Cigarette card

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A Gros Ventre Chief featured on an Allen & Ginter card, 1888 Crow's Breast, Gros Ventres, from the American Indian Chiefs series (N36) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes MET DP838939.jpg
A Gros Ventre Chief featured on an Allen & Ginter card, 1888

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


Between 1875 and the 1940s, cigarette companies often included collectible cards with their packages of cigarettes. Cigarette card sets document popular culture from the turn of the century, often depicting the period's actresses, costumes, and sports, as well as offering insights into mainstream humour and cultural norms. [1]


Daisy Greville featured on a Player's card, c. 1890 'Daisy' Greville, Countess of Warwick, Player's Cigarettes card, post 1890.jpg
Daisy Greville featured on a Player's card, c. 1890
English footballer Walter Bull depicted on an Ogden's card, c. 1906 Walter bull ogden.jpg
English footballer Walter Bull depicted on an Ogden's card, c. 1906
Walter Smaill illustration on an Imperial Tobacco Canada card, c. 1910 Walter Smaill, Montreal Wanderers.jpg
Walter Smaill illustration on an Imperial Tobacco Canada card, c. 1910
An original Taddy's Clowns and Circus Artistes card Taddy Clown.jpg
An original Taddy's Clowns and Circus Artistes card

Beginning in 1875, cards depicting actresses, baseball players, Indian chiefs, boxers, national flags or wild animals were issued by the U.S.-based Allen & Ginter tobacco company. These are considered to be some of the first cigarette cards. [2] Other tobacco companies such as Goodwin & Co. soon followed suit. They first emerged in the U.S., then 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 association 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 U.S. mainly baseball, in the rest of the world mainly football and cricket), nature, military heroes and uniforms, heraldry [3] and city views.

Imperial Tobacco Canada manufactured the first ice hockey cards ever for the inaugural NHL season. There were a total of 36 cards in the set, each one featured an illustration of a player. [4] After World War I, only one more cigarette set was issued, during 1924–25.

Today, for example, sports and military historians study these cards for details on uniform design. [5]

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.

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., [6] although the small company Carreras in the UK issued cigarette cards with Turf brand cigarettes for a short period in the 1950s and 1960s, Black Cat brand in 1976. [7] [8] 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.

World record price

The most valuable cigarette card in the world features Honus Wagner, one of the great names in U.S. baseball at the turn of the 20th century. The T206 Honus Wagner has repeatedly set records at auction, most recently in 2016 when it sold for $3,120,000. [9] Wagner was a dedicated non-smoker and objected when America's biggest tobacco corporation planned to picture him on a cigarette card without his permission. [10] Threats of legal action prevented its release, but a few slipped out, and it was one of these that stunned the collecting world when it was auctioned.

Other cigarette cards

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.

The Mecca cigarette trading card for George Sutton is also notable for it depicts him with hands. Sutton was known as "the handless billiard player" [11] for mastering the game with such a handicap.

Apart from these examples, there are also cigarette cards that do not focus on people, but on cities or flags.

Classification and Cataloguing

The system devised to codify 19th Century American tobacco issues has its origin in the 'American Card Catalog' (ACC), written by Jefferson Burdick. Burdick listed the American Tobacco cards in one section, broken down by companies that issued the card series and by the types of cards. The 19th Century issues were prefixed with 'N' (N1-N694) and the 20th with 'T'. (T1-T235). [12]

The World Tobacco Index (WTI)

The World Tobacco Index (WTI), published by the Cartophilic Society of Great Britain (CSGB), [13] lists all known tobacco issues from around the world and is still being updated today on reports of new finds. Using a similar alphanumeric system, it assigns a code based on the name of manufacturer, rather than the century in which the cards were issued. For example, Burdick's N2 'Celebrated American Indian Chiefs' by Allen & Ginter is listed as A400-030 (a), with the larger N42 series listed as A400-030 (b). [14]

