Found in the Campus Shop in Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchant Square, the King’s Guard Company’s meticulously designed luxury playing cards incorporate the College of William and Mary’s storied history. Faces of notable figures like Sir Christopher Wren, Thomas Jefferson and the distinguished King William and Queen Mary feature prominently on the cards.
The masterminds behind this company and its playing cards are none other than students here at the College: Bruno Iannotti ’26 and Teddy Cohen ’26. The two, who have been close friends since elementary school, created this physical representation of the College’s history in their senior year of high school even before getting admitted to the College.
“I think at the time it was a spur of the moment idea, and part of me thinks even if we decided to go elsewhere the project may have happened either way,” Iannotti said. “It just felt like a good place with a supportive and passionate community where a product like this would be well received. Although, looking back on it now, I’m happy to have started the project and process here at this school”
Cohen originally came up with the idea to make unique playing cards for the College when his mother showed him a deck of cards from her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. Beginning with the design of the cards themselves, Iannotti and Cohen intentionally chose some of the most significant figures in the College’s history, such as James Blair as the Jack, to compliment the classic deck of cards.
Even with the basic design of the cards, using the College logo on them required additional, long tedious processes and months of waiting until King’s Guard was founded Oct. 10, 2022.
“There’s all these little technicalities you never expect to run into, and everything just takes longer than you really wanted it to,” Iannotti said.
The company’s founding, in turn, depended on having a company name. Iannotti recalled that although the King’s Guard was not the first name he and Cohen came up with, it was the one that stuck.
“For the name of the company, we wanted something playing-card-themed, and we had a few different ideas when we got started,” Ianotti said. “At first, we were thinking something like ‘Pocket Kings,’ in reference to having two kings in a poker hand, but eventually that evolved into the King’s Guard Company, which we decided sounded pretty good.”
However, after overcoming their initial difficulties, the pair say that their playing cards have only been increasing in popularity, especially among parents and alumni. Though also sold online for $14.95, many parents, students and alumni have discovered the cards through the Campus Shop, which is the primary storefront where the cards can be found.
“It was interesting because we approached [the Campus Shop] before we got the license and [the manager] was like, ‘Wait, what do you want me to do? You need to be licensed,’” Cohen said. “ He was giving us a pretty low price, so we weren’t optimistic going back once we were licensed, but it was actually a pretty positive experience. He seemed enthusiastic about the cards.”
Amelia Dunning ’26, an employee at the Campus Shop, even expressed that she bought the playing cards out of sheer excitement for the interesting and unique designs that hadn’t previously been sold at the Campus Shop.
“[The Campus Shop] had cards last year that were just playing cards that said ‘William and Mary’ basically on the box, and that was it, and there was nothing super special about them,” Dunning said. “And people would always ask whether or not there was anything unique or anything like that, and there weren’t.”
Dunning explained that another reason she was so drawn to Iannotti’s and Cohen’s unique cards was because they were made by students of the College, which has been a major reason for their popularity among customers as well.
“Most of the people that are drawn to the cards, I think, are alumni, so we have two left,” Dunning said. “Everything that we had sold out over Homecoming Weekend and Parents’ Weekend — the last of what we had was gone.”
Dunning said Iannotti’s and Cohen’s playing cards have already been successful in adding to the charm of the College’s merchandise and encourages all members of the College community to come see them for themselves.
“I think at the very least, you should check [the playing cards] out, and you should check out the King’s Guard Company that actually made them because I know that they like to do other kinds of designs for the school and stuff,” Dunning said.
For Iannotti and Cohen, the future ahead looks bright as they enjoy growing closer to one another through continued collaboration on their joint entrepreneurial endeavor that has grown into a fully fledged passion.
“I would say as we moved into college this company has only made the two of us closer as we continue to spend time and work on this passion project together day to day,” Iannotti said.