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This set was first issued as a series of 25 in 1908. It bore the hallmarks of the early sets issued by Players. Printed on thick card it had high production values. The reverse of the card was the typical scrolled banner type heading with ornate frames border encompassing the text. Later this ornate design would give way to a simplified structure which allowed a greater quantity of text on the reverse. The twenty-five cards were all vertical in format and were divided in two, the colour scheme is very similar to the Players, Country Arms & Seats series that was produced about the same time, as is the format. The top third of the card showed a map of the relevant part of the globe. Relevant that is to the product that was being described on the reverse. The bottom two thirds of the card showed the product in its natural environment.

Perhaps purposefully the small map was all coloured in the pink which is traditionally reserved for depicting the British Empire on atlas.

For those that don't know what the colour looks like take a squint at an atlas today, England will be coloured like this, Scotland and Wales should be for a little while yet, and so should Rockall, if you have got a really detailed map. Things just 'aint what they used to be :-D

To underline this fact Opium also disappears by 1928

The set was probably produced as something of a publicity stunt, many of the card reverses pointing out just how much of the worlds raw materials the United Kingdom sucked in.

#5, Cocoa, 'Trinidad, Central America & Ceylon supply the markets of Great Britain
#17, 'The United Kingdom imports annually barley worth nearly £7,000,000.
#20, 'The value of the wheat annually imported (into UK) is about £35,000,000
#24, '...exports 110,000 tons of currants...the greater part of which is sent to the United Kingdom
#25, Oranges, 'The markets of Great Britain are supplied by Spain.'
Card 21 informs us that the United Kingdom imported £1,500,000 worth of ostrich feathers. It also notes that nine-tenths of these feathers have come of birds living in South Africa. A place where Ostrich farming has been very successful. Clipped every eight months a bird will yield about 8 ounces.
I am not the only one wondering what an earth we needed quite that many ostrich feathers and what the blue blazes we were doing with them all.

Interestingly the British Empire was actually at its largest after the First World War once the victorious had so sportingly divided up the vanquished amongst themselves.

1928 saw the issuing of a 50 card set. Products of the World. To put that into some sort of context this was the same year that Universal Adult Suffrage was granted. At first glance it would appear that Players had found more products to explain but that is not quite true. Many of the products were now split over a number of cards. The reverse of the card shows a more stylised approach and the front of the cards no longer has the split screen view. It is also a fact the cards now are both in horizontal and vertical format.

Between the 1908 set and the 1928 set Players issued the 1914 set, Counties and their Industries A reaction to the fact many foreign markets were disappearing under the weight of global conflict?

Growing tobacco< Products of the World [1908]>

This later series was not quite as full of facts and figures as the first series which is something of a shame. Instead it centres about the process of product creation. Another disappointment is the fact Ostrich feathers seemed to have slipped from the compilers thoughts.

Also noticeable is the fact there is not so much talk of how much the United Kingdom relies on imports from other countries. There is more talk about just how much stuff is created by The British Empire. Could this be as a result of the miserable position a global war can put a net importer in?

Although the latter set has 50 cards some products have been dropped by 1928. The 1908 set started off with Ivory ('..small amounts of ivory is obtained from Siberia, being the tusks of the extinct mammoth...') Somewhat strangely Tobacco was also dropped from the scheme of things. Although Players may well have felt they had covered that subject well enough in the set, From Plantation to Smoker, a series of 25 cards issued in 1926.

Alcohol also falls of the menu. Two cards were devoted to it in the earlier series, Port and Champagne being included. Indeed Canadian Salmon also gets dropped, so it would seem a very puritanical world of bulk foodstuffs and produce was on offer in 1928. To underline this fact Opium also disappears by 1928 ('Chinese opium, which is prepared for local consumption, is very poor in morphine.')

By 1853 opium addiction was becoming something of a concern. Such was the concern the scientists began looking for a less addictive substitute. In 1898 they came up with Diacetylmorphine. This was seen as heroine in the war against pain.
It is now seen as heroin and considered not so helpful.

If that was not bad enough Oranges and Currants (and we loved them so<g>) disappeared from the Products of the World.

So what is there?

Well it starts of in fine fashion: Apples. 'Over six hundred million hundred-weight of Apples are imported into Great Britain every year.' It announces before reminding everyone that most of these apples come from 'British possessions.' (Now it seems like the only apple produced comes from France and tastes like a bar of soap.)

Tapping a rubber tree. Players, Products of the World [1908]

Coal appears and this was a product probably still very much in the minds of the people given the General Strike of only a few years before. Although quickly squashed the coal miners held out the longest. Those were the days when the backbone of the Unions was made of coal.

Dates get a mention in this second tranche (Figs were in the first set.)

Oil by 1928 was proving a very important resource, cards 23 & 24 are dedicated to this black gold (appropriately 22 is gold). The US was the worlds oil field then and fortunes were being made and lost in the sinking of wells. Are you thinking of Clark Gable and Spencer Tracey at this point to? Not seem the film?

Many things changed between 1908 and 1928 and some of these changes can be seen on the cards. In 1908 wheat production was being revolutionised by the introduction of steam power. By 1928 huge combine harvesters were rolling across the Canadian countryside. Then again pearl diving seems to have altered little.

As I wrote this article I was examining the cards within the two sets and although they are different in many respects and the latter set is showing a more modern face to the world they have two things in common. Both were issued in 19x8 which means the first issue is now an incredible 90 years old and the second is a mere 70 years old. The second thing they have in common is they are both amazingly good value. You can by both sets for £22.50 ($38).

Pineapples in the 1928 set, it answers a few questions
Footnote:

This is the only footnote in this entire website. I do not know why the article ended up with this structure but it has so here it is.

Just to note that Wills also produced a couple of sets centred about Products of the World. They were actually issed for the overseas markets, presumably not to clash with the Players product. The first series was issued between 1905-1910, Murrays gives it an issue date of 1913 and I am sure they have very good reason. A series of 50 cards it follows the Players format of map and product. Interestingly (?) cards 1-24 are numbered both front and back and 25-50 on the backs only. The reverse of the cards do not have any descriptive text, rather having the 'Pirate' design on the reverse.

Wills also did a general overseas issue which only had 25 cards in the series and they were plucked exclusively from the final 25 of the 50 card series.

The products described were different to those of the Players set. Being:

Bacon Dates Lead Platinum Silk
Chalk Flax Leather Petroleum Silver
Cider Furs Marble Radium Soap
Coal Hops Melons Salt Sugar Beet
Copper Iron Pepper Sardines Tin

They also introduced a second series about the same time as Players, for the New Zealand market which did have a descriptive text back.