Playing Cards

The term playing cards is broadly defined to include the following types of materials: standard and nonstandard playing cards arranged by rank and suit, sets of cards designed to be used for a specific game and lacking standard suit systems, and cards made specifically for fortune-telling.

Playing cards are cataloged as graphic resources. Most decks contain minimal descriptive information and it is within the cataloger’s discretion to either follow RDA or Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Graphics) cataloging rules.


Call Numbers

Playing cards in the General Collection are classed as PLAYING CARDS GEN [sequential number]. Decks belonging to other curatorial areas receive call numbers that follow their respective classification practices.



007: Nonprojected Graphic

Specific material designation: a (activity card)

008: Values Specific to Visual Materials

Type of material: i (picture) or k (graphic; use for rare, historic, or original graphic material cataloged under rare conventions)
Technique: n (not applicable)

Preferred Source of Information

The preferred source of information for a set of cards is a title card. If there is no separate title card, use another source within the resource: a playing card, a manufacturer’s card, a container, or accompanying material issued with the item. Prefer a source within the resource in which the information is comprehensive and formally presented.


The following types of creators are commonly associated with playing cards:

  • ‡e playing card maker – an agent who is responsible for the creation of playing cards, an activity which may include design, manufacture, production, and/or distribution
  • ‡e conceptor – an agent responsible for the original idea on which a work is based
  • ‡e designer – an agent responsible for creating a design for an object
  • ‡e artist – an agent responsible for creating a work by conceiving, and often implementing, an original graphic design, drawing, painting, etc.

Publication Statement (264)

  1. Name of Publisher

    Assume that a playing card maker is the publisher of the resource unless stated otherwise.

  2. Date of Publication

    Dating playing cards can be challenging when there is no or scant bibliographic information on the item. Printing processes, pattern characteristics, card back designs, the stance of court cards, and the shape of corners allow for broad estimates. See: Mann, S. Collecting playing cards (TS Reference Collection). Information relating to taxation is particularly helpful. If tax stamps, etc. are present on the item, consult: Peter Endebrock’s compilation of stamps, Reisinger, K., Oesterreichische Spielkarten-Steuerstempel und andere Mitteilungen (1996 +64), or Berry, J. Taxation on playing-cards in England from 1711 to 1960 (2022 631 3).

Extent (300 ‡a)

Record an extent of the manifestation by giving the number of units and the type of units. For the type of unit, use “card”.

300     ‡a 52 cards

Dimensions (300 ‡c)

Record the exact height and width of a single card in mm. If the cards were issued with a container, name it and record its dimensions in addition to the dimensions of the card.

300     ‡c 120 x 45 mm
300     ‡c 110 x 36 mm, in case 112 x 54 mm

Uncut Sheets

Create a separate record for the sheet when there is no record for the cut deck. Record the number of prints and specify the number of sheets. Record the dimensions of a single print followed by the dimensions of the sheet. Add a 500 note with a brief clarification that the item is an uncut sheet of playing cards.

300     ‡a 6 prints on 1 sheet : ‡b hand colored; ‡c 80 x 22 mm, sheet 330 x 420 mm
500     Uncut sheet of 6 playing cards (Cavalier of Swords, Cavalier of Coins; trumps I, VII, XI, Fool).

Add an uncut sheet as a variant when there is a record for the cut deck. Record the extent of an uncut sheet in a local note.

590     ‡a BEIN : Uncut sheet of 12 court cards (Ks, Qs, and Js; 275 x 420 mm).

Content, Media, Carrier (336, 337, 338)

336     ‡a text ‡2 rdacontent
336     ‡a still image ‡2 rdacontent
337     ‡a unmediated ‡2 rdamedia
338     ‡a card ‡2 rdacarrier

Production Method (340 ‡d)

Record the process used to produce the resource if it is readily ascertainable. Use one or more terms from the list of RDA-controlled terms (see RDA Production Method). Or, consult AAT for an appropriate term. Use separate fields for each unique term.

340     ‡d engraving ‡2 rdapm
340     ‡d lithography ‡2 rdapm
340     ‡d woodcut making ‡2 rdapm
340     ‡d letterpress printing ‡2 aat
340     ‡d stenciling (process) ‡2 aat

Local Notes (590)

  1. Incomplete Decks

    Note the total amount of cards in hand and list the cards that are wanting in parentheses. If most of the deck is wanting, state which cards are present. Include a piece count in the item record.

    590     ‡a BEIN: Imperfect: 50 cards only (Ace of Hearts and 10 of Spades wanting). 
    590     ‡a BEIN: Imperfect: 5 cards only (Daus of Leaves, 10-7 of Bells).
  2. Taxation

    Note any evidence of taxation.

    590     ‡a BEIN : Italian tax stamp on 4 of Cups.


    655   7 ‡a Tax stamps. ‡2 rbmscv ‡5 CtY-BR 

General Notes (500)

Create the following notes (when applicable) in the order listed. Do not combine notes.

