Pictorial Playing Card Backs

A look at the picturesque playing cards that gained popularity in the early 20th century.

Pictorial Playing Card Backs

Long before the brightly-hued Congress cards of today, pictorial card backs were common from the turn of the 20th century and well into the 1920s. These backs went beyond the intricate detailing of the rider back, leaf back, or other typical designs. Instead, pictorial backs were just beautiful images—usually lovely scenery, a beautiful woman, or pastoral landscapes. Most of the artists behind these backs were popular, well-known designers, or the backs were popular paintings distilled to miniature size.

Pictorial backs were just beautiful images—usually lovely scenery, a beautiful woman, or pastoral landscapes.

The United States Playing Card Company’s #606 Congress® brand was the most popular, but other companies of the day were also in on the pictorial back game. Andrew Dougherty, the Parker Brothers, the American Playing Card Company, and the Standard Playing Card Co were a few of the others.

Today, most pictorial card backs are collectors’ items, though some are only interested in collecting one back at a time instead of the whole deck. Do you have any of these pictorial card backs in your collection?

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