LCCC - Cigarette Card Catalogue

The catalogue contains details of cigarette cards and silks issued at home and abroad from the 19th century to the present day, quoting up-to-date values for cards in top condition. The original price guide now in its 84th year of publication. The catalogue has reference numbers to cross-reference with the British Tobacco Issues Handbook, Ogdens, G Phillips and Wills reference books giving information for British Tobacco series which will be a great help to collectors to identify cards especially unnumbered or untitled series. [15]

LCCC - Trade Card Catalogue

The catalogue gives an up-to-date price guide for odd cards, sets and special albums. First published in 1974, this catalogue is devoted entirely to non-tobacco cards plus a section, which details over 350 reprinted series. The catalogue covers a magnificent selection of well over 6,000 series by non-tobacco firms, such as Brooke Bond Tea, Bassett, A & BC Gum, Topps, as well as the newer companies like Rittenhouse, Inkworks, Golden Era, Rockwell, Hunter etc. Cards from the early 1900s by Fry and Cadbury right up to the latest series of Harry Potter, Star Wars TV & Films, Cricket, Footballers, Military, Motoring etc. [16]

As well as the series title and manufacturer, cards may also exhibit different back varieties to advertise the different brands of cigarette produced by a firm. For example, the English manufacturer Edwards, Ringer and Bigg's 1917 'War Map of the Western Front' was issued with both 'Exmoor Hunt' and 'New York Mixture' tobacco advertised on the backs. Whilst this was commonplace, the number of varieties varies greatly between manufacturers; F. & J. Smith's 1913 series entitled 'Battlefields of Great Britain' for example has 15 different backs.


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 lifelong passion for cricket, which culminated in his presidency of Kent Cricket Club. When asked what others thought of his collecting he said:

If to collect cigarette cards is a sign of eccentricity, how then will posterity judge one who amassed the biggest collection in the world? Frankly, I care not. [17]

He was the president of the Cartophilic Society of Great Britain until his death in 1995.

See also

Related Research Articles

Honus Wagner American baseball player

Johannes Peter "Honus" Wagner, sometimes referred to as "Hans" Wagner, was an American baseball shortstop who played 21 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1897 to 1917, almost entirely for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wagner won his eighth batting title in 1911, a National League record that remains unbroken to this day, and matched only once, in 1997, by Tony Gwynn. He also led the league in slugging six times and stolen bases five times. Wagner was nicknamed "The Flying Dutchman" due to his superb speed and German heritage. This nickname was a nod to the popular folk-tale made into a famous opera by another Wagner.

Trading card

A trading card is a small card, usually made out of paperboard or thick paper, which usually contains an image of a certain person, place or thing and a short description of the picture, along with other text. There is a wide variation of different types of cards. Modern cards even go as far as to include swatches of game-worn memorabilia, autographs, and even DNA hair samples of their subjects.

Baseball card Type of trading card

A baseball card is a type of trading card relating to baseball, usually printed on cardboard, silk, or plastic. In the 1950s they came with a stick of gum and a limited number of cards. These cards feature one or more baseball players, teams, stadiums, or celebrities. Baseball cards are most often found in the U.S. mainland but are also common in Puerto Rico or countries such as Canada, Cuba and Japan, where top-level leagues are present with a substantial fan base to support them. Some notable baseball card producing companies include Topps, Upper Deck Company, and Panini Group. Previous manufacturers include Fleer, Bowman, and Donruss. Baseball card production peaked in the late 1980s and many collectors left the hobby disenchanted after the 1994-95 MLB strike. However, baseball cards are still one of the most influential collectibles of all time. A T206 Honus Wagner was sold for $2.8 million in 2007.

American Tobacco Company American tobacco company

The American Tobacco Company was a tobacco company founded in 1890 by J. B. Duke through a merger between a number of U.S. tobacco manufacturers including Allen and Ginter and Goodwin & Company. The company was one of the original 12 members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896. The American Tobacco Company dominated the industry by acquiring the Lucky Strike Company and over 200 other rival firms. Antitrust action begun in 1907 broke the company into several major companies in 1911.

