Some Cigarette Cards

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.


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Earlier this week, I was given about twenty Irish phonecards. There was some duplication but I have been able to add most of them to my collection.Phonecards18

Collecting phonecards became a big thing in Ireland in the 1990s. It started around 1991 but by 2001, the bubble had burst. They were sold in most stores in units of 5,10, 20, 50 and 100. They were used in phone boxes and it was very common to see children (and adults!!!) look for used phonecards. Some people even placed litter bins in phone boxes so that the used cards would not get dirty.

The first few years cards had the logo of Telecom Eireann on a blue background along the top of the card. Later cards had the logo at the side of the card. A third design of logo (I have very few of the later cards) was later used.

As always with any form of collecting, the early issues, “Trial” cards are difficult to find.

Cards fall into four categories. Definitive cards such as the Horse Racing card shown above are the easiest to find as millions were issued. Commemorative cards for events and seasons such as Christmas usually had a production of 200,000. Advertising cards had a similar number issued.

There is a fourth category of “customised cards” such as the Tia Maria card. As far as I know, only 10,000 were issued.

Certainly the bubble of collecting burst at the end of the 1990s and these phonecards are now a footnote. For the ten or fifteen years that the cards were produced, collecting them was much more popular than Stamp Collecting.

And while Stamp Collecting is now in terminal decline, the challenge of Phonecard Collecting faded away.

To understand how the bubble burst, it is necessary to understand why the bubble inflated in the first place. This was cutting-edge technology in 1990 in the same way that a postage stamp was revolutionary in 1840. The concept of inserting a chipped card into a phone was very new. A new generation was introduced to collecting and phone cards were readily available and discarded in phone boxes all over Ireland.

But the technology had moved on again by the start of the 21st century. Mobile/Cell phones became widespread and public telephones became almost obsolete.

But I think there are deeper reasons why phonecards are really just a novelty. There is something very “official” about a nation’s stamps…a stamp album is a Greatest Hits album….containing the best of History, Music, Environment, Sport, Literature. Phonecards depicting Burger King, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Nescafe do not have the same appeal to National Pride. More so, the advertising of products such as alcohol, should not appeal to children.

Likewise a “collecting” hobby should hold out the prospect of “completion”. So cards, that were only produced in numbers of 10,000 (like the Tia Maria card above) or cards in quantities of  5,000 used as promotions have no real prospect of being found on the ground in phone boxes.

Collectors were turned off by this “limited edition” ploy.

So Phonecards are really no more a quaint footnote, a mirror into 1990s Ireland.


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New Issues 2018: January

Stamps issued in January 2018:

A single stamp (11th January) to commemorate the Bicentenary of the General Post Office in Dublin.


Four stamps and a miniature sheet were issued (18th January) to mark the 50th Anniversary of the death of Chester Beatty. He was an American-born mining magnate who settled in Ireland after the Second World War. He donated his extensive collection of oriental works of art to the Irish Nation and was the first person to be awarded honoury citizenship of Ireland.

The second phase of the definitive series, representing the History of Ireland in One Hundred Objects was issued on 25th January. These are eight SOAR “Stamps On A Roll” and two booklet stamps, one at “N” (National) rate and one at “W” (International) rate. Coil stamps were to be introduced but as at 29th January, they had not been issued.


It is nice to see Treasures like the Tara Brooch, Ardagh Chalice and Book of Kells included.


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The Raven from Westeros Has Delivered Mail

The three Game of Thrones-related postcards which I posted to myself in Belfast (or King’s Landing or Winterfell) yesterday were delivered today.

The Diana Rigg postcard was bought in London over twenty years ago and has a “Olenna” stamp. The locations postcard has a Cersei Lannister stamp. The cartoon “Game of Scones” has a Tyrian Lannister stamp.

The stamps were hand-stamped at the main post office in Belfast.



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Printer is gumming: UK issues Game of Thrones stamps

Excellent post from Australia…The Punk Philatelist writes some good stuff.

The Punk Philatelist

UK 2018 Game of Thrones 1st Iron Throne stampHappy New Year, readers! Hoping your year is as bloody awesome as the pun in my headline.

2018 has kicked off with the news that on January 23, the UK’s Royal Mail is releasing no less than 15 stamps commemorating “the significant British contribution” to the production of the TV series Game of Thrones.

Here’s the Royal Mail’s justification for jumping on the GoT band-dragon:

The Game of Thrones production involves a very significant British contribution. Principal filming of the series is at Titanic Studios in Belfast, at the Linen Hill Film Studio in Banbridge and on location elsewhere in Northern Ireland, with additional filming in Scotland and European locations including Malta, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco and Spain.
Additionally, the acclaimed cast is predominantly British and Irish, and British expertise is to the fore in many areas of the production, including award-winning costume design and prosthetic special effects.

And here’s…

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Stamps: History or Memorabalia?

There are essentially three types of stamps…definitive, commemoratives and thematics (or “topicals” as they are known in North America. Unless, a collector specialises in a certain country, definitive stamps can be boring and confusing. This is especially true of the world’s oldest countries who were issuing stamps from the middle of the 19th century.

To some extent the stamps of some countries (eg Britain)  pre-date the hobby of Philately while the stamps of  other countries (eg Ireland) were first produced when Philately was already established as a hobby.

There is a cross-over between Commemoratives and Thematics. But certainly in the 1960s when I started to collect stamps, Thematics was regarded as something inferior to the classical approach of collecting world-wide or by country (simply from the first stamp to the current stamps of, in my case, Ireland).

