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.


Classification and Call numbers

Playing cards receive a year/number call number unless otherwise specified by the curator.

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)

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

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 (30 x 42 cm).

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

Required 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 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. Type/Pattern

    Readily available information relating to type and/or pattern which is not included in the title and cannot be conveyed through subject headings or genre tracings should be stated in a note.

    500     ‡a Marseille tarot pattern.

    500     ‡a Aluette cards.
  4. Composition statement

    The composition statement only applies to decks with ranked cards. State the total number of playing cards and list the different types of cards in descending order within square brackets. Consult appendix 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].

    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 (‘j’) 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], manufacturer’s card.

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

    500     ‡a Composition of deck unknown.
  5. Packaging

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

    500     ‡a Issued in yellow wrapper.
  6. Taxation

    Note any evidence of taxation.

    500     ‡a British tax wrapper.

    500     ‡a Duty Ace of Spades.

    Add a ‡5 CtY-BR to the 500 note if the evidence is a tax stamp. Taxation stamps are neither copy-specific nor were they issued as such with decks of cards.

    500     ‡a Italian tax stamp on 4 of Cups. ‡5 CtY-BR

    Add the following printing term for tax stamps:

    655   7 ‡a Tax stamps (Printing) ‡2 rbpri

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.

If available, add a heading for playing cards that are designed for a specific game. Add form subdivision ‡v Specimens.

650   0 ‡a Lotería (Game) ‡v Specimens.

650   0 ‡a Jass (Game) ‡v Specimens.

For Tarot cards (e.g. tarocchi, minchiate, Tarock cards) that were created for card playing use the following LC subject heading:

650   0 ‡a Tarot (Game) ‡v Specimens.

For Tarot cards that are designed for fortune telling add one of the following LC subject headings:

650   0 ‡a Tarot ‡z [Country] ‡v Specimens.

650   0 ‡a Major Arcana (Tarot) ‡z [Country] ‡v Specimens.

650   0 ‡a Minor Arcana (Tarot) ‡z [Country] ‡v Specimens.

Add topical subject headings with the form subdivision ‡v Pictorial works or ‡v Portraits to bring out pictorial characteristics.

650   0 ‡a Animals ‡v Pictorial works.

650   0 ‡a Emperors ‡v Portraits.

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

Genre/Form (655)

Specify the type of cards by adding a genre term from the LC Thesaurus for Graphic Materials:

  • Playing cards. ‡2 gmgpc
    Cards that are used for playing one or more games and arranged by rank and suit.
  • 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.
  • Fortune telling cards. ‡2 gmgpc
    Playing cards made specifically for forecasting the future.
  • Tarot cards. ‡2 gmgpc
    Pictorial playing cards made specifically for forecasting the future and as trumps in tarok games. Issued in sets of 22; depict such characters and forces as the the fool and the tower.

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

Additional genre terms to consider:

  • Cartoons (Humor) ‡2 lcgft
  • Dominoes. ‡2 gmgpc
  • Educational games ‡2 lcgft
  • Geography games ‡2 gttg
  • Mah jong. ‡2 gmgpc
  • Political cartoons ‡2 lcgft

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.



Appendix: Standard Western Suit Systems and Court Card Abbreviations


    Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, Spades

    Suit symbols for French suit decks

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


    Hearts, Bells, Acorns,  Leaves

    Suit symbols for German suit decks

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


    Flowers, Bells, Acorns, Shields

    Suit symbols for Swiss suit decks

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


    Cups, Coins, Batons, Swords

    Suit symbols for Spanish suit decks

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


    Cups, Coins, Batons, Swords

    Suit symbols for French suit decks

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