Playing Card Manufacturer: Piatnik Piatnik prints playing cards. A LOT of playing cards. In this next article in a series about playing card manufacturers, we head to Austria's Vienna to learn about a company that manufactures playing cards and board games right in the middle of Europe. To give some idea of their size and influence, Piatnik tells us that their products are available in no less than 72 countries around the world. They also operate affiliate companies in several other European countries, as well as one in the United States. One of their slogans will give you some sense of their heritage and experience: Good Games Since 1824. So let's find out some more about this large European manufacturer, that has been in the business of making playing cards for nearly 200 years. Ferdinand Piatnik & Söhne The company name Piatnik goes back to Ferdinand Piatnik (1819-1885), but the origins of Piatnik go back even further. Anton Moser founded the company already almost two centuries ago in 1824. Moser was a manufacturer of playing cards, which at that time was a craft that involved actually painting the cards. When he died around 1843, it was his partner Ferdinand Piatnik that took over his business. Ferdinand was Hungarian born, and had learned his trade by painting maps in Budapest. Ferdinand's connection with the Moser family was so close that he even married Anton's widow. And it was the Piatnik name that would eventually become famous. When Ferdinand Piatnik's three sons (Ferdinand, Adolf, and Rudolf Paul) joined him in 1882, their names ("& Söhne") were added to the name of the growing company. The sons took over when Ferdinand senior died in 1885, and the business continued to expand. His enterprising sons weren't afraid to innovate, and it was their influence that was chiefly responsible for upgrading to more modern production facilities in 1891. Piatnik also grew further by acquiring other playing card manufacturers, and setting up factories in neighbouring countries. Such was their success and dominance in the playing card industry, that in the glory days of the Austrian Empire, it became common place to refer to the company's founder as "Saint Piatnik". Despite suffering some losses at the time of World War II, the company's passion for playing cards continued. In 1956 they added the production of board games to their printing portfolio. Puzzles joined their list of products in 1966. In the modern era their reputation as a respected game publisher continues to grow, and they are constantly looking for new ideas, and bring around 20 new board games to the market on an annual basis. Today the company is still run by Ferdinand Piatnik's family and descendants, and their contribution to the industry includes the production of both board games and puzzles besides playing cards. Piatnik is considered to be one of the most successful game manufacturing companies in the world, and their products are shipped globally. They have well over 100 workers in their factory, and a report from ten years ago said that 25 million packs of cards, a million games, and a million jigsaw puzzles are produced by their plant every year. Undoubtedly that figure is even higher today. The classic Tell deck I first came across Piatnik a number of years ago when I was given a beautiful Piatnik-produced Tell pattern deck by a friend from Europe, who used it to teach me the popular European card game Schnapsen. If you're coming from a traditional Bicycle style rider-back deck, the artwork of these playing cards is stunning. They feature the classic story of William Tell (depicted on the second card from the left in the picture below). The Tell deck also uses Acorns, Hearts, Bells, and Leaves for the suits, instead of the traditional French suits, and these alternative suits is something you'll see more often with European decks. This difference is rooted in the history of playing cards centuries ago, as they made their mark in different ways in various parts of Europe. Schnapsen is still very popular in Germany and in the region of former Austria-Hungary, so it's no surprise that special decks like these are still used in these countries today. When you come across Piatnik-produced playing cards, you'll find that many of them have colourful and creative artwork like this, with truly beautiful designs on the cards. I've been told that in countries like Hungary, playing cards such as this Tell deck are even more popular than playing cards with the traditional French suits familiar to most of us. Many other localized games are played with these decks as well. The deck that I have also has only 32 cards instead of 52, but that's because decks of 32 cards and 40 cards are quite common in Europe. The size of these decks is closely linked to the card games that have proven popular in this part of the world across the centuries. Despite the apparent differences from a French style deck, these cards actually correspond closely to a regular deck of cards, but the court cards do have different names. For example, instead of Queens and Jacks we have Over-Knaves and Under-Knaves. But for all intents and purposes these are practically identical in rank and function to their French counterparts. The artwork also features different parts of the legend of William Tell, including various aspects of his familiar story. The Over-Knaves and Under-Knaves feature these characters: Over-knaves - Wilhelm Tell (acorns), Hermann Geszler (hearts), Stüssi d. Flurschütz (bells), Ulrich Ruden (leaves); Under-knaves - Rudolf Harras (acorns), Kuoni d. Hirt (hearts), Itell Reding (bells), Walter Fürst (leaves). Do you need a Tell deck to play Schnapsen or other European games? Absolutely not, because you can certainly play these games with a regular French-suited deck as well. But if you are fortunate enough to have a Tell deck, it does enhance the experience, plus it gives you some spectacular artwork to admire between turns.