Playing cards

KEM Cards

Established 1930s

Playing cards date back as early as the 9th century during the Tang dynasty (618–907) in China. A standard deck of cards as we know it today is based on French playing cards, using suits of trèfles (clovers or clubs), carreaux (tiles or diamonds), cœurs (hearts), and piques (pikes or spades). Each suit contains three face cards; the Valet (Knave or Jack), the Dame (Lady or Queen), and the Roi (King). The most well known pattern in the world is a rework of Charles Goodall and Son’s of the old Rouen pattern during the 19th century. This pattern is now in the public domain, allowing multiple card manufacturers to copy it.

KEM Cards began producing playing cards during the first half of the 1930s. Made of bendable and washable cellulose acetate, KEM cards have a distinctive texture, snap and handle. KEM’S red and blue arrow design (as pictured above) is arguably the most well-known card design in the world and has become an icon for poker players across the globe. This design featured in the 1998 movie ‘Rounders’ in which Matt Damon battled John Malkovich in an underground card room in New York City. For over 80 years, KEM cards rule the plastic playing card industry and are selected as the official playing card of the World Series of Poker. KEM cards was purchased by the United States Playing Card Company in 2004.

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Photo credits
© United States Playing Card Company, Erlanger, US

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