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Saturday, 17th May 2008


T his set has increased in price

primarily because of the set is so frameable. The subject matter of cars (which by the very age of the set are classic now) has also helped the price no end. However unlike the actual classic cars which have suffered something of a price collapse these cards have not (and I venture will not).

The cards themselves lend to framing, they are brightly coloured cards showing the cars in profile. They are also all horizontal.

Get a man behind the wheel of a car, they say, and his personality really starts to show itself

Alan Ayckbourn

Happily the names of the cars appear on the bottom segment of the cards fronts which mean the backs of the cards can be enclosed within the frame without total loss of information. This can be quite important for the framer as the backs of the cards are adhesive and have often deteriorated over time. It is also something to be might wary off of you are buying a set of cards in a frame with an enclosed back.

Photocopies (or rather laser copies) are of a very high quality nowadays and potentially this will be what has been framed. Those with a few more scruples might well be selling you a set of reproduction cards, which will be difficult for people to determine without access to the reverse of the card where the fact they are reproductions should be clearly marked on the reverse. The lesson should be clear, if you are buying a set of cigarette cards and paying for original cards, make sure the vendor can prove the things are original before parting with hard earnt cash.

Okay enough sensible advice for the time being.

Each of the cars have a nicely detailed background which adds no end to the appeal of these cards to the eye.

1937 was the launch of the VW Beetle, over 22 million beetles have been produced since that date.

Cars get a bad press nowadays. I am not saying they do not deserve it but the more the public see them as bad the happier they are going to be about heavy taxes being imposed on 'high mileage' users. Fine but when the high-mileage user is your local supermarket guess how they pay the tax. Also you might discover getting to the supermarket has become rather more expensive in fuel costs as well.

Those fuel costs are the quickest way to boost inflation, so expect your mortgage payments to go up in an effort to control inflation. With rising interest rates, expect the economy to slowdown, your employer might find the repayments of business loans get a little bit more than expected and a quick economy finds you joining the unemployment queue. If only everything in life was so simple <g>.

Players, Motor Cars (series one) [1936], the embossed texture of the card is not the best surface to scan

Luckily in the 1930's there were no such problems with the idea we were doing terrible damage to the environment by driving a car. At the beginning of the 1930's people were a bit sensitive about the idea of being unemployed and at the end of it people were a bit sensitive about being killed by a very different, and rather more direct, lead poisoning.

Motor cars were a reasonably popular subject for cigarette cards. At the time motor cars were just beginning to make an impact on society. It was something the average man was aspiring to, especially in Britain where the one car family was yet to take-off let alone the two/three car family we seem to live in now. For example in 1933 a reference work wrote; 'In Great Britain alone they [cars] number about 2,000,000.'

In 1980 there were enough cars that a traffic jam on the 5th April stretched for 40 miles, involving 50,000 cars. Small fry when compared to the queue of traffic crawling over the East-West German border in 1990 when an estimated 1.5 million cars were involved. Interestingly in 1990 over 35 million cars were built worldwide. These bare statistics cannot do justice to the way the motor car has taken us over.

To show you how different things were in 1937 when this set was produced, it was only a few years earlier, in 1930, that it had been made an offence to ignore traffic lights (stop-go lights). Things were to get worse though, as despite the introduction of the parking meter in 1935 in the US would not come to Britain until 1958.

Classic cars are big business nowadays, perhaps not as big as they were in the late 80's boom when cars were making ridiculous quantities of money. If you could get all the cards from this series under one garage roof you would be looking at an enormous quantity of money.

People become obsessive about cars and it is very difficult for anyone else to understand. I am a fan of the Triumph TR6. My mate likes the VW Beatle, neither of us can understand the other, such is life. We drink together but do not discuss religion, politics, cars or women. Okay so I lied about one of them on the list and not necessarily the same one, depending on what night it is.

Details from Card 30
The famous super-charged Type 540 Mercedes-Benz, one of the few genuine 100 m.p.h cars in regular production for road work, has been given in its latest form more power and speed than ever. The super-charger, as before, is operative at will; the synchromesh gear-box has a semi-automatic application between the 3rd and 4th speeds, controlled by the accelerator, without using the clutch. Independent suspension by coil springs is used both fore and aft. The straight-eight engine is of 88 mm bore, 111 mm. stroke and 5,401 c.c capacity; the R.A.C rating is 38.4 h.p. and the annual tax £39 5s. The chassis has a 10ft. 9.5in. wheel-base and a 4ft. 11in. track. The car is priced at £2,200.

The example:Card #30, Mercedes-Benz Type 540 Coupe. It is interesting to note as much of what is missing from the description as what is in it. No mention of m.p.g, no insurance cost, which really are about all that matters to nine tenths of the motoring public today. Also amazing is this 'supercar' was by todays standards fairly mediocre. 100mph is now a regular event, so regular, there are speed cameras everywhere to keep us below 70mph

Card 43, The SS Jaguar was soon to find the SS emblem was uncomfortably close to the Nazi SS insignia and it was quickly dropped and Jaguar was the new name.

I do not know but presumably Card 45 Studebaker Dictator ran into similar problems in the coming years.

A lot of the car manufacturers in these cards have been bought up or gone out of business. Interestingly though the Morgan 4x4 is still in production and as far as I know gets a line in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest surviving production car in the world. The company, founded in 1910, is still family run, the car itself has a cult following and a considerable waiting list.

Now the production of motor cars transcends all national boundaries. For example Ford Motor Cars has such a long and creditable industry in England that it is considered an English company in the minds of many. In a lot of respects this is true. In 1937 this global market could hardly be imagined let alone the collapse of the British ability to produce motor cars. The British Car industry lasted longer than the world leading Motor-cycle industry so at least that is something.

Players, Motor Cards {Second Series) [1937]

There are other Motor Car based sets out there but part of the fun is looking for them, and discovering them, yourself.

At times it seems everyone had to produce a car based set. Mister Softee Ice Cream produced a set as did Bassett Confectionary.