About Cigarette Cards

About Cigarette Cards


The roots of the cigarette cards can be traced to the 1840s when "tradesman's" cards were issued by stores to publicize their business, comparable to today's business cards.

Starting in the 1880s, tobacco companies inserted printed cards into packs of cigarettes as "stiffiners" to protect the contents from being crushed.  While American tobacco companies initiated the practice, their British counterparts greatly expanded on the distribution of cards.

Hundreds of series of cards were produced, covering a diversity of subjects to appeal to a wide range of interests.  Subjects included flowers, sports, actors and actresses, motor cars and pets, to name but a few.   Series typically contained 25 or 50 cards.  Each card had an attractive color illustration on the front, with a narrative relating to the illustration on the back.

Each pack of cigarettes had one card.  The purchaser usually did not know which card was included in the pack, other than knowing which series it was part of.  Cards were collected in an album that could be purchased from a tobacconist for a nominal fee.  They were usually affixed in the album by moistening an adhesive on the back of the card (hence the name "sticky-backs" for the cards).

While the introduction of rigid cigarette packaging eliminated the need for a "stiffiner", English tobacco companies continued the distribution of the cards due to their great popularity.  The promotion finally ended around 1940 when the raw materials used to make the cards were diverted to the war effort.

Cigarette Card Collector Album

Cover of an English Cigarette Card Collector Album
Cigarette Card Collector Album

Inside view of the Cigarette Card Collector Album

How We Mat Cigarette Cards

Cigarette cards are conservation matted using an acid-free mat board
and 100% cotton rag backing board.  The cards are "hinged" to the
backing board using an acid-free hinging tape.

In addition to the window on the front mat to display the card,
we also cut a window on the backing board so the reverse side of the
card can be read.

The mat color is called "Wheat", a neutral, beige-like color that works well
with wood, gold and metal frames.  Mats are decorated with a single gold line

drawn around the mat window - a technique called "French lining".

Conservation Framing services are also available.
Click here to view samples of the mouldings we work with.

Each print is provided with a background sheet providing a brief history
of the cigarette card.

Framed Dog Cigarette Card print

Example of a framed Dog Cigarette Card print