuries. And, like most depictions of royalty during that time, the standard Kings, Queens, and Jacks in a deck of cards were all Anglo people.

    In fact, decks that represent other cultures are hard to come by and can range from the exploitative to the problematic to the downright racist.

    So, here are 17 decks of cards that make cultural diversity look goooooood!

    1. Kings Of India by Humble Raja

    Humble Raja / Via humbleraja.com

    Each Kings Of India suit represents one of India's great dynasties: Maury, Gupta, Chola, and Mughal. Designer Bhavesh Mistry took great care to mimic the layout and style of traditional playing cards, and the tuck box features beautiful gold foil embossed details. The card back is also available as a limited edition poster.

    Check them out on the Humble Raja site.

    2. Borderline by Traina Design

    Traina Design / Via trainadesign.com

    Designed by Traina Design in San Diego, California, this deck represents the vibrant Latino culture on both sides of the US/Mexico border.

    Buy them on the designer's Etsy.

    3. Soul Cards by Soul-Mar

    Peter Locker, Ebay / Via rover.ebay.com

    Best I can tell, this deck was made in 1973 and is no longer in production. A user on eBay is selling off some sealed decks they found in their uncle's collection, which they describe as, "made by African American Co in Whittier, California. Obviously these were in the Heyday of 'Black Power' / Black is Beautiful and SOUL, SOUL, SOUL."

    I haven't been able to track down any more info, but holy cow are these cool! Check out the eBay link! Unrelated: they make a great gift.

    4. Russian Folk Art by Natalia Silva

    Natalia Silva / Via artofplay.com

    This beautiful deck of playing cards by Natalia Silva is inspired by Russian folk art. It features 54 original designs and an option of green or red backs.

    Production of the cards was originally funded on Silva's Kickstarter, where she explained, "The original designs of the deck are all inspired by folk designs from Russian heritage and culture. Traditional folk art has always played an intrinsic part of domestic culture across Russia and represents the rooted artistic perceptions, traditions and practices of the citizens."

    Get your own deck at Art of Play.

    5. Malam by Expert Playing Card Company

    Expert Playing Card Company / Via artofplay.com

    Inspired by Native American culture, this deck gets its name from the Chumash word Malamtepupi, a special area where games are played.

    Buy your own Malam deck at Art of Play.

    6. El Al Playing Cards

    http://Wikiart.org, Jean David / Via rover.ebay.com

    These beautiful cards by Israeli cubist Jean David were commissioned by El Al. They replace the traditional court cards with kings, queens, and other figures from Israel's past.

    Sadly, this vintage designed in 1973 is only available on eBay. Unrelated: my birthday is in February.

    7. Lost Wax Cards by Olutade Abidoye

    Olutade Abidoye / Via artofplay.com

    Graphic designer Olutade Abidoye designed this deck based on 15th-century West African royalty, and hot damn they look awesome!

    Get your own via Art Of Play.

    8. Muertos by Steve Minty

    Steve Minty / Via steveminty.com

    Available in white/gold (shown above) or black/gold, Steve Minty's deck celebrating Dia De Los Muertos is sweeter than a candy skull and less likely to give you cavities. On his site, Steve explains "The Muertos deck takes the classic aesthetics of Dia De Los Muertos and is updated with the tradition of playing and my experiences growing up. It depicts the social classes and history of the culture while simultaneously giving off a contemporary elegant luxurious feel."

    Get your own deck (in black or white) from Steve's website.

    9. Maya by V.M. Sveshnikov

    V.M. Sveshnikov / photo by Rex Pitts / Via rover.ebay.com

    Apparently, Mayan culture was very popular in Soviet Russia because a Russian linguist was the one who deciphered the Mayan glyphs. The "Maya" deck was designed by V.M. Sveshnikov and published by The Colour Printing Plant, St. Petersburg, in 1975.

    Unfortunately, they're only available for a TON of money on eBay. Unrelated: Sometimes people say "no gifts" when they celebrate their birthday, but I'm okay with gifts.