Certainly the over-production of thematics by the old Soviet Bloc, Middle East nations de-valued the concept of collecting by “theme”. Space, Winter Olympics, English royal family are popular themes for collectors but not enhanced when issued respectively by Liberia, Nauru and Turkmenistan.

There is really no limit to collectable themes…Sport, Birds, Music, Fish, Flowers…and even for me, a specialist collector of Ireland and a general collector of very cheap world-wide stamps, I find I am drawn to certain themes…. Flags, Football and increasingly a vague desire to collect “20th Century People”.

I suppose back in the 1960s, important historical figures featured on stamps but there is a trend where movie stars, musicians and other entertainers now feature on stamps.

Of course there was a convention…a good one in my opinion…where “living people” did not feature on stamps. It is a good convention because there is no way of knowing that a highly respected living musical in 2018 does not turn out to be a serial killer in 2028. Of course reputations of dead historical figures are always subject to revision but putting living people on stamps has always struck me as a hostage to fortune.

I must say that I enjoy seeing Elvis Presley, John Wayne, Lucille Ball, Johnny Cash, Gregory Peck on American stamps. They are very much part of my life. Increasingly Nostalgia seems to be a theme …a legitimate theme in Collecting.


But we seem to be moving from Nostalgia towards Memorabalia…and that is a concern. In recent years, Britain has issued stamps….sets showing British comedians, including some that are still alive and Dr Whos….it is a debating point whether the characters or actors are depicted. But it is certainly true that First Day Covers are autographed by the actors. Likewise Star War charachters appeared on British stamps.

The year 2018 will be a vintage year in this regard. In June stamps will be issued to commemorate the classic BBC show “Dads Army” which first aired in 1968 and I am delighted. It seems to blend History with Nostalgia.

On a personal level as a fan of “Game of Thrones”, I welcome the set of stamps to be issued later this month. I will buy some sets because they will look good on my outgoing mail and delight some friends who are also fans.

As I live close to Belfast, where many “Game of Thrones” episodes are produced, I will hopefully be using these stamps on appropriate postcards. Whether the main Belfast post office facilitates First Day postmarks will be interesting.

The marketing of these “Game of Thrones” stamps seems more about stamps in the Memorabalia market rather than memorabilia in the Stamps market.

But anything that breathes life into the dying hobby of Stamp Collecting is to be welcomed.

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Postcard Review: 2017

I suppose it is inevitable that the progress I made with Stamps in 2017 is balanced by a fairly disappointing year with Postcards.


I have spent the last forty five years travelling thru-out Ireland. This means that I have been to most towns, villages and historic sites on at least three occasions. The problem with postcards is that they “date” quite quickly…buildings, fashions and transport shown on cards are often not representative of the reality.

This means that re-visiting places has often involved updating my postcard collection with newer versions of old scenes.

Unfortunately fewer people actually SEND postcards. At best, they are bought as good photographs , souvenirs of vacations and now in 2017, just about everybody has a cell-phone that takes photographs and this has made postcards obsolete.

It also seems that the market-leader in Irish postcards…John Hinde…has either gone out of business or been taken over by another firm or simply re-branded. I must look into this.

I have almost 2,000 UNUSED postcards of Ireland, collected over thirty years. But I have not been able to add many in 2017.

As I reached 65 years of age in May, I can travel for free on public transport thru-out Ireland but even on the very first day of this subsidised travel, in the towns of Portlaoise and Portarlington, it was obvious that outside cities like Dublin, new postcards would be hard to find. So my Ireland collection has remained fairly static.


I have around 1,000 UNUSED postcards from the United States of America. I have usually preferred American postcards to be unwritten and unposted, simply because this was how I started. I am still interested in USA cards, particularly those that reflect “Americana” (eg museums like Civil Rights, Halls of Fame, Birthplaces and Civil War etc). Interestingly as I resumed stamp collecting after a gap of more than ten years, I like to receive posted USA cards as well as unposted cards. In this regard, I have been helped by friends in California, Texas and Illinois. I also get a lot of help from a friend in Scotland in respect of other cards.

I do not consider postcards sent by family or friends to be part of my “collection”. I store them separately.


The aspiration to have at least one POSTED card from every nation (about 200) in the World will be almost impossible to achieve. The availability of posted postcards depends on population size, location, economics, literacy, tourism.

For me, posted cards links two separate interests…Stamps and Postcards.

As of the end of 2017, I have posted postcards from 83 countries.

Europe: Ireland, Britain, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Vatican, Monaco, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Turkey.

I have a postcard from Northern Cyprus sent by a member of my family.

Slovakia, Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina remain elusive. But Andorra and San Marino are usually available via eBay. The ex-Soviet republics of Kazakstan, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan will be difficult.

Oceania: Australia, New Zealand. The rest will be difficult.

The Americas: Canada, USA, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Barbados.

I have a postcard sent by a friend from Venezuela. And a family member has sent me a card from United Nations.

Cards from some other countries are usually on eBay. But many will be difficult.

Asia: Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Israel, Republic of Korea, China.

I have a postcard from Vietnam which was sent to me by our friend and neighbour.

Surprising perhaps that I don’t have more from the Middle East but Jordan, Syria, Lebanon can be picked up.

Africa: Madagasgar, Seychelles, Mauritius, Ethiopia, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi, Gambia.

I have a card from Morocco sent by a friend.

Many African nations, especially French speaking will be difficult.

So this is how I start 2018. I suppose my limited ambition is to reach 100 nations during the course of the year. That would represent half the countries in the world. But I doubt if it is even possible to get beyond 150 nations.



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