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Silks & Novelties.

The cigarette card was a considerable attraction for the buying public. The tobacco firms were not silly and recognised this fact quite early on by producing series of cards. Although I do not have any figures there are rumours of some cards being very difficult to get hold of and some non-existant. This meant collecting the set was near or impossible. Smokers might just keep buying another pack just to complete the set though.

Although the classic cigarette card format was by far the most popular companies did experiment with different ideas. The variations on the theme did include different shapes and sizes and also different materials

Sticking with card for the time being Godfrey Phillips produced a set of circular cards 'Cinema Stars' as did Rothman, 'Beauties of the Cinema.' Carreras adapted the circular theme with an oval set of cards, again doing a film star set.(See: Film Stars as portrayed in cigarette cards)

Some cards were cut into a particular format such as the Carreras 'Flags of the Allies.'

For a short period of time Ogdens created a push out series of cards, 'Birds eggs' & 'Children of All Nations.' This idea was quickly dropped, presumably because of production costs. The idea was the central part of the card could be popped out and the remainder of the card was used as a base to stand them on. Once finished as a display the cards could be returned to their original flat formation. This has created something of a collecting nightmare with the best prices going for sets which consist entirely of cards which have not been popped out.

Another idea which was more popular in that a number of comapnies attempted the theme was to create cards which pieced together, rather like a jig-saw puzzle.

This was not the first time metal had been used

Another experiment was the transfer style card. Player's took this seriously in the thirties re-issuing a number of sets as transfers. The idea was once the cards were wetted they image would slide off the card and could be placed on another surface. Obviously this was a concept which appealled to the younger generation.

I have it on good authority that the glue used on the transfers is no longer active. If you try peeling the transfer off, (why?) you end up with a soggy mess.

Probably because of the nature of cigarette cards a number of firms hit upon the idea of producing minature playing cards. Carreras was particularly active in this field producing, Happy Families, Alice in Wonderland, Greyhound Racing game, Granpop et al.

There were a number of series ased on fortune telling, horoscopes and palmistry. Commonly, and especially in the early issues, the 'playing' card would be set into the corner of the cigarette card so as not to detract from the main subject matter. It was then up to the owner to use the card as they wished.

An interesting area of collecting is the Cavanders stereoscopic cards which created a three dimensional image when seen through a special viewer.

Not all 'cards' were in fact cardboard, some were silks. This was partly a respose to the fact card became scarce during the first world war and so silk was used as an alternative. (They did not have parachutes in WW1 and so silk was not in the same sort of demand as in the Second World War.) For these the image was either printed or embroidered. To my mind these 'cards' are an under-rated area of the hobby and perhaps buy now is the advice in this area. I have been wrong before though<G>. Flags and flowers are perhaps the most common of the subject matter to appear on silks. Kensitas flowers being the prime example. Each flower was issued with a paper sleeve which had details of the flower enclosed. Special albums were available for mounting these issues. These facts mean collecting an entire set with their individual folders is something of a challenge. This said they do make lovely framing pieces.

In the USA American Tobacco Co. went to town on the issue of silks in 1910 issuing 82 sets.

Now to some of the more unusal mediums of issue. The International Tobacco Company used thin bronze on which they stamped out 'Famous buildings and monuments of Britian.' This was not the first time metal had been used. As early as 1902 Wills had created a series of small oval metal tags which could be hung on a watch chain. Rothman's was to revive this concept with an issue that was designed to be hung from a bracelet.

Once again the American Tobbacco Co. gets a mention for the leather issues of 1908 (20 sets in all)

Cohen and Weenen produced a series of cards with a metal frame.

Then of course there was the wooden cigarette cards produced byGarbaty this German manufacture created 'cards' (40mmx40mm) known as Tarso Wood Cards in the 1930's.

Card and silk might be considered the most ephermal of material to base a collection on but Littlewoods Pools went one step further when they introduced, 'Laugh with Hal.' A rather rare sight these 'cards' as they were actually made out of blotting paper. Needless to say you don't see many.