  1. Title Source

    Always make a note on the source of the title proper.

    500     ‡a Title from title card.

    500     ‡a Title from 4 of Cups.

    500     ‡a Title from manufacturer’s card.
  2. Suit System

    Consult appendix A below for assistance with the identification of standard Western suit systems.

    500     ‡a French suit system.

    500     ‡a Suit system: Menorahs, modified hearts, Stars of David, leaves.
  3. Composition Statement

    The composition statement only applies to game decks with ranked cards. State the total number of playing cards and list the different types of cards in descending order in parentheses. Consult appendix A below for card abbreviations.

    500     ‡a Composition of deck: 52 (A, K, Q, J, 10-2).

    List numbered and unnumbered trump cards separately.

    500     ‡a Composition of deck: 78 (A, K, Q, C, J, 10-2, trumps I-XXI, Fool).
    500     ‡a Composition of deck: 54 (AH, AD, K, Q, C, J, 10-7S, 4-2H, 4-2D, 10-7C, trumps 1-21, Fool).

    Add a question mark to the total number of playing cards if it is unclear whether the deck in hand is complete.

    500     ‡a Composition of deck: 32? (A, K, Q, C, J, 10-7).

    Extra cards (title cards, rules cards, manufacturer’s cards, score cards, description cards, blank cards, etc.) and jokers are added at the end of the statement. Note accompanying booklets, instruction sheets, etc. issued with the deck in subfield ‡e of the 300 field.

    500     ‡a Composition of deck: 52 (A, K, Q, C, J, 10-2), joker, manufacturer’s card.

    Include a note if the composition of the deck is not ascertainable.

    500     ‡a Composition of deck unknown.
  4. Layout of Bibliographic Information (Optional)

    Describe how bibliographic information and pictorial elements are displayed on individual cards. This is particularly helpful when distinguishing between similar standard decks of playing cards.

    500     ‡a Ace of Spades shows thirteen stars above an eagle, a ribbon that reads “American Manufacture”, and the name of Thomas Crehore.
    500     ‡a AS: E. Pluribus Unum / [eagle] / L.I. Cohen / [pip with stars and stripes] / Manufacturer 190 Wm. St. N.Y.
  5. Backs (Optional)

    Provide descriptions of card backs to distinguish between similar sets of cards with minimal or no information.

    500     ‡a Card backs: lattice with asterisks, red and blue.     
  6. Packaging

    Specify the type of packaging (tuck case, slipcase, box, wrapper, etc.) and give a brief description. Transcribe information on the packaging, if considered important.

    500     ‡a Issued in yellow wrapper.

Formatted Contents Note (505)

Use cataloger’s judgment to determine whether or not to list captions on individual cards. A formatted contents note (partial or full) is especially useful for certain types of fortune telling cards (Lenormand, Kipper, and Aufschlagkarten), game cards without title information, decks with pictorial aces, and Tarock cards.

Subject Headings (650, 651)

Distinguish between cards made for games and cards designed for fortune-telling. Choose the appropriate LC subject heading, subdivide by country and include form subdivision ‡v Specimens.

650   0 ‡a Playing cards ‡z [Country] ‡v Specimens.
650   0 ‡a Divination cards ‡z [Country] ‡v Specimens.

Add topical subject headings that bring out pictorial characteristics:

650   0 ‡a Animals ‡v Pictorial works.
651   0 ‡a Italy ‡x Social life and customs ‡v Pictorial works.

Genre/Form (655)

Add all genre terms that apply:

  • Brocade cards. ‡2 local
  • Dominoes. ‡2 gmgpc
  • Educational games. ‡2 lcgft
  • Fortune telling cards. ‡2 gmgpc
    Playing cards made specifically for forecasting the future.
  • Game cards. ‡2 gmgpc
    Cards designed for use with a specific game and lacking a rank and suit system. Examples include Old Maid and Game of Authors.
  • Geography games. ‡2 gttg
  • Lotto (game) ‡2 aat
  • Mah jong. ‡2 gmgpc
  • Miniature playing cards. ‡2 gmgpc
  • Playing cards. ‡2 aat 
    Cards made in sets of a designated number and marked for use as game accessories during play. The markings or designs may follow a standard suit or rank system or may be special and individualized.
  • Rebuses. ‡2 lcgft
  • Riddles. ‡2 lcgft
  • Secondary use playing cards. ‡2 gmgpc
    Playing cards that were made to play games and have been repurposed as invitations, emergency money, receipts, tickets, index cards, etc.
  • Tarot cards. ‡2 lcgft
    Set of cards used for fortune-telling or to play tarot games.
  • Transformation playing cards.‡2 gmgpc
    Playing cards where the suit signs are integrated into the overall pictorial designs of the cards.
  • Translucent playing cards. ‡2 gmgpc
    Playing cards containing text or illustrations concealed between the layers of paper from which they were made, visible only when viewed against a light.
  • Trick cards. ‡2 gmgpc
  • Watermarks. ‡2 rbmscv ‡5 CtY-BR

Consult RBCU’s list of genre terms that are always added when called for by local practice.

