Ace of Spades: Why is the design different from other playing cards?

Ace of Spades is always considered the biggest in various games. But, there are more about it being different from the other cards.

There are various card games, which are perfect for bonding and gathering with family and friends, or even for kids. So, how much do we know about these 52 cards plus Jokers? For the sake of fairness in any game, it is natural to assume that all cards are designed in the same way. However, it is not exactly right: A card actually looks different. Do you notice which one? It is the Ace of Spades!

Take a look at your deck of cards now, and find the Ace of Spades. It does look different from other Aces, doesn’t it?

The Spade in the middle is somehow bigger than the suit of other Aces. For some designs, it even has some underlying patterns printed (or hidden) on the Spade.

You may think that it is because the Ace of Spades is often regarded as the biggest among all the 52 cards in most games. Good thinking, but sorry… no, this is not the case!

The reason why the Ace of Spades is different…

It is actually all about money, more precisely anti-piracy or counterfeit protection.

In the early 18th century, card games were popular entertainment for the upper class in the United Kingdom. They just loved playing during tea time.

Playing cards became so popular and were sold very well. This has caught the attention of the UK government, as it was apparently such a new source of tax revenue.

The design of Ace of Spades is different from other Aces. The reason is from a tax issued by the UK government back in the 18th century.
credit: Esteban Lopez

Playing Cards Tax from Government?

So, the question was how to implement this new “Playing Cards Tax”? There needed to be a way to regulate and the point is to control the production.

The government opted not for charging the tax directly. Instead, they decided to take over the printing and produce the Ace of Spades, in place of the playing cards production companies. They printed the other 51 cards (plus Jokers) but needed to acquire this Ace of Spades from the government. This costs a high price to complete the decks in order to sell in the market.

Of course, the production companies were not going to sit there and surrender the profit. They came up with an idea to counter this policy and escape from this “tax”. The obvious solution was to forge the Ace of Spades of the government version.

Initially, the Ace of Spades was of the same design as other Aces. However, the UK government had to take further action to stop the counterfeiting in the market. They had to change its design and make it more complex, so it became harder to copy. As time went on, the Spade in the middle was made bigger to accommodate more detail, like some underlying patterns.

It then went on and became kind of a tradition in playing cards. This is the reason why the Ace of Spades looks so different from other Aces, and it becomes generally bigger in size and even with hidden patterns ever since.


Playing cards look simple, but there are some juicy history and fun facts to explore.

Do you want to personalize your own playing cards, to make them different? Or, are you interested in creating your customized playing cards as an online business? This is such a great way to convert your artwork into products.