Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


The Playing Card Cube

This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the origami design known as the Playing Card Cube or, in more modern times, as the Business Card Cube. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

As far as I know Playing Card Cubes first appear in the historical record in this 1837 painting by the Ukrainian artist K. Pavlov (1792 - 1852) which is in the possession of the Pskov State United Historical and Architectural Museum.


A version of the Playing Card Cube with a small hole in the centre of the top card that could be used as an apparatus for creating smoke rings appeared in 'Hanky Panky' by W H Cremer, Jun, which was published by John Camden Hotten in London in 1872.


A similar version appeared in the French magazine La Nature No 427 of 6th August 1881 (information from Michel Grand) and subsequently in the third edition of 'Les Recreations Scientifiques' by Gaston Tissandier which was published in 1882.


Diagrams for the smoke ring producing version were also published, again in 1882, in The American Boys Handy Book by D C Beard, published by Charles Scribner's Sons in New York.


'Pour Amuser Les Petits' by Tom Tit, published in Paris in 1894 by E Plon, Nourrit et Cie, contains chapters on how to make toys and amusements for children from, among other things, corks, oranges, nuts, playing cards and cartes de visite. This page shows toys that can be made from playing cards. At the top is the basic Playing Card Cube and below it a derivative Lidded Box made by first putting two cards together to create one side of the box and then linking them togerther with simple joining pieces.


The smoke ring version of the design appears in another Tom Tit book, 'La Recreation En Famille' which was published in Paris in 1903 by Librairie Armand Colin.


A third book by Tom Tit, 'Les Bon Jeudis', published in Paris in 1905 by Librairie Vuibert, showed how to link Playing Card Cubes together by means of their external tabs to create designs for modular buildings and trains.