Standard deck pattern (655 ‡2 local):

Include readily available information relating to the pattern of a standard deck. Consult appendix B below for a list of preferred terms. For identification, refer to the descriptions of pattern sheets maintained by the International Playing-Card Society, the World of Playing Cards website, or the White Knuckle Playing Cards website.

655   7 ‡a Lemberg pattern. ‡2 local
655   7 ‡a Austrian Tarock. ‡2 local

Added Access Points (7xx)

Always create an added entry for corporate playing card makers. Include additional added entries for personal/corporate names, if considered important.


Standard pattern playing cards:

Tarock deck:

Game cards:

Fortune telling cards:

Uncut sheet of playing cards (separate record):

Deck and uncut sheet as variant:

Appendix A: Standard Western Suit Systems and Court Cards


Hearts (H), Diamonds (D), Clubs (C), Spades (S)

Suit symbols for French suit decks

Ace (A), King (K), Queen (Q), Cavalier (C), Jack (J)


Hearts (H), Bells (B), Acorns (A),  Leaves (L)

Suit symbols for German suit decks

Daus (D), As (A), Banner, King (K), Ober (O), Unter (U)


Flowers (F), Bells (B), Acorns (A), Shields (S)

Suit symbols for Swiss suit decks

Daus (D), As (A), Banner, King (K), Ober (O), Under (U)


Cups (C), Coins (D), Batons (B), Swords (S)

Suit symbols for Spanish suit decks

Ace (A), King (K), Queen (Q), Cavalier (C), Jack (J)


Cups (C), Coins (D), Batons (B), Swords (S)

Suit symbols for French suit decks

Ace (A), King (K), Queen (Q), Cavalier (C), Jack (J)

Appendix B: Controlled List of Standard Pattern Names


Animal Tarot      UF Tiertarock, Animal Tarock
Austrian Tarock      UF Industrie und Glück Tarock
Auvergne pattern
Belgian Bongoût pattern      UF XP17 pattern
Belgian-Genoese pattern
Bourgogne pattern
Bourgeois Tarot      UF Domestic Scenes Tarot, Tarot Nouveau                 
Dauphiné pattern      UF Piedmont pattern, Geneva pattern
DDR pattern (French)
Dondorf Rhineland pattern      UF XP4 pattern
Dutch pattern        UF Modern Netherland pattern, XP2 pattern
English pattern     UF Anglo-American pattern, Rouen II, International pattern
Flemish pattern    UF Flanders pattern, Rouen I
Florentine pattern     UF Large Florentine pattern, Large Tuscan pattern
French pattern
French-Swiss pattern      UF Modern Swiss pattern, XP11 pattern
Fribourg pattern
Guyenne pattern
Hamburg pattern     UF XP7 pattern
Languedoc pattern
Limousin pattern
Lombardy pattern     UF Milanese pattern, Milanesi pattern, Lorraine pattern
Lyon pattern 
Modern Swedish pattern
North-German pattern     UF XP3 pattern, Berlin pattern
Paris pattern
Piemontese pattern    UF Piedmontese pattern, Piedmont pattern
Provence pattern
Scenic Tarock
Tuscan pattern     UF Small Tuscan pattern
Vienna pattern
XP6 pattern


Bavarian pattern 
Bohemian pattern      UF Prague pattern   
Franconian pattern
Lemberg pattern     UF Mohren Deutsche, Polnische National
Nürnberg pattern    UF Ansbach pattern
Prussian pattern
Salzburg pattern
Saxon pattern
Sopron pattern      UF Oedenburger-Deutsche
Tell pattern      UF Schweizer Deutsche, Four Seasons, Doppeldeutsche
Württemberg pattern


Belgian Tarot     UF Cartes de Suisse
Bergamasche pattern
Bolognese pattern
Bresciane pattern     UF Brescia pattern
Cádiz pattern
Castilian pattern     UF Castellano, Fournier’s Castilian pattern
Franco-Spanish pattern     UF Volay pattern, Aluette I
García pattern
Llombart pattern     UF Plumed Hat pattern
Macía pattern
Modern Spanish Catalan pattern     UF Spanish Catalan pattern, Catalan pattern (Spanish)
Neapolitan pattern
Parisian Spanish pattern
Piacentine pattern
Portuguese pattern
Romagnole pattern
Sicilian pattern
Spanish National pattern
Tarocchino Milanese
Tarocco Bolognese     UF Tarocchino
Tarocco Piemontese   UF Piemontese Tarot, Piedmontese Tarot
Tarocco Siciliano
Tarot de Besançon
Tarot de Marseille     UF Marseille Tarot 
Trentine pattern
Triestine pattern
Turnhout Spanish pattern
Venetian pattern     UF Trevise pattern, Trevisane pattern, Trevigiane pattern


Âs Nas
Chess cards
Dikpala Ganjifa
Domino cards