Object: Cards

E/1958/16/19
Spain: Deck of Cards
Central America
20th Century
Materials: Paper

This deck of cards may seem incomplete, but this style of deck is called a Spanish deck (“naipes” in Spanish) and consists of only 40 cards, rather than the usual 52 cards. The suits of the cards also vary from the standard deck. The Spanish suits have a direct relation to divinatory tarot cards, which consists of cups, wands or batons, coins, and swords. The three court cards, whose imagery comes from older Arabic decks, are the knave, the horseman, and the king. The border around the outside of the deck helps identify the suit for the player. The cups have a single break in the line, the swords have two breaks, the batons have three breaks, and the coins have a solid line.

This particular style of deck is called “cadiz” by collectors, though the manufacturers did not call it such. Traditionally, the cadiz style has printed words on some of the card faces. The horseman has “Ahi va”, which means something like “Good heavens!”, though the expression is enigmatic. The two of cups has “Naipes de una hoja”, which indicates the cards were printed and cut from a single sheet. Manufactured by Heraclio Fournier in 1896, this deck is marked as “El Leon” which signals the printing cycle of the cards.

The Spanish deck is used in numerous card games popular throughout Spain, Portugal, and Central America, including tute, la escoba, and el mus.

[Daniel Gonzalez]

1 Response to “Object: Cards”


  1. 1 Demon Toast (@demon_toast) May 22, 2013 at 2:20 am

    This is also a sicilian card game called briscola!


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