Although card collecting could mean a passion for baseball, football, Pokémon or even Magic: The Gathering cards, for a significant period of time, it really meant the cards from cigarette packets. What began in the United States in 1875 (featuring boxers, actresses or Indian chiefs) was soon copied in the UK. The cards’ original purpose was to stiffen the packet and provide some measure of protection to the cigarettes inside but manufacturers soon saw them as a valuable piece of, firstly, advertising real estate and, later, a way to add novelty to their product. As such, the earliest examples are mainly advertisements but it was the advent of John Player’s ‘Castles and Abbeys’ series in 1893 that showed just how collectable they could be.
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. As ever, when it comes to an individual card’s value, the primary factor is its condition. Any card which has been stuck down or mounted will be worth a fraction of what it would have been in mint condition. A leading player in this still very vibrant market is the London Cigarette Card Company. A quick browse through their listings give an idea of just how valuable these cards can be with many priced into the hundreds of pounds.
And while you would be right in thinking that it was legislation that put an end to the practice of adding collectables to an already addictive product, you’d probably be mistaken on the reason. It was Britain’s wartime government in 1940 which banned cigarette cards because there were severe shortages of board and paper. Post-war rationing and the high price of raw materials meant they never returned although there are still occasional runs in the US. And it is to the US that we must look for the world record price for a single card: some way north of three million dollars.
Our delight at being able to reopen last week was tempered by the sad news that two of the Market’s best loved characters had passed away over the Christmas period. This photo, taken last September, was passed to us by his son, also called Alan.
Although neither Alan nor his wife, Pearl, were stallholders, they were among the longest standing attendees at the market. Alan in particular was almost always waiting for Bridget to open up at 6:30am every Saturday! There cannot be any Market regulars who weren’t saddened by the news of their passing and we, in common with their sons, Paul and Alan, will miss them greatly. Rest in Peace.
Finally! We’re open again this Saturday (from 7am for the early birds!). It will be so lovely to see you all again! But please remember that we have special precautions in place for everyone’s safety: a one way system (enter by Villiers Street next to Costa Coffee), masks must be worn and we are maintaining a one metre social distancing rule. Please bear in mind that while you may have had one or even both of your vaccinations, these measures are designed to limit the spread of the virus and are there to protect everyone.
Michael Burroughs of Anything Military has sent us a couple of very unusual items which will be on sale tomorrow: a belt buckle and pendant of the beautifully named Army of the Lily. This formed part of the ceremonial uniform of the Knights of Pythias, an American secret order founded in 1864 and which, even in 2003, still had 50,000 members and over 2,000 lodges worldwide. Famous Pythians include FDR, Nelson Rockefeller and Louis Armstrong.
The UR showed that this belt clasp belonged to someone of ‘Uniformed Rank’ while the skull and cross bones symbol on the pendant was appropriate enough for an order which laid particular importance on the use of ceremonial swords. Worth noting on the reverse of the pendant is the all seeing eye so beloved of any would-be secret society.