Every Pack with a Prize Inside


Tennis cards, like baseball cards? Yes and no.



These are called cigarette cards. Not much bigger than a modern business card, these trade cards were a bonus in a pack of cigarettes. They came in a series, usually twenty-five or fifty, with a similar theme.

Each came in a different pack of cigarettes.

Many were aimed at male smokers:  airplanes, sports and cars. These cars were modern at the time.


Cigarette companies wanted brand loyalty from consumers, so they gave them tiny works of art.

From the 1931 series "Picturesque London"
From the 1931 series “Picturesque London”

Another good way to get customers to keep buying from their company, and not from a competitor, was to display numbers on the cards.


Or even letters of the alphabet.

Each letter has a different flag signal.
Each letter has a different flag signal.

The cards above and below are part of a 1910 series, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.


One of several activities of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, 1910 2016-08-28-17-57-50-640x371

Some were embroidered silk. Recently, a quilt made of many of these was on display at the Pasadena Museum of History.

I came across all of these, and many more, by accident, at a hotel near Yosemite, the Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal. All of the ones there were from Great Britain, from 1890 to 1939. The cigarette cards below of British military uniforms were issued in 1939, when the country was fighting for its survival in World War II. I like to imagine people in a bleak time appreciating the small, patriotic works of art.



Author: Pamela Tartaglio

For my vacation, I'd like to go to America a hundred years ago. Instead, I visit cool historic places, art museums and read. I share on my blog, Past and Present with Pamela. People who aren't history buffs tell me they enjoy these glimpses into the past. Please come and visit.

9 thoughts on “Every Pack with a Prize Inside”

  1. Thanks for sharing these, Pam. I noticed the featured tennis card was from Wills’ Cigarettes, and the player is named Wills-Moody. Maybe the manufacturer’s daughter?

  2. This really makes me realize that we are a “throw away” culture today. It was so much more difficult and expensive to print in color back then that people really prized these little cards, even displaying them in special frames. Although, even today, the silk embroidered ones would be special I think. How wonderful that someone preserved them by using them to make a quilt!

  3. You mention a “throw away” culture now–my mother still has a few of her prizes that came in Crackerjack boxes. They are from about 1940 and so much better than the junk we used to get in Crackerjack. One is a tiny metal tennis racket. No plastic back then.


  4. No, a coincidence. I took close-ups of the two tennis greats I had heard of, William Tilden and Helen Wills Moody, and they both have Will in their name. Both Americans, but the cigarette company was British. Hey, read my comment to Brigid Amos about Mom’s Crackerjack prizes. Maybe you have seen them.

  5. Yes! I bet they saved a lot of money buying toys for their kids back then! By the way, my dad has this lone ranger card that is in terrible condition, so it is virtually worthless. I found out that in mint condition, it would be worth a lot! I wish he had put it away safe in a drawer instead of carrying it around with him!

  6. Really interesting, Pamela! I never knew about “cigarette cards”!

    On Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 9:28 PM, Past and Present with Pamela wrote:

    > Pamela Tartaglio posted: ” Tennis cards, like baseball cards? Yes and no. > These are called cigarette cards. Not much bigger than a modern business > card, these trade cards were a bonus in a pack of cigarettes. They came in > a series, usually twenty-five or fifty,” >

  7. Fascinating serendipity discovery. It does make me wonder what is right under our noses now with the potential to end up in a display in the Smithsonian someday. Cell phones? Remote controls? Maybe even my NordicTrack. Thought provoking.

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