Topps American manufacturer of sports trading cards

The Topps Company, Inc. is an American company that manufactures chewing gum, candy, and collectibles. Based in New York City, Topps is best known as a leading producer of American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, soccer, and other sports and non-sports themed trading cards.

Allen & Ginter

Allen & Ginter was a Richmond, Virginia, tobacco manufacturing company formed by John F. Allen and Lewis Ginter around 1880. The firm created and marketed the first cigarette cards for collecting and trading in the United States. Some of the notable cards in the series include baseball players Charles Comiskey, Cap Anson, and Jack Glasscock, as well as non-athletes like Buffalo Bill Cody.


T206 is a tobacco card set issued from 1909 to 1911 in cigarette and loose tobacco packs through 16 different brands owned by the American Tobacco Company. It is a landmark set in the history of baseball card collecting, due to its size and rarity, and the quality of its color lithographs. Several of the cards are among the most expensive sports cards ever sold.

The American Card Catalog American reference book regarding trading cards

The American Card Catalog: The Standard Guide on All Collected Cards and Their Values is a reference book for American trading cards produced before 1951, compiled by Jefferson Burdick. Some collectors regard the book as the most important in the history of collectible cards.

Goodwin & Company

Goodwin & Company was an American tobacco manufacturer from New York City. Initially E. Goodwin and Brother, the company was founded before the American Civil War. It was known for its cigarette brands "Gypsy Queen" and "Old Judge". In 1890, the company was merged, along with four others, into James Buchanan Duke's American Tobacco Company to create an American monopoly on tobacco product manufacturing and retail.

Loyalty marketing is an approach to marketing, based on strategic management, in which a company focuses on growing and retaining existing customers through incentives. Branding, product marketing, and loyalty marketing all form part of the customer proposition – the subjective assessment by the customer of whether to purchase a brand or not based on the integrated combination of the value they receive from each of these marketing disciplines.

T206 Honus Wagner Baseball card issued 1909–1911

The T206 Honus Wagner baseball card depicts the Pittsburgh Pirates' Honus Wagner, a dead-ball era baseball player who is widely considered to be one of the best players of all time. The card was designed and issued by the American Tobacco Company (ATC) from 1909 to 1911 as part of its T206 series. Wagner refused to allow production of his baseball card to continue, either because he did not want children to buy cigarette packs to get his card, or because he wanted more compensation from the ATC. The ATC ended production of the Wagner card and a total of only 50 to 200 cards were ever distributed to the public, as compared to the "tens or hundreds of thousands" of T206 cards, over three years in sixteen brands of cigarettes, for any other player. In 1933, the card was first listed at a price value of US$50 in Jefferson Burdick's The American Card Catalog, making it the most expensive baseball card in the world at the time.

Godfrey Phillips India

Godfrey Phillips India Ltd. (GPI) is a tobacco manufacturer headquartered in India. The firm was originally established in London in 1844. GPI was one of the first UK companies to mass-produce cigarettes, apart from being one of the founding companies of Imperial Tobacco along with John Player & Sons.


T213 was a baseball card set issued between 1910 and 1919 by tobacco manufacturer Coupon Cigarettes, based in New Orleans.

Kinney Brothers Tobacco Company

The Kinney Tobacco Company was an American cigarette manufacturing firm that created the Sweet Caporal cigarette brand and promoted it with collectible trading cards. Being a leading cigarette manufacturer of the 1870-1880s, it merged in 1890 into the American Tobacco Company.

T201's, also known as Mecca Double Folders, were a type of cigarette card issued in 1911 by the Mecca cigarette company, then part of American Tobacco Company. The collection featured color drawings of professional baseball players. The 'T201' designation comes from the American Card Catalogue, an authoritative guide to trading cards issued prior to 1951..

