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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Nintendo Playing Cards (1950s)

[UPDATE 2022: previously I dated these cards in the 1960s, I have now updated this in this post to the 1950s, as I believe they are earlier.]

Today we will take a look at what for a long time has been Nintendo's core business: playing cards. With over a hundred years of company history in this area, there is a lot to show and tell.

We will start with the playing cards sets below, that are some of my favourite packs. I really like these because of their graphic design.

Nintendo Playing Cards No 22, 160 and 50 (1950s)

Nintendo used numbers to label the many variations of cards in their portfolio, and these numbers are displayed prominently on the packaging. The playing cards shown here are numbers 22, 160 and 50.

Nintendo Playing Cards No 160

These playing cards are difficult to date. There is no copyright notice or other date mark. I place them in the early to mid 1950s.

All three contain a Western style deck, with 52 cards and two or three jokers.

The ace of spades card usually features the Nintendo brand name.

Nintendo sold playing cards in all sorts and sizes, from mini to oversized.

Nintendo Playing Cards No 50

Here is one of the smaller packs, with cards from around 65 by 46 mm.

As you can see from these card packs, there was no single Nintendo brand logo used consistently. For a history on Nintendo's logo, check out this previous post.

This particular pack is still sealed with a tax stamp.

Playing cards were levied with tax in Japan. This stopped in 1989, when a general consumption tax was introduced.

Nintendo Playing Cards No 22

The number 22 is what you may call a regular size pack of cards. I love the design of this one in particular. The use of colors and typography works really well, I think.

Around this time, Nintendo playing cards were sold primarily in Japan, but also abroad, be it in limited numbers.

For this purpose, an international company was set up by Nintendo, called the Nintendo Playing Card Co., Ltd.

This company name was also used for the Western style cards sold in Japan.

If you want to learn more about Nintendo's playing cards, check out this previous post:


  1. I read in History of Nintendo book that sometimes around 50s, 60s etc., Nintendo used to provide some western casinos (USA, Italy...) with cards. It would be fascinating to find something about this first western Nintendo "landing"...

    1. Yes, it would be really cool to find some of those cards. Or other info about them.

  2. Great post! Thanks! I have just found a mint condition, plastic - boxed, 2-deck set of Nintendo cards (inherited from my wife's aunt!). I've found out that they're model NAP 701. I'm wondering how much of a collector's market there is for these... Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Jamie. Yes, there is a collector's market for these, but keep in mind that most of these card sets were produced in very large quantities, and are not that difficult to find now (in Japan), even as new old stock. As a general rule, anything from the 70s and up is not that valuable (some exceptions to this rule, like pokemon themed cards). From the 1960s they can be valuable, if they are in good condition *and* depict popular figures, like for instance Disney characters. 1950s and older is more valuable. Now the question is, in which category do your cards fall?

    2. Thanks for the reply! I'm really not sure. I found that they're design NAP701. Which are pretty generic (non character) looking. I'm guessing that they're among the widely produced. :)

  3. Hi, I just found a deck of Hello Kitty Nintendo cards. Would these be valuable in anyway? Thanks!

    1. Hi, although they will hold some value to Nintendo and/or Hello Kitty fans, they are not very rare and usually do not command huge sums. Price also depends on the age (the older the better), and condition, of course

  4. Hau much cost that play cards n22 aprox

  5. looking back, it's most likely late 1950's. maybe around 1957-1960. one of the decks even has a 1960 tax stamp.