Themed Playing Cards Immortalize Kentucky Heroes

Caption: Kentucky is famous for its bluegrass music

When it comes to popular collectors’ items, comic books, coins, and trading cards are the standard fare. Then there are the pricier collections, such as fine art and classic cars. One clear emphasis for hobbyist collectors is age—the longer an item has been in circulation, the more pieces there are to collect.

Though not quite as popular as other collectible items, playing cards have a long history that makes them a common feature in most homes. But they weren’t always so predictable. Back when mass production of playing cards first began in the mid-1800s, there was no ‘standard’ theme or form.

Most early decks included 20 cards rather than 52 and weren’t necessarily shaped in rectangle form. Today’s shape is meant to fit in the palm of the hand, which makes concealing cards easier. Over time, design changed to fit new preferences, ranging from oval to round to S-shaped cards.

Some were easy to hold and created for functionality, while other decks varied by artistic renditions. One way in which a playing card deck could be differentiated was by the visual design of values or, in some cases, a totally recreational deck that couldn’t be used for common games that relied on value.

To this day, such decks remain popular. For the Kentucky-based group, Kentucky to the World, a recent project designed to highlight local heroes opted for a 52-card deck that would showcase 52 local heroes.

Kentucky To The World Highlights Local Heroes

The organization, Kentucky to the World, seeks to export the southern state’s most important cultural traditions and heritage. The group has undertaken this work in order to elevate the intellectual reputation of the state, which is typically associated with a relaxed country lifestyle and bluegrass music.

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And Kentucky is just that—a salt-of-the-earth state where traditional values are still highly regarded and folk traditions haven’t been lost. However, the state has also been home to some of the most innovative and visionary intellectuals and artists in North America.

KTW’s playing card deck highlights these leaders from a wide range of fields. There’s Jessica Bird, an influential author of the romance genre, who features alongside Tinashe, a singer and actress who’s spent time in popular hit series like Two and a Half Men.

There’s Kelsi Worrell Dahlia, an Olympic swimmer, and Nobel-prize winner Phil Sharp, and Tyler Childers, a Bluegrass influencer. The diverse range of influential Kentuckians each has a brief profile on every card, which also includes values for functionality.

KTW plans to extend its playing card deck series, which will be part of an eventual 1,000-card deck rollout. Even better, the decks are hand-illustrated, which makes for a unique design that is popular for both gaming enthusiasts and novelty collectors.

Caption: A view of downtown Louisville, Kentucky

Unique Playing Card Variations

As mentioned above, playing cards have a long history of variations, with more than a few interesting names behind playing card production—Nintendo included. Today, organizations and manufacturers alike have taken to creating unique variations to cater to deck collectors and regular consumers alike.

For collectors, there are rainbow cards from groups like Fredericks & Mae, which are colored with rich and stunning shades. There are hand-crafted ink designs from groups like Peak Playing Cards, which, like the rainbow deck, are both functional and stunningly designed.

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There are ‘glitch’ variations, which draw on optical illusions to deliver something different, as well as alternative designs for each card value, ranging from cute puppies to hand-drawn monsters. And then there’s the gold standard of playing card decks, like Venexiana Gold’s gold foil stamped decks, with a price tag of over $400.

But some playing card decks, like FTW’s project, are created with a specific mission in mind. For example, the World Wildlife Fund rolled out a classically designed playing card deck with highly ornate graphics for each card value to promote visibility for environmental causes. Instead of kings, there are lions, and so on.

Even better, the cards are printed on sustainable paper and delivered via sustainable transportation, with proceeds going to the World Wildlife Fund. Similar efforts have been undertaken by groups like charity: water and (RED), which have designed decks for specific causes in order to raise awareness.

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