I picked up some Cigarette Cards at a (mostly) Stamp Fair recently.
It seems that Coins and Stamps have a longevity in collecting terms but Cigarette Cards are effectively set in years between the First and Second World Wars. Rather like Phonecards, about which I recently blogged belong in the 1990s.
Yet I think “conservation” (an excuse for “hoarding”) is an important factor in collecting.
Cigarette cards were free gifts with packets of cigarettes. In the 1920s and 1930s, smoking was socially acceptable. As my father was a boy then, he was a collector. His main source was male friends and relatives but he used to tell me that youngsters used to hang around stores and ask complete strangers who had just bought a packet of cigarettes for the card.
The first part-set I picked up is produced by John Player & Sons “Straight Line Caricatures” (set of 50).dates from 1926. It seems an odd set. Genuinely historical figures like English General “Earl Haig” and George Bernard Shaw and some relatively obscure figures like “Sir” Oliver Lodge (the radio pioneer) and “Sir” J Martin Harvey (I have no idea who he is and I cant be bothered looking up Wikipedia or reading the back of the card). It is hard to believe that they caused a lot of excitement when being swapped in the school playground. Still, I suppose they were major celebs…the Kardashians and Kanye West of 1926.
The second part-set is “Flags of the League of Nations” (set of 50) produced in 1928. I actually have a full set and I nearly always buy extra cards when I see them. I like Flags but more so it says something about the years between the Wars. I bought a full set in the 1980s when Soviet Union still existed so seeing Latvia (as you can see I picked up an extra card) , Lithuania and Estonia seemed historic. It did not seem likely that USSR would collapse and these and other nations re-emerge.
Among the cards in the part-set are the old flags of Italy, South Africa and (British) India.
The third and final part-set is “Famous Jockeys” (Gallaher Ltd 1936). Jockeys and Racing colours, as well as Cricket and Football seem to the most popular cards. The interesting thing is that some of the veteran riders were actually winning races over a century ago but the card that caught my eye “E Smith”, (middle in bottom row) is a jockey I recall from TV races in the early 1960s.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, I recall buying “sweetie cigarettes” which were white candy with a red colouring. Children believed that these were realistic cigarettes and adults would think we were smoking. These packets often contained a picture card.
In the more enlightened times in which we live “sweetie cigarettes” are no longer sold as understandably it normalises smoking for a younger generation. It is still possible to buy white “candy sticks” which do not have red markings at the tip.
Cigarette Cards….like Phonecards are time capsules. Cigarette Cards (1920s-1930s) led to Bubblegum Cards (1950s-1970s) and then to modern Trading Cards and Stickers.