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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cigarette cards are trade cards issued by tobacco manufacturers to stiffen cigarette packaging and advertise cigarette brands.



French cigarette card, 1920s (from [1])
1910 Mecca Cigarettes card of John Jesus Flanagan, champion weight-thrower of the Irish American Athletic Club.
British cigarette card, early 20th century, showing then-Captain (later admiral) J.R. Jellicoe.

Beginning in 1875, cards depicting actresses, baseball players, Indian chiefs, and boxers were issued by the US-based Allen and Ginter tobacco company. These are considered to be some of the first cigarette cards.[1] Other tobacco companies such as Goodwin & Co. soon followed suit. They first emerged in the US and the UK; then, eventually, in many other countries.

In the UK, W.D. & H.O. Wills in 1887 were one of the first companies to include advertising cards with their cigarettes, but it was John Player & Sons in 1893 that produced one of the first general; interest sets ‘Castles and Abbeys’. Thomas Ogden soon followed in 1894 and in 1895, Wills produced their first set ‘Ships and Sailors’, followed by ‘Cricketers' in 1896. In 1906, Ogden’s produced a set of football cards depicting footballers in their club colours, in one of the first full-colour sets.

Each set of cards typically consisted of 25 or 50 related subjects, but series of over 100 cards per issue are known. Popular themes were 'beauties' (famous actresses, film stars and models), sporters (in the US mainly baseball, in the rest of the world mainly football and cricket), nature, military heroes and uniforms, heraldry [2] and city views.

Today, for example, sports and military historians study these cards for details on uniform design.[3]

Some very early cigarette cards were printed on silk which was then attached to a paper backing. They were discontinued in order to save paper during World War II, and never fully reintroduced thereafter.

Notable cigarette cards

One notable cigarette card is the example of Honus Wagner from the American Tobacco Company's T206 set. Sometimes referred to as "the Holy Grail", one such example sold for over $2 million.

Another notable and sought-after set of cards is the untitled series issued by Taddy and known by collectors as "Clowns and Circus Artistes". While not the rarest cards in existence (there are a number of series in which only one known example remains), they are still very rare and command high prices whenever they come up for auction.

Mecca & Hassan Champions

In 1910 the cigarette companies Mecca and Hassan included trading cards of prominent athletes with their cigarettes. The 153 cards of the "Champion Athlete and Prize Fighter Series," which were printed in New York, are an early example of athletes being used for product promotion. They are also an early example of colorized photos, a technique which was popular before color photography. 23 of these cards featured athletes of the Irish American Athletic Club.[4]


Doral, an R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company brand, started printing cigarette cards in the year 2000. These were the first cigarette cards from a major manufacturer since the 1940s.[5], although the small company Carrera's in the UK issued cigarette cards with Turf brand cigarettes for a short period in the 1950s and 1960s, Black Cat brand in 1976.[6][7]. Furthermore, card-like coupons with special offers have often been included in cigarette packets over the years.

The first set of "Doral Celebrate America" cards featured the 50 states in two releases, 2000 and 2001. Later themes include American festivals, cars, national parks, and 20th century events.

Natural American Spirit, another R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company brand, also includes cigarette cards on their packs, with information on such things as windpower, diversity, and their farmers.

Philip Morris USA started including "Information For Smokers" cigarette cards in certain packs. One provides information on quitting smoking and the other states that "Light, "Ultra Light", "Mild", "Medium", and "Low Tar" cigarettes are just as harmful as "Full Flavor" ones.

Early American cigarette cards depicted actors, writers, sports figures, military figures, and businessmen like Jay Gould.


The largest cigarette card collection on record is that of Edward Wharton-Tigar. His collection, bequeathed to the British Museum following his death in 1995, is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest collection of its kind. His autobiography, "Burning Bright", details both his obsession with collecting cigarette cards, as well as his business life, which included becoming President of Selection Trust - at the time, one of the largest mining companies in the world - as well as his life-long passion for cricket, which culminated in his presidency of Kent Cricket Club.


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