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Saturday, 17th May 2008
Shurely shum mistak

E rrors, they do happen. The level of accuracy on cigarette cards is quite astounding but if you look hard enough, and know where to look you can find them even on cards.

Mind you some errors are so spectacular it almost takes the breath away and others are so insignificant it beggars belief anyone ever noticed.

Firstly let me make a distinction between and error and a variation. A variation is just that. Sets were often issued over a number of print runs and it was possible for facts to change perfectly innocently between the two runs and cards would be updated. An example of this is the Population statistics on the back of the Churchmans, East Suffolk Churches . The 'black print' was issued in 1912 and the 'sepia print' in 1917. The population had changed in the intervening years in the villages the churches represented and Churchmans did not want to get it wrong so on 41 of the 50 cards the text was changed on the reverse. The other 9 cards never had population statistics on them.

but the picture is of a stallion or gelding

That is a variation obviously the facts were never wrong.

An error though is just that. Carreras, Glamour Girls of Stage and Screen [1939] #23 reads Ethelredia whereas it should be Ethelreda. An example of an error for sure.

As I was writing this I wondered what the blazes I was bothering to tell you the difference between an error and variety but there are grey areas. A reasonable example being Godfrey Phillips, Specials Jubilee Year Series [1935] #7 one has hair colour fair with light brown streaks the other has hair with dark brown streaks. You can perhaps presume one is wrong or is it just a colour variation.

I am going to steer clear of names in this page (apart from the example above of course). A lot of errors can be attributed to misspelt names, of people or places. There is only so much mileage out of the fact someone made the mistake of calling Wallace Beery Wallace Berry (you'll hear more about this fellow later.) Anyone that is keen on collecting name errors could do well to collect Godfrey Phillips, Footballers (Pinnace) The fact these cards are actually called 'Pinnace' is where the fun begins as the brand was not issued until the cards were some 3 years old.

I am also going to try and steer clear of the grey-area stuff, wondering if an object on a card is meant to be red or orange without any real proof either way is not an error in my book. So errors for me are provable errors. I am also going to steer clear of soccer sets it seemed that no sooner had the cards been issued than half the people on them immediately transferred to other clubs. Making the possibilities for variation endless. Actually this is a slight expansion of the truth but if I give you a flavour of one error in the 'Pinnace' collection (miniature size part of a series of 2462 cards)

#1: GW Wallace - Aston Villa - error

#1: GW Wallace - Oldham - error

#1: GW Wallace - Oldham Athletic - error

#1: CW Wallace - Oldham Athletic - correct initials

and that is before they start updating the pictures of these individuals which adds to the general confusion. Maybe another day a day devoted to soccer card errors, or maybe a book or two you could read after Pi to a million places. Certainly you can appreciate the study of all soccer cigarette cards and the errors and variations is on the road to a certain type of madness (I'm well on the way to completing such a project but quite what I am going to do when I've finished I don't know, although there is plenty more to do).

Mind you that is as nothing to the military sets which came out. No sooner had the cards rolled of the production line than another battle would have been fought, lost or won, a promotion occurred or death in one form or another had caught up with the fellow on the card. So I shall not be charting the print runs of these series.

I must mention one card though, which is neither error or variation (just to prove my editorial control, if not my skill, is total) and that is Wills, Cricketers 1928 [1928] #27; Roy Kilner. Now I know certain people think cricket is slow moving but this fellow is described as 'The Late' as he had died April 5th 1928. He contracted something unpleasant during a tour of India according to the card.

Okay so no errors on spelling names, no variations, only provable errors, no soccer or military card errors (maybe one or two).

So with relative few errors in the first place and me cutting out the more common ones is there anything left to say.

Plenty. Read on.

Let me start with two extreme examples of errors, or at least what I think are extreme. The first falls in the 'how on earth did they manage that category.'

Gallaher, My Favourite Part [1939] This is the single most important set in my entire collecting career, because it started it all off. Maybe I was destined to collect (and eventually build a business) and love cigarette cards in which case it would have been another set which sparked it all off. It wasn't though it was this one.

Card 43 is Wallace Beery and Wallace goes into much detail about his favourite role in North-West Passage. Waxing lyrical in fact, ending with the phrase, 'My favourite Part, You bet!'

Well maybe he was confused but certainly someone was because Wallace Beery never appeared in the film, Northwest Passage. Spencer Tracey did but I don't think that is relevant. I have a date of 1940 on the film Northwest passage, a year after the cards were issued and as a huge technicolor extravaganza potentially the film studio were looking for some advance publicity.

The other extreme can be illustrated by another Gallaher set this time Racing Scenes [1938]. Card 14 has an inaccurate picture. In 1936 the racehorse 'Mahoud' won the Derby wearing the Aga Khan's second colours and the jockey wore a green cap. This is not reflected in the illustration on the card.

