Card Collecting

Vintage Cigarette Cards / Paper & Type

These cigarette cards were shared with me by Susan Farnsworth, a fellow letter-writing and stationery enthusiast. During a stop at a flea market in Retford, England last summer, Susan found the vintage cards, collected into protective pocket pages, like those you’d see used with baseball trading cards.

Cigarette cards were created in the U.S. around the mid-1800s. The cards were a way to simply stiffen cigarette packaging, and were blank at first, then started to carry advertisements (a businessman’s idea, of course). 

By the 1890s, cigarette cards were presented as parts of series. It was a UK-based tobacco company that presented one of the first general interest sets. Subjects ranged from city monuments, flora and fauna, and military uniforms to film stars, athletes, and heroic figures. These thematic sets were issued in runs of 25, 50, and more. This encouraged customer loyalty as cigarette card collecting was popularized.

The cigarette cards that Susan found featured full-color, illustrated wild flowers. In my hands I have 18 of the 48 in this series, which was issued in 1939 by Gallaher Ltd. of the UK. The cards were carefully organized into the two pocket pages by color—pinks and blues on the first page, creams and yellows on the second. It brings a smile to wonder about the collector of these.

Thank you, Susan, for your thoughtfulness.