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Cigarette Card Guides

Oldest Cigarette Card
The earliest cigarette card to be positively dated depicts a...read more.

Million Dollar Card
The start of the millennium was very memorable for the cigarette card world. A Honus Wagner cigarette card, the "holy grail" of baseball cards, fetched a record...read more.

Horse Cigarette Cards
Horses have played a prominent role in man's conquest of the planet. For thousands of years horses had served us as an efficient means of...read more.

Soccer Cigarette Cards
The rules of modern association football were established in the 1860s in the public schools of England. Prominent soccer players and teams were vividly portrayed on...read more.

Fishing Cigarette Cards
The human race's fascination for fish can be traced back to thousands of years. Angling is still as popular as ever perhaps even more so. This might stem from man's desire to...read more.

Motor Car Cigarette Cards
Cigarette cards provide a beautifully illustrated record of perhaps the most significant period in the history of mankind, 1870s-1930s. The automobile was...read more.

1930's Movie Cigarette Cards
Not everyone looked forward to the "talkies" (or sound film). Many actors and actresses who rose to stardom during the silent movie era were unable to make the transition to the "talkies", and tumbled into obscurity. John Gilbert's romantic appeal waned when...read more.

Silent Movie Cigarette Cards
Cigarette cards provide a beautifully illustrated record of perhaps the most significant period in the history of mankind, 1870s-1930s. The cinema was one of the many revolutionary innovations to...read more.

Dog Cigarette Cards
Dogs have been man's best friend for many years, perhaps 17000 or more and this enduring relationship was reflected on...read more.

Fishing Cigarette Cards
The human race's fascination for fish can be traced back to thousands of years. Angling is still as popular as ever perhaps even more so. This might stem from man's desire to...read more.

Motor Car Cards
Cigarette cards provide a beautifully illustrated record of perhaps the most significant period in the history of mankind, 1870s-1930s. The automobile was...read more.

1930s' Cigarette Cards
Not everyone looked forward to the "talkies" (or sound film). Many actors and actresses who rose to stardom during the silent movie era were unable to make the transition to the "talkies", and tumbled into obscurity. John Gilbert's romantic appeal waned when...read more.

Silent Movie Cards
Cigarette cards provide a beautifully illustrated record of perhaps the most significant period in the history of mankind, 1870s-1930s. The cinema was one of the many revolutionary innovations to...read more.

Dog Cigarette Cards Cards
Dogs have been man's best friend for many years, perhaps 17000 or more and this enduring relationship was reflected on...read more.

Cigarette Card's Meteoric Rise

The humble cigarette card provides a breathtaking window to perhaps the most significant period in the history of mankind: 1870s-1930s. World Wars, the first Hollywood movie stars, motorcars, the Wright Brothers' first flight, early sports celebrities and much more (see categories above) are all vividly portrayed on these miniature masterpieces. The ingeniously simple marketing idea of inserting a cigarette card in a packet of cigarettes ignited a global revolution, bringing both entertainment and knowledge to rich and poor alike.

The cigarette cards were designed from the start to be collected, perhaps becoming more addictive than the product itself. Even more than a century later, cigarette card collecting has surged ahead thanks to the ease of trading on the equally simple but innovative eBay website. At the start of the new millennium, a Honus Wagner card became the first cigarette card ever to exceed a million dollars, and one of the most expensive items to be sold on eBay. It is the cigarette card's uncanny ability to tap into the interests of a wide cross-section of society and inbuilt collectibility that have ensured its survival over other collectors' items.

History of Cigarette Cards

  The trading card pre-dates the cigarette card and originated from the 17th century tradesman's cards.Advances in colour printing technology in the mid 19th century led to a rapid increase in trading card production. The trading card became a popular promotional tool among European firms, especially Au Bon Marche' and Liebig.