I have left the best till last, perhaps the most strange of all cigarette card issues. Created by the Record Cigarette Company of London it was a series of 25 'Talkie' cards. They were in fact functional mini gramphone records backed onto card.

Silks - a story of survival against the odds.

The tobacco companies could not have considered card fragile enough for their promotional activities so turned their attention to more delicate forms. Enter silks. Manufacturers obviously had tired of producing cards with adhesive backs destined to be stuck into specially prepared albums rather like stamps. Worse yet Godfrey Phillips created a 'spot the ball' series' which had to be licked to reveal the whereabouts of the aforementioned ball. Then there were the 'pop-up' sets which involved 'opening' a card along the perforations. Cards were also given away with coupons to be torn off the bottom and returned to manufacturers, some just wanted the whole card back, as did ATC with the Ogdens Tabs during the tobacco wars.

The above examples were mere practice runs for 'silks'.

Most were produced in unbacked form with edges ready to fray as soon as look at them. Originally coming in a presentation folder (Kensitas) which was brown paper demanding that the owner remove them from the folder to see them (watch them fray.) Once out dirt and creasing was almost compulsory.

Given all this how did B.D.V expect them to be collected. The answer was supplied by the company themselves, they weren't.

I recently saw a BDV advert (Feb 1916) which explains all, Silk Needlework Competitions. People were encouraged to present BDV with products such as cushions, table-centres, firescreens (?) made entirely of silks.

It offered prizes for the best, £10.00 for first prize. Interestingly the prize winners were kept but the unsuccesful ones were returned to the senders.

British Empire, State of Kelantan State Flag.

Before I had seen the advert I had actually come across many examples of silks having been stitched together with various ability (and always to the total collapse of any value) at auction houses. Any collector groans inwardly at this terrible 'misuse' of such ephemera.

In the Sunday Pictorial (June 4 1916) there is a photograph of a woman standing next to a silk creation, a £10.00 prize winner for a regalia banner, it would appear to be about 8 foot tall by 4 foot wide. It is not amusing to think just how many silks this represent.

It might be because of the above that silks have not really gained the support in the collectors market that they may well deserve. Difficult to keep, difficult to display, difficult to find in good condition (Kensitas silks were often folded in half to fit into their packs of ten). And my pet theory, nothing to read on the back of them. Oh yes,it is often difficult to determine what set they belong too.

Some writers often wonder why silks have not caught on in the collectors market quite like the cards. Not a tricky question given all of the above I would suggest.

In an effort to solve some of these problems Wix issued an album which was intended to be used as a presentation device for the silks. The one for the series, 'National Flags' suggested that the silks be pasted in, oh well. Another interesting quirk of this album was it followed a totally different numbering system to the actual numbers printed on the silks. However an advantage of the album was it contained some text for the flag and a line drawing of a character in national costume.

Some good news there then. It gets better, in the series Kensitas flowers the silks came in card presentation folders which had a large quantity of interesting information printed on them. One thing they failed to do was cross-reference silks with the folders. This meant if they silks were removed from the folders en-masse a serious quantity of horticultural knowledge would be needed to marry silk flowers to their information.

One of the series also informed the collector that the silks were colour fast and could be washed gently and creases could be ironed out. Better and better.

Every collector should make room for a few silks in their collection, perhaps not entire sets, they are not all that cheap (although for what they are consider them so.) but they are a welcome addition. There is unlikely to ever be anything like them again considering the economics of the situation.

Kensitas Silk economics.

The silks were woven by mid-European 'peasant' labour on primitive looms. This manufacture would explain the variety of colours which are contained in the silks themselves.

The cigarette packet cost of 77 pence was made up of 53 pence tax. From the remaining 24 pence there had to be a profit after distribution, wages, packaging, retailers cut. Now imagine putting in a handwoven silk card in presentation folder. The economics of silks no longer adds up...unfortunately.