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Playing with cards.

Although cigarette cards were issued in packets of cigarettes it did not stop the children clamouring for them. Many cartoonists of the day quipped on this very subject, small children begging their elders for the cards. This very popularity was part of the reason the cards eventually disappeared for good. The growing puritism rightly felt that youngsters should not be drawn into smoking through the collecting of cards.

For the most part though the children had far more efficient collection methods. Cigarette cards could be found in the gutters around tobacconists if not given directly to the children by the smokers themselves. Other families would collect cards for a favourite nephew. Cinema's were always a good place to find cards. Open to the children (unlike pubs) after the feature the floor would be littered with cigarette cards just waiting to be collected.

Collecting and swapping was very much part of the hobby

The 30's was a very different world and entertainment had to be very much self-created. It is a small step to make to realise that a plentiful supply of cheap cards and time on your hands is ideal circumstances for 'card games.'

The simpliest form of 'card game' was simply collecting. Children were keen to collect the entire set of favourite cards and this developed into 'swappies.' Different children were looking for different cards and teh playground was alive with the noise of card deals being done. 'Swappies' is a tradition that still happily exists in the playground, bubble gum cards of footballers being popular as well as pogs.

Collecting and swapping was very much part of the hobby which I can relate to but the following play strategies are a little more unpleasant for the collector.

'Flicks' a simple game where cards replaced the more usual coins. The children would line up at a specified distance from the appropriate wall with cards in hands. Each child would get the opportunity to flick their card towards the wall. Usually the card closest the wall won all the cards in that round. This game obviously caused the cards a good deal of damage. This game was probably the most popular judging by the amount of times I have to hear it mentioned. An obvious variation was who could 'flick' the furthest.

Ron Shelley e-mailed me to confirm the detail on flicks and also ventured a variation he played as a young lad. This saw the contestants putting forward a number of cards which were placed in a pile against the wall (20 cards was the mentioned figure) then the players took it in turns to flick cards at this pile. The winner was the one that managed to flick a card onto the pile. Cards that did not manage this feat became part of the winnings for the player that did manage it.

'Blows' this entailed lining cards up on a window sill and each contestant in turn taking to opportunity to blow the cards. The number of cards turned by the 'blower' were the number of cards he kept. Often there was one person who would supply the cards for turning and charged a fee for each 'blow'. The cards being blown were usually of inferior quality to the cards being collected as a fee.

Another popular game was 'marbles'. An upturned shoe box was sub-divided into three sections. The largest of these sections would score one card and the smaller sections three. A marble would be rolled into the shoe box and would score accordingly. The owner of the shoe box would charge a fee of two cards to roll the marble. This game I can endorse as it did very little damage to the cards themselves.

Variations on these games were prevelant and there were likely to be many more games going on in playgrounds and streets of the 30's. Although many cards were ruined in this manner they were cheap and plentiful so it hardly mattered (although it is horrible to think of some of the rarer cards being thrown about the playground. I fully agree with throwing 'Household Hints' at walls today.) it did put the germ of collecting cigarette cards in many a child's mind.

Of course cigarette cards were not really intended for the younger generation and to this end a number of sets were created for the grown-ups to play with. These centred around the playing card concept. Many sets were issued as a set of playing cards and then there were others such as the Nose game and sectional sets created on the jigsaw principle.