A Brief History of the Joker Card
They first appeared in printed decks in the 1860s—only a few years before the first iteration of The United States Playing Card Company appeared in Cincinnati, Ohio. They fascinate us so much that we made a deck using tons of the Jokers we found in our archives.
While some argue that the word Joker comes from Euchre, we’re positive it’s no more than a coincidence. After all, the word “joke” was already around, as was a joker, meaning one who jokes. But the concept of the Joker card itself—that definitely came from the game of Euchre.
In the 1860s, American Euchre players made up some new rules to their beloved game. These new rules required an extra trump card, which they referred to as the Best Bower, the highest trump card available.
American card printers jumped onto the trend fairly quickly, soon including these extra trump cards in their decks. British manufacturers did the same by the 1880s.
It wasn’t long before the Best Bower card was called the Joker, or the Jolly Joker. Like the Ace of Spades, Joker cards were often given a unique design that contained a company’s brand imagery. This could often be a logo, a floral or architectural motif, or something completely different. The jester we know and love only became more popular once the “Joker” title was universally adapted.
While the Joker has been compared to the Fool in Tarot cards, even down to a similar trump function, there isn’t a connection. Tarot cards have been around since the 15th century, after all, when a jester or fool was still a viable career option.
Do you have any unique Jokers in your collection that you didn’t just pull from your Jokers Deck?
Tell us all about ‘em!