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It seemed like a good idea
at the time

Flicking through the catalogues every so often you just have to stop and marvel at some of the cigarette card sets that have been created. I am not talking about the Wills Waterloo variety here but rather the other end of the spectrum. I do not suggest that the sets are necessarily bad (some I have not seen and have little intention of) it is up to you to decide exactly what these cards were all about.

For a total lack of feeling for the general public you would have to go a long way to find anything more incredible than South Wales Constabulary. In total this worthy group of law enforcers gave us six sets. Three of them do not belong in this article but the rest do. Ryhmney Valley District Council [1986] (36 in set) was obviously such a success it was followed up by Merthyr Tydfill Borough Council [1987] (36 in set). It is beyong my imagination just what these cards depict.

There best was yet to come though Payphones Past and Present [1987] (37 in set) was perhaps the pinnacle of their issues. Just imagine the excitement of collecting that set, well done lads.

You have to wonder

For a set which defies imagination look no further than Saigon Stuffing, Dominoes without the Dot. [1939]. In one fell swoop this knocks out all other domino set contenders from the good idea at the time series.

CSR Murray & Co Ltd (Choclates) gave us the set, The Caramel Chief [1930]. Presumably this was not a very inspiring subject as the set ran to one card. Certainly a contender of the most compact card publisher worldwide being the only set they did.

J Goddard & Sons Ltd (makers of silver polish) obviously thought cards were a good way of advertising their wares, Silverware with Flowers I [1928] ran into a set of 4 cards. The second series ran to 8 cards issued in [1933]. Obviously not a firm to overstretch either the collector or their imaginations they also produced two sets called, Use & Cleaning of Silverware the first in [1926] ran to 2 cards and the second [1937] ran to 6 cards.

JJ Beaulah (Canned Goods)have left a conundrum in a set entitled Boston Stump [1953] obviously it did not amount to much the set was 1 card.

Something of an ominous named set is Terminal Tackle Tips [1976] the mood only vaguely lightens when you discover it was issued by Angling Times.

The Fish Marketing Board had the same idea as J Goddard, Eat More Fish [1930] series of 18.

I have spoken about brevity in cards but now to the other extreme, Church & Dwight (baking Soda (USA) got rather stuck into themes. Useful Birds of Americaran into ten sets of cards. 200 useful birds in all were discovered by this company.

The British film Industry could not have been in very good shape in 1922 Bow Bells (periodical)could only muster 6 cards for the set Handsome Men on the British Screen.

Strangely the anonymous trade-issues is not the breeding ground for dire sets you would imagine. However a set of 50 Train Spotters sounds to bad to be true.

This is the merest tip of the icebergs when it comes to 'duff' sets in the cigarette card world, there are loads out there as a flash through those catalogues will prove to most. I will leave you to make your own discoveries but one last thought; could there have been a more apt cigarette company than Gaspa.Just right.

Moving to pastures new there is a rich field of the bizzare in the structure of sets themselves. I shall gloss over the great idea of the sticky-back card which have given collectors nightmares ever since they began. These cards seemed determined to stick together with the merest suggestion of water.

As someone who is keen to place cigarette cards in frames, although this is becoming a very expensive habit it always annoys me that the cards are not all horizontal or vertically mountable. Often sets will be a mixture of the two and this usually means the set is impossible to mount. But nothing can compare to Players, Regimental Uniforms [1912] Series 1 & 2 comprising 100 cards. 99 of them are vertical and one, just the one, is horizontal. Card 49, it does not even show a regimental uniform. Thankyou Players, what were you thinking of.

Another misery for anyone wanting to frame sets of cards is the tennis sets (or worse yet snooker and billiards) these cards are green. That is it, green. This really is worse than the series that were issued in black and white or the rather odd 'brown' colour of Wills, Household Hints. In a similiar vein is the seemingly endless set Players, Army Corps & Divisional Signs, three series comprising 150 cards. The set comprises of coloured geometric shapes of every conceivable variation. Interesting to someone but 150 of them(?)

Another good idea at the time was sectional cards. Wills produced a good number of these sets during the 1930's. The idea was simple. The cards once collected combined to make a much larger picture. The collector was then to return the set in exchange for the poster the set depicted. Oddly these sets do not make good framers, you might as well frame a jigsaw puzzle (its a lot cheaper too) and without framing them they look absolutely nothing. If you don't believe me get a jigsaw puzzle and just look at the pieces on at a time and then put them back in the box.

One final thought, nothing but nothing is worse than the set of cards no-one has seen. There are loads out there, like the insects in the rain forests just waiting to be discovere before we wipe them out, buy enough cards and you are going to find a card nobody has catalogued before. Try finding a set of them.