Historians are absolutely certain that playing cards were invented in China. Sources about royalty using them come from the ninth century. The cards had 4 suits, and the numbers were usually 2 to 9. Thanks to the Silk Route, Chinese cards were brought to India, Egypt and Middle East. In India the shape of the cards changed and there were more than 4 suits. Modern playing cards began evolving around the 12th century in Egypt.
The Egyptian deck got referred to as the Mameluke deck. It had 52 cards in 4 suits called polo sticks, swords, cups and coins. Each suit had 10 number cards and three court cards (King, Viceroy and Under Deputy) with abstract designs, not people.
The first reference of playing cards in Europe comes from 1371, from Spain. The first cards were woodcuts and engravings. There were some differences in different European countries. Current suits (spades, diamonds, hearts and clubs) come from France, from the late 15th century. The English made it universal. The original court cards were King, Knight and Knave, with Knight being replaced by Queen later.
In the 17th century the indices in corners were added, which let players hold all cards in one hand. That’s why Knave got replaced by Jack – both K and Kn also applied to King.
Reversible court cards were invented in the 18th century. Players didn’t have to reveal what cards they had by trying turn them the right side up anymore.
In 1870 America had its contribution to playing cards by inventing Joker.