    10. Bicycle Hawaiian Playing Cards

    rover.ebay.com

    These cards, designed by Michael Scott, originally started on Kickstarter. They depict key historical figures from Hawaiian heritage, and their visual style pays tribute to Hawaiian wood carvings.

    Out of stock nearly everywhere, but available on eBay.

    11. Pre-Columbian by Heraclio Fournier

    Drawings & descriptions by http://Teodoro.N.Miciano, Professor of Fine Arts, Madrid. / Via etsy.com

    These exquisitely designed cards by OG Spanish card manufacturer Heraclio Fournier were published in the 1960s and depict the first peoples of Pre-Columbian America. Each suit represents a different people: North West Indians (Spades), Red Indians (Diamonds), Aztecs (Hearts), & Incas (Clubs). The illustrations (and the detailed descriptions in the accompanying booklet) are from a professor in Madrid.

    Get them as a vintage buy on Etsy. Unrelated: They ship from the UK, and I'm happy to email my address to you.

    12. Divine Art by Guru Playing Card Company

    Sunish Chabba / Via playingcarddecks.com

    Funded on Kickstarter, this beautiful deck by Sunish Chabba features Indian folk art inspired by Hindu mythology. Sunish writes, "The basis of the Indian world view is of Cosmic unity underlying the physical diversity of the world, through which man transcends himself. Since almost every Indian folk art form is based on Hindu mythology, for the Kings, Queens and Jacks of each suit, various Gods and Goddesses as well as their mounts (vahanas) are taken as inspiration. Millions worship these deities daily in India & abroad."

    Get a deck here.

    13. Card Tricks from Hit The Deck Enterprises

    Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives / Via clga.ca

    This tongue-in-cheek deck from Hit The Deck Enterprises was designed in 1981 and pokes fun at different (predominantly male) gay stereotypes. The Kings are all overly masculine macho village people types, the queens are drag queens, and the jacks are stereotypically gay professions (haircutter, florist, etc.). I especially love the dual-faced Joker that makes you wonder which is the costume — the out tourist or the reserved businessman?

    The only bummer about this deck is it's only available in museums. We should start a petition to re-release it! Unrelated: robbing a museum is illegal and not what I'd want you to do for my birthday.

    14. Black Pack by Heraclio Fournier

    Heraclio Fournier S.A. / Sasakti, London / Via wopc.co.uk

    Designed by Heraclio Fournier, the preeminent playing card manufacturer in Spain, this set featuring woodblock-inspired characters in traditional African dress was created in 1993 to raise money for aid to African children.

    Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find these for sale anywhere online :(

    15. Maori Cards

    Cook Strait Rail Ferries. Images courtesy Rex Pitts. / Via wopc.co.uk

    This gorgeous deck was created to celebrate Maori culture by Cook Strait Rail Ferries in New Zealand. A "historical note" card included with the deck gives a brief history of the Maori tribes and explains the kings are chiefs of exalted lineage (Ariki), the queens are their firstborn daughters (Ariki Tapairu), and the jacks are the chiefs (Rangatira) of the subtribe.

    Sadly, this deck is no longer available for purchase.

    16. Boutros Arabic Playing Cards

    Evy Maros & Mourad Boutros / Via wopc.co.uk

    This incredible-looking deck by Evy Maros and Mourad Boutros is inspired by the Arabian Nights folktales and was printed as a promotion for Sheraton Hotels Middle East, Arab Express Travel, and Al Mabani Construction Group. The numerals are Arabic, and the face cards are labeled in Arabic. King translates to "Malek," Queen to "Malekeh," and Jack to "Amir." The joker translates to "Joker."

    This deck is no longer available. Absolutely related: If you have one of these and want to send it to me for my birthday, I think I've made it clear that is okay.

    17. HANA by Steve Minty

    Steve Minty / Via kickstarter.com

    From the same designer as the Muertos cards above, this deck is inspired by classical Japanese culture.


    A successful Kickstarter campaign just finished
    . Follow Steve there for more info on when you can purchase.

    Have you found any other decks of playing cards that represent different cultures? Let us know in the comments!

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