9 Fun Facts About Playing Cards

By Neal Taparia - Last updated: 09/27/2023

The standard deck of playing cards that we are so familiar with has undergone centuries of transformation to make it what it is today. Different cultural influences, combined with world events, have helped shape the way they look and how they are used. There are even secrets hidden within the cards that most of us aren't privy to.

While they may have become a common item in our daily lives, and don't appear to be much more than a small piece of thick paper, don't let the standard playing card fool you. There are many mysteries held behind their glossy facade, even in the digital cards of our classic solitaire game, and today we are here to reveal them.

1. Have you ever wondered what the cards represent?

At first glance, there doesn't seem to be much meaning at all in a deck of cards, but upon closer inspection, the symbolism held within is astounding. Did you know that the 52 cards in a deck represent the modern calendar?

  • The red suits represent the daylight sun, while the black suits represent night.
  • The four different suits stand for the four seasons.
  • There are a total of twelve face cards in the deck, representing the twelve different months of the year.
  • There are thirteen different values of cards (from two to Ace) that signify the thirteen lunar cycles of a year.
  • And there are 52 cards in the deck and 52 weeks in a year.
  • If you add up all of the values of the cards, the total will equal 364. Add in one joker, and you get 365, the total days in a year. If you take the other joker and add it as well, you will get 366 - a leap year!

It is still unknown if this is all a bizarre coincidence or if early card designers intended these references to our calendar, but either way, it's a fun fact that you can share with your friends!

2. Do you know how many decks of cards are manufactured each year?

The United States Playing Card Company is one of the world's largest producers of playing cards. Located in Erlanger, Kentucky, it was established in 1867 and has been pumping out decks of playing cards for shipment worldwide ever since. It manufactures some of the most notable brands of playing cards, such as Bicycle, Bee, Tally-Ho, Congress, Hoyle, Aviator, Aristocrat, and KEM, plus many more.

In an average year, the USPCC manufactures over 100,000,000 decks of cards! That equates to almost two decks of cards for every American child every single year!

3. Do you know how much the most expensive deck of cards costs?

The rarest and most costly deck of playing cards is now on display in New York City in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is a deck of Tarot cards, created in the Netherlands in the middle of the fifteenth century. These cards are in pristine condition and were sold to the museum in the mid-1970s for $143,000 from a private collector.

4. Do you recognize any of the famous faces in a deck of cards?

While we are all familiar with the jack, queen, and king cards, did you know that each of these faces is actually a representation of famous historical figures? King Charlemagne is said to be seen on the hearts card, King David on the spade, Cesar on the diamonds card, and Alexander the Great on the clubs.

The queen cards are also said to be famous people as well. Athena is represented by the queen of spades, the biblical figure Judith is seen on the hearts card, Rachel from the bible is seen on the diamonds card, and Argine (Latin for queen) is depicted on the clubs' card.

5. Do you know what the most famous brand of cards is?

Bicycle playing cards are perhaps the most well-known brand of playing cards. Their iconic spade logo is printed on both the packaging and appears on the Ace of spades. Bicycle playing cards began production in the United States in 1885 and have continued to grow in popularity since.

6. Did you know that cards helped prisoners escape POW camps in WWII?

During World War II, the United States government explored innovative methods to assist their soldiers who were in enemy prisoner of war camps. One ingenious way that they used was to send out specially designed playing cards. When the POW would carefully peel the backs off of these cards, a map detailing an escape route would be printed inside, giving the prisoners important information on ways they could attempt to flee their captors.

7. Did you know there are more shuffle combinations than the number of atoms on earth?

You read that right! No matter how many times you shuffle a deck of cards, the exact sequence of those cards will never be the same. In fact, in the entire history of playing cards, it is extremely likely that the exact same shuffle sequence has never occurred twice. There are actually 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,766,975,289,505,440,883,277,824,000,000,000,000 different possible ways that the cards can be arranged. That is more than the number of atoms on earth and more than the total number of known stars in our universe!

8. Have you ever seen the hidden 8 in a deck of cards?

Did you know that there is a hidden number eight somewhere within your deck of cards, and it is very likely that you have never noticed it before? If you look closely at the 8 of Diamonds, you may just be able to see it. Stare at the center of the card and allow your eyes to blur slightly. Within the white space of the card, you will see the number eight form. All of the points and edges of the diamonds come together perfectly to create this hidden number that so few know about.

9. Do you know how the Ace of Spades helped the United States during the Vietnam war?

During the Vietnam war, the United States government was looking for a way to get the upper hand over the Viet Cong. It wasn't long before their ingenuity found a way to combine a deck of cards and some psychological warfare. News began making its way to American soldiers that many of the Vietnamese were highly superstitious and regarded symbols of women and spades as being omens of bad luck. This prompted many soldiers to leave behind the Ace of Spade, which had both of these symbols, as a mark after completing their missions.

When it became apparent that these cards were gaining attention from the enemy, the US called upon the United States Playing Card Company to create entire decks containing only the Ace of Spades. Many members of the Viet Cong became extremely worried at these foreboding signs. Although this technique may not have been the deciding factor in who won the war, it definitely boosted the morale of the American soldiers and put some hesitation into the steps of the Viet Cong.

Next time you pull out a deck of cards, take a second to think about their exciting heritage and the rich history that has shaped the way they look today. Also, ponder for a moment all of the fascinating hidden secrets that they hold within them and all of the ways that they have helped to shape our future.

At your next card game or tournament with family and friends, why not whisper a few of these little-known facts. Once your friends get a taste of all the skeletons in the proverbial playing card closet, they will be begging you for more! It's up to you how much you reveal about the secrets of the cards.

About the author

Neal Taparia is one of the founders of Solitaired. He loves playing card games and is interested in understanding how games can help with brain training and skills building. In addition to card games, he also likes fishing and mountain biking.

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