Sunday, June 7, 2020

Nintendo's washable playing cards from 1953

In the first decades of Nintendo's history, that started in 1889, the company grew by automating the manufacturing of hanafuda and Western style playing cards, and by expanding its sales and distribution network throughout Japan.

Although the production process changed during this time, the product itself remained more or less the same: printed paper cards.

It took over sixty year before the first major product innovation happened, in the early 1950s. According to the timeline on Nintendo's corporate website, in 1953 they "Became the first company to succeed in mass-producing plastic playing cards in Japan."

The first major events in the Nintendo's history, as listed on

This milestone was reached four years after a 21 year old Hiroshi Yamauchi, the great-grandson of founder Fusajiro Yamauchi, took the helm as Nintendo's president.

Before the proud introduction in 1953, it had taken Nintendo quite some effort and time to get to grips with the process necessary to produce these plastic cards, as the printing on plastic was very different from printing on paper, and it was difficult to print colours consistently.

The leaflet shown here is one of the earliest commercial publications that marketed this new product.

NAP card leaflet (front)