These two cards have another thing in common, during the print-run of the cards these errors were not detected and so corrected cards are not known. This is not true of all cards and perhaps the most well-known error card which was corrected (twice) occurred in Players, Dandies [1932]

It all happens on card 43 and the picture of Disraeli. Depicted on Westminster Bridge. The year in question is 1826, Disraeli is about 22 and it is the year he has published his novel, Vivien Grey. In the background is the foggy silhouette of The Houses of Parliament and the Clock Tower of Big Ben.

The problem was this skyline did not appear until 1858 by which point Disraeli would have no reason to look so young.

The error was spotted and in future printings the clock tower was removed but the Parliament buildings still in evidence. Eventually the second alteration obliterated all sign of the buildings and so finally the error was corrected.

Now unlike stamps where errors are most exciting and attract large sums of money if someone comes up to you suggesting you pay vast sums of money for an cigarette card error politely suggest you do not want to pay unless you have special reason to. Finding a Disraeli card with the Houses of Parliament in the background is not going to be the path to international fame and fortune I'm afraid. However they are quite fun to accumulate, especially when the errors were spotted and corrected.

Many errors were not actually corrected, or at least if they were, the correct card has yet to be seen which underlines the point about valuing the error or the correction. If there are more error cards than correct cards then the error card has to be worth less and there really is no saying which is the more abundant in many cases.

There are many examples of uncorrected errors (please don't ask me if more errors remained uncorrected than corrected, I don't know) but one which strikes me as special is from the Wills, Speed 1930 set. It is card 29 and contains two uncorrected errors. It shows the great racing driver Rudolf Caracciola who the card manages to spell as Carraciola but it is the fact he is seen speeding around the corner in a card bearing the number 71 when everyone knows he drove with the number 70.

Wills managed to correct some of these errors in the later series of Speed [1938] although this time they couldn't decide if they should have the accents in the Mercedes-Benz name or not.

Somehow to me that little series of errors brings home the fact cards are to be taken seriously as matters of fact. It isn't any old number slapped on the side of the card, it is meant to be the right number and it is not. Also points out just how hard people examine these blessed bits of card.

Ogdens, Racehorses [1907]. In a write up for this set I suggested one horse looks pretty much like another but that if this set had a horse with one white foot then I guess that is just what it had. All this high praise was on the close-up page. But a small confession, card 30 has an error on it. The text of the card describes a dam but the picture is of a stallion or gelding. Now I suppose in 92 years of these cards being about someone would have noticed this fact but I suspect if I lived to be 300 years old I would have had better things to do than find this particular error. Still I am happy to report that as far as I know nobody has come forward and actually suggested they know what horse is actually illustrated. That is at least something I suppose.

The error card from the Radio Celebrities series.

One of the great 'who is' questions of cigarette cards was produced by Wills, Radio Celebrities [1934]

Number 9 shows Captain HBT Wakelam. The card explains that he was the first man to attempt a sporting commentary, Rugby, England Vs Wales, Jan 1927. Well all is good but this man clearly was not seen a great deal because Wills issued the set with totally the wrong person on show.

It took some 70 years for it to finally be worked out who the chap was.

Mr Arthur Burrows please step forward.
He was the BBC's first Director of Programmes in 1922
I hope it was worth the wait, it took over seventy years for this bit of information to finally be common knowledge.

Earlier I mentioned the Ogdens Racehorse set having an error on it, and me giving it such a jolly good write up. It gets worse though. Head for the page Hignett, Sea Adventure [1939]. On that page (and this one) is card 26, The Carolina heading over Niagra falls like a blazing torch. Great fun but like a goodly number of sailing tales it seems to have gained something in the telling. The fact is the Carolina got caught up on rocks and burnt there. Another great story ruined by the facts. Is there anything left.

Well they reckon worse things happen at sea and we all know pirates have to have an eye patch and a wooden leg. Well Dickens gave Silas Wegg a wooden leg and naturally when Players issued their set, Characters from Dickens [1912] only natural to depict Silas with his wooden leg. Trouble was the artist in his haste removed the wrong leg from the poor blighter. This error was corrected in the subsequent re-issue series of 50 cards. Obviously Silas should have gone private.

Spelling errors are not something I wish to talk about too much (casting the first stone on this subject does not seem the brightest move I could make) but there are many a cigarette card site which seem determined to spell, Gallaher, Gallagher. Really when those same sites are trying to sell you Gallagher cards it might tell you something.

If you ever get to study the Gallaher, Aesops Fables series there are plenty of spelling errors in that one and for some reason there are also spellings in the process of being corrected such as 'laszy' but Zoo Tropical Birds series one [1928] appears to spell Gallaher, Callaher. and the well titled, Why is it [1915], has card 35 with the spelling, Gallaher cigarfttes