Tax Stamps on Playing Cards

posted May 23, 2010, 9:37 AM by Taylor Bomarito   [ updated Mar 13, 2011, 12:07 PM ]
The tax stamps that were placed on playing card decks can give you insight into the year a deck was manufactured or sold. When using tax stamps as a clue, keep in mind that the cards in question may have been manufactured much earlier than the tax stamp date and that the stamps were place on the packages where the card decks were being sold, not where the cards were manufactured. In addition, tax stamps were sometimes used until the stamps had run out, so card decks can actually have been made later than the tax stamp indicates. Stamps were even sold to other card manufacturers.The United States did not use stamps on a card, but adhesive stamps on the package, the 'Internal Revenue Stamps'. At some times there were different stamps used concurrently. 

The most common decks you will experience are the 10 cent and 1 pack tax stamped decks, which are the stamps used from 1924-1965. You can identify the date of a deck of playing cards by matching a deck's stamp to its years in use.

This article focuses on U.S. made decks, but if you would like to know more about tax stamps on playing cards in other countries, please visit Peter Endebrock's website.


The tax rates, per deck, were as follows:
1862 - 1864           2 cents

1872 - 1883           5 cents

1883 - 1894           none

1894 - 1917           2 cents

1917 - 1919           7 cents

1919 - 1924           8 cents

1924 - 1940           10 cents

1940 - 1941           11 cents

1941 - 1965           13 cents


Starting in 1864, playing card manufacturers were allowed to have their own 'private die' tax stamps. These private die playing card stamps were issued from 1864 to 1883, when the revenue tax on playing cards was repealed. Under the Revenue Act of 1862, manufacturers were permitted,
at their expense, to have dies engraved and plates made for their exclusive use. This method gave the manufacturers a slightly lower cost and the advertising value of the proprietary stamps could not be overlooked.

If you would like to know more about tax stamps on playing cards prior to 1883, please visit Tom & Judy Dawson's website. If you would like photos of these private die playing card stamps, please visit Peter Endedbrock's website.

During 1894-1924, almost always a variation of the tax stamp below was used. Though the stamp says 'TWO CENTS', it was also used for the 7 and 8 cent years. They typically stamped the real tax on this older stamp. If it is possible to see the actual amount of the tax on the stamp, you can pinpoint when the deck was dated by using the tax rate information above.


If you would like to know more about tax stamps on playing cards prior to 1924, please visit Peter Endebrock's website.

This stamp was in use from 1924 to 1929. 
The text is 'U.S.I.R.', 'PLAYING CARDS', and '10 CENTS'.

This was a stamp in use from 1929 to 1940. 
The text is 'PLAYING CARDS', '10 CENTS', and 'U.S.INT.REV.'.

From 1940  to 1941 the tax rate was raised twice, from 10 to 13 cents. In order to disguise this increase, the government issued stamps saying "1 pack". Decks with the "1 pack" stamp can date anywhere from 1940 to 1965.  

This stamp was in use from 1940 to 1965. 
The text is 'PLAYING CARDS', '1 PACK', and 'U.S.I.R.'.

This is another stamp in use from 1940 to 1965. 
The text is 'PLAYING CARDS', '1 PACK', and 'U.S.INT.REV.'.

Taxes on playing cards were abolished in the U.S.A. on June 22, 1965. Many manufacturers continued using stamps with their own design to seal the package. This is when modern playing card seals were developed. More information on manufacturer's playing cards seals can be found in the Manufacturers Seals section of the website: