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.

Pre 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 collectibility.

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 collecting language.

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.