4 Times Playing Cards Changed People’s Lives


Playing cards seem like a quiet, unassuming form of entertainment or education but actually, playing cards and card games have the power to change lives and to make an impact on the world around us both positively and negatively. The ability of playing cards to impact lives is because they are so simple and so versatile and also because they have been ubiquitous since about the 9th Century in China during the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Playing cards are everywhere and have been used for everything from money to hiding maps to education. Let’s take a look at four ways playing cards have changed lives.

Cards as Money

In June of 1685 playing cards were first used as money. Playing card money was used at times as currency in several colonies and countries (including Dutch Guiana, New France, and France) from the 17th century to the early 19th century. But this new creation of card games as money did not necessarily change lives for the better. In fact, one issue with using playing cards as money is that they were easily counterfeited. In France cards were becoming used as money because of problems with the availability of currency. In 1690, a counterfeiter was convicted in one of the first documented cases of counterfeiting. The person was then sentenced to flogging and subsequently sold into bondage for three years. The penalty for counterfeiting was later changed to death by hanging. (Source & Source).

Hidden Maps

One way playing cards have positively impacted lives is during World War II. During that time, The United States Playing Card Company joined forces with American and British intelligence agencies to create a very special deck of cards. This deck was specifically created to help allied prisoners of war escape from German Prisoner of War (POW) camps 

The cards concealed maps by being purposefully designed to easily peel away the backing from the front in water revealing an escape map. The card decks with maps were credited with helping at least 32 people escape from Colditz Castle and overall the cards are said to have encouraged over 300 attempted escapes.

Flash Cards

Not as dramatic as helping POWs escape but still a powerful learning force, flash cards have helped millions of student study for important exams, quizzes and even getting into medical school. The exact first use a flash card for learning is not known. However, flash cards came into popular imagination and usage for the first time around the 1800s and 1900s. These cards provided an excellent method of practicing the recall of information, concepts and definitions. In fact, flash cards became used in education that by 1923, the term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. (Source)

Digital Cards

In the year of 2021, a digital card game revolution began. The ubiquitous nature of virtual meetings and the search for engaging interactions via virtual meetings lead to the creation of a digital card game tool that has been adopted by many organizations to teach a variety of topics. Digital card games can be used in a group to play with others in a multiplayer format or used individually to reinforce the categorization of information or help distinguish between one concept or another. The games are used in areas such as security, sales, leadership and self-exploration. The players claim to be better prepared and enjoyed the instructional interactions due to the fun and energy associated with card games. (Source)


Playing cards can be powerful tools for both good and bad. Fortunately, the good use of playing cards have continued to outweigh the negative aspects of card games and now card games can even be played digitally with co-workers and with friends. The ubiquitous nature of card games and the ability to easily understand how to play and how to use make card games, digital and paper-based make them excellent tools to use within organizations for training, marketing and public relations (just don’t use them as counterfeit money!)

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