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Saturday, 17th May 2008

I am frequently asked by people that are just starting their collecting career where they should begin. And so I thought I would set down some basic principles of collecting for those that are new to the hobby. Let me assure you this website is a very good place to start. If you want to be informed when this site is updated then head here

This does not mean I do not want to hear from all those people thinking about collecting. I'd love to hear from you,

If they have bothered to look at a price guide often they try to charge 100%

Before long it becomes obvious to most people there is an incredible variety of cards available and soon people find themselves drawn to a particular area. This is purely a matter of taste, a lot of people choose to collect along a theme, Sport being popular as is the Cinema. Soon this can become to large and further specialisation is required.

For most of us price is an issue, lets keep everything in perspective here, these are small bits of card that were once given away free in cigarettes. Although it might appear I have a vested interest in the price of cards doubling in the next three years this is not the case at all. I discovered quite some time ago you cannot eat cigarette cards so having a lot of money tied up in cards nobody wants to buy because they are too expensive is fairly useless. I like cards to get to the widest possible number of people. I got a lot of pleasure out of collecting these things it would be a shame if they got so precious few could really enjoy them. There are sites out there trying to sell a $1 card for $15 and sometimes even as much as $75 this does nobody any good.

Buying Cards.

Now you now what you are looking for it is a matter of knowing where to look for it. I have seen cigarette cards in many shops and fairs, invariably they are overpriced. If they have bothered to look at a price guide often they try to charge 100% or even more of that price for substandard cards or fail to realise that condition is an issue as it is in coinage. The most common problem is the cards have been stuck into the albums the cigarette companies gave out for just that purpose.

Another place to buy cards is at auction, bargains can be found in non-specialist auction but it depends what you call a bargain. Cigarette cards come up quite infrequently and unless you have memorised the price guide the cards have been sold before you have decided whether they were a bargain or not. Specialist auctions are a better bet but the bargains are fewer and often the lots are large or higher value cards. Don't let me put you off though auctions are a great deal of fun.

Eventually though you are going to come to use a reputable dealer in cigarette cards.

You can suspect I might have a vested interest in you using this avenue (I do lets face it) but I think there are good reasons for at least making sure you know a reputable dealer. For one thing they are going to tell you the price of a set of cards. No good buying a bargain at an auction to discover it isn't actually worth the price.

It is also a fact many of us are now 'time poor'. It is my job to find cards this is what I do, morning, noon and night, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the search never stops, its how I pay my mortgage. Most people find different ways of paying the mortgage. Contacting a dealer can not only save you money in the literal sense they can also save you time which is as good as money in the modern world.


Mentioned briefly previously condition is all important. At first you will be seeing the older cards with heavily rounded edges and in very dirty condition. They do not look nice but for bits of card perhaps 100 years old they do not look bad. Well do not be fooled, unless the cards are scarce there is no reason why you cannot locate them in very much better condition. It amazes me just how good some of these sets are. The rule is buy the best quality sets you can. These will give you greater pleasure (and appreciate in value faster). You'll no a set of cards is in good enough condition if the dealer is willing to buy it back from you. This is a good guide for most things. I have a money back guarantee on all the cards I send out, the condition will be G-VG and that is all there is too it. Working globally as I do this is the most important element of the business, you have to know you are going to be getting good quality cards. My level of repeat business is very high because of this fact and that is good for business.


It is nice to see your card collection appreciate in value (and over time it will ) but it should not be a primary objective. If it is then this is not the hobby for you. The only thing I have ever collected with an eye to making a profit was coins. Needless to say I did not make a profit and I had no real interest in the collection because of this. One of the reasons you are not going to make an instant profit is the fact dealers buy cards at a lower price than they sell them. I hardly think this is news to 99.9% of my readers but it is worth remembering. I usually sell at discount of Murrays price so as a paper calculation you can think of yourself as immediately making a profit. But I would prefer you thought of it as saving yourself some money.

Having said that this many traders around the world purchase from me because of the different prices which are attainable about the world.

Cards do increase in price over time, and if you are lucky you will have cards which become part of a trend. For example Players, Kings and Queens of England used to be a cheap set. Ten years ago I turned them down at £3.00 a set. Then people began to frame cigarette cards for decorative purposes. The set has a catalogue price of £60.00 now. If I had bought every set offered to me (and it would not have hurt to do so) I would have made a considerable investment.

Unless you are lucky with your card choices consider the investment side of things being longer term.

Display & Storage

After a while you are going to have quite a collection of cards and the problem of displaying and storage stars to occur. I have already mentioned the possibility of framing the cards and specially designed frames and mounts exist for just this sort of activity. But what about the rest. I tend to use the clear plastic sleeves which can be inserted into folders. Again these are readily available and each 'leaf' holds ten cards. This can become an expensive option, especially if you have a large quantity of part sets. Wherever possible I send cards out in these plastic sleeves free of charge. Some sets however do not hold enough profit margin, ie $10 sets cannot possibly hold enough profit to send free postage/plastic sleeves etc. For part sets storage is a bit more of a problem. Special papers can be bought to wrap the cards in and then be stored in this manner. However please never think about putting an elastic band around the cards it will damage the cards in the longer run. Location is vital, do not store the cards in strong sunlight, they can fade. But the worst offender of all is moisture. Never store cards where moisture is likely to get in amongst them. I've seen more than one collection destroyed by moisture. It is a very, very sad sight (and they were not even mine.) My shop suffered a burst water pipe last winter and was I glad I do not keep my card stock there? You bet I was(!)


Common sense is required for this. Obviously dealers keep stocks in bank vaults, safes, geographically dispersed ect. To have cards just floating about the house, shop is asking for trouble to occur. However for the average collector this is not really available. Going to the local bank manager everytime you want to have a look at your set of Household Hints would rather ruin the fun of it all. So simple measures, dont' broadcast to the world about your high value collection and its specific location. Check the security measures of your house there are always methods by which you can improve this. But if the worst comes to the worst adequate insurance cover can soften the blow. Make sure you collection is insured correctly. Your insurance company will be more than glad to discuss this issue with you.


Eventually you will have cards surplus to requirements for whatever reason. This is when joining a club will have helped. Often the best price is from another club member. Potentially auctions and of course dealers. I shall not dwell on the selling side of things afterall this is not the reason for collecting. However if you do have cards to sell there is no reason why you should not drop me an line on the subject.