Note to the punsters- They will never turn you down, but your mother is not likely to approve
This can be a remarkably complex thing to do. Even a conspicuous indicator is only one of a number of elements to consider.
It is not unusual for a pack to be marked with a date, but this only means when the block was carved, unless otherwise modified. Blocks were often used until they couldn’t be, and this could mean decades of use.
Rather than isolating a year or a decade, attempts are usually made to connect cards with surviving guild records. These records can reveal active production years; Andre Perrocet can be dated this way to 1491-1524, and so his cards are also dated this way(this is my “Eulenkonig” pack).
When only limited elements exist, this process is even more vague.
So what is a reenactor to do?
I try to remember that part of the appeal to the cards is their portability, so even with tax laws and tariffs, they could travel far and wide. Cards carried by Portuguese sailors in the fifteenth century have been found as far as Japan, Java and Peru. A port city will likely have more options than a colloquial village, as will a soldier or sailor compared to someone with a more stationary life. Many of the cards began to be produced where they landed, resulting in “Spanish” playing cards being produced as far afield as Amsterdam.
The costumes in the courts may not reveal too much, but they give an idea of when the design may have first appeared. Since the designs could be used and copied for years, this allows for decades of flexibility in many cases.
Not all cards were likely to travel. A hand illuminated pack might be a gift to commemorate an event,and were quite costly. Such cards were kept in curios, and often survive because of their beauty. A pack like this would not likely be seen in a pub.
As far as timeline goes, There is a lot of grey area as to the “introduction” of cards, particularly in Europe, but I think it’s safe to say you may have seen them post 1370. prior to that, you’d best have a good reason, and I encourage folks to find them.
If I can assist in finding the right pack for your persona, please feel free to contact me.