Prizes are promotional items—small toys, games, trading cards, collectables, and other small items of nominal value—found in packages of brand-name retail products that are included in the price of the product with the intent to boost sales, similar to toys in kid's meals. Collectable prizes produced in series are used extensively—as a loyalty marketing program—in food, drink, and other retail products to increase sales through repeat purchases from collectors. Prizes have been distributed through bread, candy, cereal, cheese, chips, crackers, laundry detergent, margarine, popcorn, and soft drinks. The types of prizes have included comics, fortunes, jokes, key rings, magic tricks, models, pin-back buttons, plastic mini-spoons, puzzles, riddles, stickers, temporary tattoos, tazos, trade cards, trading cards, and small toys. Prizes are sometimes referred to as "in-pack" premiums, although historically the word "premium" has been used to denote an item that is not packaged with the product and requires a proof of purchase and/or a small additional payment to cover shipping and/or handling charges.

T200 Fatima

T200, also known as Fatima Team Cards, were a type of cigarette card issued in 1913 by the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company (L&M) through the Fatima cigarette brand. The set featured photos of professional baseball teams. The 'T200' designation comes from the American Card Catalogue, an authoritative guide to trading cards issued prior to 1951.

Australian rules football card

An Australian rules football card is a type of trading card relating to Australian rules football, usually printed on cardboard, silk, or plastic. These cards feature one or more Australian rules football players. Cards are almost exclusively found in Australia as no top-level leagues are present outside the country. Prices for Australian rules football cards can be very high. This is illustrated for both vintage and modern cards such as an 1894 American Tobacco Company card featuring Essendon player Will Crebbin which sold for $10,110 in 2018 and a 2004 Select AFL Conquest Triple Brownlow Medallist signature card featuring Nathan Buckley, Adam Goodes and Mark Ricciuto which was valued at $3,000 in 2018.

Association football trading card

An association football trading card is a type of trading card relating to association football, usually printed on cardboard, silk, or plastic. These cards feature one or more players, clubs, stadiums, or trophies. Football cards are most often found in Europe, Asia and South America.

Rugby card

A Rugby card is a type of trading card relating to Rugby football, usually printed on cardboard, silk, or plastic. These cards are most often found in the Australia, New Zealand and other countries where the sport is popular.


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  2. Shaw, James A. "Allen & Ginter's champions". Archived from the original on 2006-04-05. Retrieved 2006-06-21.
  3. Heraldic cigarette and tobacco cards
  4. History of Hockey Cards on Starr Cards website
  5. Backcheck: A Hockey Retrospective Archived 2007-10-01 at the Wayback Machine at Library and Archives Canada
  6. "Doral Revives Collector Cards with Purchase". Brandweek . 2001-01-15. Archived from the original on 2005-07-19. Retrieved 2006-06-21.
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  8. Catalogues, for example: Murray Cards (International). Catalogue of Cigarette & Other Trade Cards. 3.ed. (1981)
  9. Cracknell, Ryan. "World Record $3.12 Million for T206 Honus Wagner Baseball Card". Beckett. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  10. Davis, Ralph S. (1912-10-12). "Wagner A Wonder: One Player In Game Who Is Not Money Mad" (PDF). The Sporting News. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2007-10-19.
  11. "Sutton plays fine billiards; Handless Player's Remarkable Work Against Expert Thomas Gallagher. New York Times". The New York Times. 1903-03-17.
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  13. The Cartophilic Society of Great Britain (2000) 'The (New) World Tobacco Issues Index: Part 1', London: The Cartophilic Society of Gt. Britain Ltd.
  14. "Cartophilic Society (CSGB)". Archived from the original on 2002-10-22. Retrieved 2002-10-22.
  15. Cigarette Card Catalogue
  16. Trade Card Catalogue on London Cigarette Card Co.
  17. Wharton-Tigar, E. (1987) 'Burning Bright: The Autobiography of Edward Wharton-Tigar' London: Metal Bulletin Books, p.254