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Travel Souvenir Collection: Decks of Playing Cards

I have one deck of souvenir playing cards– the colorful, glossy blue and yellow pattern of my deck caught my eye at a little shop in Lisbon, Portugal. While I love my little deck of Portuguese playing cards, I never gave much thought to what a perfect travel souvenir they are.

travel souvenir portuguese deck playing cards donkey joker

Foreign playing cards will often vary in their depiction of kings, queens and the joker. In my Portuguese deck (produced by the same company since 1926), the joker is represented by a donkey.

Playing cards are small and lightweight, but sturdy– easy to pack yet tough enough to withstand being knocked around in a suitcase or backpack. They are also cheap and easy to find, making them accessible to anyone. When you consider that playing cards can be put to use right away during your travels as well as back home (a game of solitaire on a long train ride can be a welcome respite from a smart tablet), I can’t believe I haven’t picked up more decks of cards on my travels.

At least that was my thought when I saw fellow travel writer Charles McCool’s collection of souvenir decks of playing cards. We asked Charles to share his souvenir card collection with us.

Charles McCool’s Souvenir Decks of Playing Cards from Around the World

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How did you decide to collect souvenir decks playing cards?
I have collected many things over the years—shirts, Hard Rock glasses/pins, magnets, etc. Playing cards are perhaps the ideal souvenirs. They are small, easy to pack, do not break, are TSA/security friendly, fun to look at, and useful (Ed. note: TSA friendly is important if you travel carry on only– Charles once had to dump water out of a snow globe to get it through security).

How many packs do you have?

I now have about four dozen souvenir decks of cards.

 Do you specifically look for cards at each travel destination? Ever go out of your way to hunt a deck down?
I do specifically look for souvenir playing cards when I travel, I like to look for colorful designs that represent the flavor of the destination. The only place I remember looking for but not finding any was Morocco. I do not specifically go out of my way but I might go into an extra souvenir shop or two to search. Sometimes, I have learned, places like local grocery stores or markets have better and lower priced souvenirs than the tourist-targeted shops.
Any anecdotes about a particular souvenir deck of cards?
About 15 years ago, I popped into a dollar store somewhere in the United States to buy suntan lotion or toothpaste, and found four unusual shaped decks of cards—three round (baseball, soccer ball, and Simpsons) and Speed Racer. Because of the odd shape, and because I have so many other decks, these remain unopened. Think they are worth more than $1 now?
Where do you store or display the souvenir decks of cards back home? Do you play with them?
Another advantage of decks of playing cards are that they are easy to display. I have had them on the small countertop ledges around my kitchen but recently moved them to a bookcase. I definitely play games with the cards. In a time before mobile devices (yes, there was such a time), cards were perfect for long train rides in Europe, waiting for flight departures (or during flights), or whenever. Card games are great for one person, a couple, or family.
Thanks to Charles McCool for sharing your travel playing cards collection!
About our Souvenir Contributor
v21kmMrUCharles McCool is a travel skills expert and has taught others how to travel more effectively—save money, time, and stress AND have more fun on EVERY trip—since 1992. He has conducted do-it-yourself trip planning and other travel classes since 2001. His articles and travel advice have appeared in hundreds of sources since 1990, including CNN, Frommers, and USA Today. follow McCool Travel on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

2 Responses to Travel Souvenir Collection: Decks of Playing Cards

  1. McCool Travel 04/12/2015 at 3:25 pm #

    Fun stuff. Thank you for including me in your series.

    • Kristin Francis 04/26/2015 at 12:32 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing Charles!

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