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March 29, 2021

40 Ogden’s ‘Guinea Gold’ Cigarette Cards Featuring Beautiful Actresses From the Late 19th Century

Cigarette cards were originally blank card inserts that were used to stiffen soft and flimsy cigarette packets and protect its contents. Stiffeners, as they were called came about in the 1870s. It wasn’t long until someone decided that these stiffeners could serve another purpose: advertisement material. And so, these cards would come with an advertisement for a company, product, or service and would often include printed pictures.

Eventually, these cards began to come with pictures of a particular theme, compelling customers to buy more of the product to complete the set of a certain theme. It became a clever way to boost sales and customer loyalty.

In 1878, Edward Bok, having picked up a discarded cigarette card with the picture of an actress, suggested to the printing company that a short biography of the featured actress would make the card even more interesting. This suggested format became a standard that all cigarette cards followed.

As cigarette cards gained a fanatical following, more than 300 cigarette manufacturers had to compete with each other, not only to ensure they achieve high product sales but also to gain and establish customer loyalty. Thousands of different sets on different themes were issued to keep people interested. It was not uncommon to see even non-smokers purchasing a pack to complete a set. Children could be seen standing outside stores asking the seemingly kind mister for their “fag card.”

Towards the end of the 19th century, card sets gained popularity. These cards would contain pictures of famous actresses of the time. By the early 1900s, card issuers began to release albums by which customers can store and display their card collection. Ogden’s first issued some hardback albums that allowed one to slip in their cards. Of course, a variety of albums were also made available, and a customer can choose the type of album they would want for their collection.

(Images via NYPL Digital Collections)


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