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Peerless

E very so often a set of cards appears

which has something different to say. There is nothing wrong at all with sports cards and there is nothing wrong with film cards. Indeed there is nothing wrong with dog cards but even I get weary of steak, chips and chocolate ice-cream (although my tolerance is exceptionally high due to a prolongued food habit). Every so often I might like pork chops, roast potatoes and chocolate ice-cream.

I once saw a kind of family tree thing for dogs and how all the breeds were inter-related in some fashion and in the middle there was a dog breed which had no connection with any other. Cannot remember what it was called, it was so long ago the image is almost myth in the memory. It returns unbidden every so often along with a thousand other thoughts blowing about the empty highways of my mind.

Some cards are like that lone dog breed, they seem to spring from nowhere, have very little or no relation to anything else which went before or indeed after. There is a strange fascination with such things for me.

The UK market was reasonably staid in its approach to card subjects (so what's new). But this is not what we are going to be looking at in this page.

Liebig is the card issuer of choice and it has been a while since I put hands to keyboard on this subject and given the interest that people have shown in the recent offers I have made on them it seemed a good idea to give another flavour of Liebig.

Liebig issues hold some of the strangest ideas of all cards and there is true originality in sets such as Toothless Mammals [1914]. There was also the cutting edge stuff if rather hopeful, Travel one hundred years ago and now [1904]. Then there is the bizarre such as Interesting places near Paris [1912].

There is always the advantage that usually only six cards were produced so almost any subject was possible without the need for a lot of head scratching needed to fill the gaps between card one and card 50. Still you do wonder how six cards are squeezed out of such thin gruel as Transporting Liebig by Elephant [1925].

All the colours of the rainbow (almost)

Once you start looking at some of the sets it becomes clear they could produce six cards on just about any subject that was thrown at them by the simple trick of working around the theme. Actually to suggest some cards were tangental in nature is a bit of an understatement as the titles leave you really none the wiser as to what is going on.

You only have to see the way they treat the seemingly tedious title, Colours of the Rainbow [1901] to understand almost everything you need to know about the cards. The title is un-inspiring, I doubt it was a subject covered before and the fact they missed a colour out seems not to matter at all.

Amusement can be had with some of these titles because of the translation process that is going on. Liebig cards are rarely in English so meaningful titles can somehow get lost in the wash. In fact it sometimes seems as if someone has just looked at the pictures and decided what to call the set.

For example the set, Scenes with Large Pots [1890] is a lot more understandable when you see that it could not really have ever been called anything else. There are no surprises what the large pot is advertising either. So 'popular' was this theme that a second set had to be produced.

You could consider this a weakness of the Liebig card but surely anyone that has seen these wonders cannot fail to be impressed, the printing is top drawer and the artwork is well beyond the need for something which was basically given away.

Every so often the Liebig firm felt there the six card limit was restrictive (although The Days of the Week [1905] was not considered reason enough for a set of seven cards). In these instances they would issue 12 cards. Whenever this happened it was perhaps the most unlikely of sets getting this 12 star treatment. Development of Commerce and Industry [1910] is a six card subject but Life Among the Congolese People [1934] is a 12 card subject as is Alphabet (Female National Costumes) [1900]. The World of Greek Mythology [1896] only gets 6 card treatment.

On even rare ocassion there are 18 card series The Italian Empire [1937] gets such extravagant treatment.

Other sets avoided the six card limit by being returned to like old friends time and time again. History of France was obviously popular stuff (no surprise considering they were issued in France). In 1893 out came the first six cards to be followed by sets in 1894, 1897, 1898, 1900, 1902, 190 and 1910. By 1892 Puzzles (hidden objects) had reached a 13th series and by 1899 it was into a 23rd series.

For the most part though subjects seem to be condensed into six cards and even the Reduced Shakespeare Company would be impressed that Great Greek Tragedies [1931] can be done on the back of six cards with prominent space for Liebig advertising as well. Actually any number of Opera's can be found on these cards, a reflection of the time and place many of these cards were produced and perhaps a certain higher brow fixed on Liebig as not for him endless series of 'Beauties' wearing as little as was indecently possible during the period.

Variety though is the real key to these cards. Look down a list of cigarette card titles and all the usual well-loved subjects are there but look down the 2000 odd sets of Liebig and there is always something waiting to surprise you. Preparation of Rose Essence [1908]. Makes you just stop and wonder quite why the subject was choosen and at the same time are pleased that it was.

Liebig represents a lot of collecting and a lot of fun and certainly well worth seeking out although beware; if you already have a bad cigarette card habit it might be best you did not start looking at Liebig as well. There have been times when my stomach has been rumbling from lack of food whilst I looked at tens of thousands of pounds of cards.