  The first cigarette packets were very fragile and so a thick card was inserted to stiffen them. During a period considered by many to be one of the most innovative in the history of mankind, an enterprising US businessman decided to print a colourful advert on the "stiffener" card. The tireless evolution of the cigarette card was driven by the highly competitive and creative tobacco markets. Soon cards were issued on subjects appealing to smokers, such as glamorous actresses, sport, warships etc. Firms soon realised that they could strengthen customer loyalty by issuing sets of beautifully illustrated and informative cards, playing on man's instinctive desire to collect and for order and completeness.

  At a time when the average person could not afford books, and newspapers contained no photographs, the attractive and encyclopaedic cigarette cards were very popular. At the beginning of the 20th century, more cards were issued with cigarette brands than for any other product and this is probably why trading cards are often referred to as "cigarette cards" even though there is no connection with cigarettes.

  Initially, there were many small independent tobacco firms who issued cigarette cards but, as in many situations, a small group of powerful tobacco firms gradually emerged, striving for mass production and cost cutting. This was bad news for the cigarette card whose quality, it is generally accepted, declined as the years went by.
The cigarette card era came to a sudden end at the beginning of WWII, due to severe paper rationing.

  The vacuum left by cigarette cards was partly filled by bubble gum cards and tea cards. It is generally accepted that the design of these post WWII cards favoured mass production over quality. There is currently a collectors' card renaissance. Some modern day collectors' card manufacturers are listening to what many collectors want and producing beautifully illustrated cards on high quality card stock once again.  

Reasons For Collecting Cigarette Cards
  1. Cigarette cards cover a wide range of subjects: sport, transport, wildlife, movie stars etc.
  2. Cigarette cards vividly portray perhaps the most important time in history: 1870s-1930s.
  3. Cigarette cards are beautifully illustrated, especially the early ones, making them ideal for picture framing.
  4. Cigarette cards are easy to file away and don't require much storage space.
  5. Cigarette cards are a valuable investment. One card exceeded a million dollars on eBay at the start of the millennium.
  6. The cigarette card hobby has been firmly established for nearly 100 years now.
  7. Cigarette cards have been well documented in guides dating back to the 1920s and so most cards are easy to identify, date and value.

 

Cigarette Card Storage  

There are three main ways that cigarette cards can be stored, depending on what you wish to use them for.

Cigarette Card Investment 

If you want cigarette cards for purely investment purposes, the best way to preserve them is to put your sets of cigarette cards into piles, wrap them in tissue paper and place them in an airtight container. This method is inconvenient if you wish to view them regularly.

Showing Your Cigarette Cards To The World

Not everyone wishes to hide their cigarette cards away in investment vaults. Many cigarette cards are extremely attractive and perfect for picture framing. It is quite common to see picture framed cigarette cards in old English public houses or restaurants. It is important not to display the cigarette cards in direct sunlight as this may cause discoloration.

The Best Compromise

The most popular form of cigarette card storage is the plastic page or leaf. The cigarette cards can be viewed without damaging them and then filed away conveniently in an album.

Grading Cigarette Cards

It is important in cigarette card collecting to purchase the very best condition cards you can afford, since these increase in value more rapidly than mediocre cards. Most cigarette card collectors are natural perfectionists and strive for the highest graded cards possible.

Mint: Exactly as issued.
Excellent: Clean back and front, including edges, sharp edges and sharp corners.
Very Good: Clean back and front, may have dirty and softened edges and rounded corners. No creases.
Good: Soiled on back or front. Blemished edges, rounded corners and one crease.
Fair: Creased, dirty or with mount damage to backs and possibly some picture surface missing.
Poor: Badly creased, dirty or with mount damage to backs and surface damage on backs and fronts.

What Cigarette Cards To Collect

The one advantage that the cigarette card has over other collectors' items is the fact that they cover so many globally appealling topics, even collecting itself. Many people are drawn into collecting cigarette cards through their other interests and hobbies eg someone who enjoys playing golf may collect golf cigarette cards. I've created a number of thematic cigarette card guides, including colour scans and information on a small selection of cigarette card sets to give you an idea of the vast range of topics available.

If you are interested in rare and unusual cigarette cards, please click here to join our free cigarette card newsletter.

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