Sunday, September 21, 2014

More #5s From U.K. Cigarette Packs : Flags, Flora, Fauna, and French-born Kings

Last time in the blog, I thanked OBC trading friend Glenn for an excellent stack of UK cigarette cards that covered a variety of subjects and this post shows another handful from that type card swap. It's hard to replicate this range of cards stateside without a complete run of Topps Allen & Ginter subsets.

My benefactor might be twice-happy to get that regal card (12th Century English monarch Henry II) out of his collection. On Sept 18, Glenn's adopted home of Scotland voted not to leave the UK, shelving their independence for the near future; see for more.

In Scotland's honor, let's take a closer look at that royal ruler hedgehog.

This is a 1939 Player's Cigarettes #5 of "Animals of the Countryside," the insect-eating hedgehog. Very prickly and kinda cute, it's become fashionable to like the spiky mammal in certain corners of the Internet these days. (Many of my friends live in those corners.)

The hedgehog's card text emphasizes their genteel diet and nocturnal nature before closing with a zinger ... "our picture shows [it] in combat with a viper." Was its writer going to ignore that part of the hedgehog canon until he saw their art?

Round the Year Stories: Summer, p16

If you like hedgehog drama, this scene from an illustrated 1938 storybook varies from the Player's Cigarettes card only by using a bigger snake. I suspect the era of British (and European) colonialism made exotic animals fascinating to citizens throughout the Empire, so any fight between a pointy football and poisonous snake gained extra emotional heft.

Finding good scans and checklists for UK cigarette sets is less reliable than for USA baseball, but auction site offers front and back scans for all 50 Animals of the Countryside.

Value: That Delcampe auction link sold an original set for £21 in 2011, so you won't go broke buying them in lots or singles.

Fakes / reprints: Many cigarette sets, including Animals of the Countryside, went through one or more reprints after 1990, typically with a REPRINT tag and shinier paper stock.

Monday, September 15, 2014

1930s British Cigarette Cards : Models and ships! Limpets and Sharks! Borzois and bad driving!

If you collect modern Allen & Ginter cards, it can seem baffling how Topps finds so many random subjects to turn into one "normal" set. Irresistible cat cards, anyone?

2014 Allen & Ginter "Little Lions" #5, Cornish Rex

For a seminal look at how war machines, natural wonders, technological advances and sea creatures all rate inclusion in a modern set, look no further than the wild and wooly world of British cigarette cards. Throughout the 20th century, companies perked up their packs with hundreds of subjects, from household objects to hammerheads.

These #5s represent a tiny fraction of what's collectible, as catalogues count over 15,500 known sets. My eight type cards came to the USA via a Scottish OBC trading friend (thanks Glenn!) and are easy to learn more about from their textbook backs.

Here's a closer look at my favorite of them, the 1934 "Safety First" series, as packaged with W.D. & H.O. Wills cigarettes.

I bet Boston motorists would treat this like water off a duckling's back. (If you don't want me to "cut in," don't drive like you got nowhere to be!)

This set boils down to "what terrible fates we suffer thanks to The Wheel." Cards, bicycles, and toy hoops all create scenes of danger that the Wills' author then admonishes against.

Safety First's one penny album includes mounting spaces alongside text from each back, since you can't read anything once they're placed. (Card backs are pre-gummed, so you just moisten and stick them right on the page.)

Value: The good news is that British tobacco cards don't cost much compared to American baseball cards from the same 1920s & 30s time period. The Safety First set runs under $40 on eBay.

Fakes / reprints: Many 1930s British sets have reappeared as modern reprints. Look for "reprint" in the card text or glossier, modern paper stock. Even with little money at risk, it's better safe than sorry.