Cigarette cards have been
around since the nineteenth century, both here and in Europe. The
1994 World Cup ignited an interest in soccer collecting and that
interest is beginning to spread more and more toward the older
cigarette cards. This interest is reflected in the modern world by
the appearance of "web pages" on the internet dedicated
to cigarette cards and collecting.
World War II British cigarette cards are among the most
collectible and most popular items for soccer enthusiasts. These
unique items present a different period to us. They are "low
tech" items, a far cry from the shiny new cards being
produced today. The cards themselves can be miniature works of
art, with well drawn pictures and portraits.
Being distributed in packs
of cigarettes, they could be displayed in special albums that cost
"one penny" to purchase.
The cards as single items
seem to easier to find than are complete sets pasted in albums.
The thin paper of the albums does not appear to have survived very
well, tearing along the spine folds due to opening closing or
rusting out due to the staples holding it together.
The 50 card set of
"Association" Footballers" by W. D. & W. 0.
Wills, first introduced in November 1935, is a good example of
these items as collectibles. The album is a twenty page affair,
which measures approximately 5" x 7 1/2" with spaces to
paste in the fifty cards that make up the set. The inside cover of
this particular album lists all of the F.A. Cup winners of the
twentieth century. The cards are to be inserted beginning on page
2 and running through the inside back cover. The marked spaces are
numbered and contain write-ups on the players, duplicating the
information contained on the back of the cards.
Finding sets in the albums
can be difficult, and, as mentioned above, many times the albums
are not in that good a condition.
The cards, which measure 1
7/16" x 2 11/16," are color, drawn portraits of the
players with their names and clubs. On the back, which is coated
with an adhesive (like a postage stamp) for inserting in the
album, is the same write-up as shown in the album. Listed below
are the players contained in this set.
Often, card turn up today
that were once mounted in albums. They have obviously been peeled
away and the information on the back stayed attached to the album
page, leaving rough, blank spaces. This would greatly reduce their
This set contains a card of
Sir Stanley Matthews at the beginning of his career. Perhaps that
would be termed his "rookie card" in today’s
The pre-war cigarette card offers a unique
change for the card collector. It is an alternative to collecting
the over produced cards of the 1990’s, and can provide a glimpse
of soccer history to the real fan.