Playing Card Motifs and Counter Matchsafe, late 19th century (CH 18494841)
Oblong, curved corners and lid, featuring raised decoration of playing cards and a counter at center, with rotating hand, background of small, overlapping disks, identical decoration on reverse. Lid hinged on side. Striker in recessed groove on bottom.
Playing cards may have been invented in China around the 9th century AD as a result of the usage of woodblock printing technology. The first cards may have been actual paper currency which doubled as both the tools of gaming and the stakes being played for. When using paper money was inconvenient and risky, they were substituted by play money known as "money cards". The earliest record of playing cards in Europe is believed by some researchers to be a ban on card games in the city of Bern in 1367. Among the early patterns of playing cards were those probably derived from the Mamluk suits of cups, coins, swords, and polo sticks, which are still used in traditional Latin decks. The Flemish Hunting Deck, held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the oldest complete set of ordinary playing cards made in Europe from the 15th century. As cards spread from Italy to Germanic countries, the Latin suits were replaced with the suits of leaves (or shields), hearts (or roses), bells, and acorns, and a combination of Latin and Germanic suit pictures and names resulted in the French suits of trèfles (clovers), carreaux (tiles), cœurs (hearts), and piques (pikes) around 1480. Queens appeared sporadically in packs as early as 1377, especially in Germany. Although the Germans abandoned the queen before the 1500s, the French permanently picked it up and placed it under the king. Packs of 56 cards containing in each suit a king, queen, knight, and knave (as in tarot) were once common in the 15th century. The United States introduced the joker into the deck shortly after the American Revolutionary War. In the European euchre game, the highest trump card is the Jack of the trump suit, called the right bower (from the German Bauer); the second-highest trump, the left bower, is the jack of the suit of the same color as trumps. The joker was invented c. 1860 as a third trump, the imperial or best bower, which ranked higher than the other two bowers.