Many of the cards listed within these checklists were issued in England and other countries under the UK umbrella. The reason for this is simple - that's where the majority of early movie star trading cards were issued. There were some sets issued in the United States, but these tend to be scarce and are generally not as attractive as the British sets.
Many other countries around the world also produced movie card sets. Checklists on this site can be found for countries such as Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Malta, Egypt, Yugoslavia, Estonia, South Africa, Cuba, Panama, Chile, Uruguay, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. All of these countries issued movie card sets showing Hollywood movie stars. Some also included their local movie stars, when movies were issued for their countries or when their citizens became international stars.
Hollywood movie stars are found on cards from around the world, as movies made in Hollywood have been shown around the world and translated into other languages. While the text from cards issued in other countries might be in another language, the stars are usually recognizable.
The first movies were made in the late 19th Century and the movie business was very primitive in the early part of the 20th Century. In the 1910s movies began to become more prevalant, and by the 1920s they were a very popular form of entertainment.
Movies were largely silent, black and white productions in the 1920s. Some big stars began to emerge in this era including Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. These three became so popular and wealthy that they formed their own movie production company, United Artists. Romantic star Rudolph Valentino also emerged in this era, and his sudden death in 1926 brought out over 100,000 people to his funeral.
Sound became a standard in the movies in the early 1930s, causing many silent stars to disappear from the movie scene. Color movies were made in this era, though black and white remained the standard for many more years. Many big stars emerged in this era, including Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, and Jean Harlow to name a few.
The first documented cigarette card was issued in 1879, before movies even began. The idea of inserting a card in a cigarette package quickly caught on and there were thousands of sets issued around the world from the 1880s through about 1940. These cards pictured just about every conceivable subject, from sporting figures to politicians to many non-human subjects such as animals, flags, and world scenes. Even before movies there were cigarette cards picturing stage actors and actresses.
In 1940 World War II stopped cigarette cards cold, as they were deemed a non-essential item and a waste of valuable paper. They never really started up again after the war, although there were a few sets issued here and there.
In the United States, cigarette cards ended in about 1912, though there were a few issues after that. Because of this, there are very few U.S. movie star cigarette card sets. The U.S. movie star cards that were issued came with a variety of products, mostly candy and gum items. U.S. cards were also issued through weighing machines and Exhibit machines.
Cigarette cards were very popular in England in the 1920s and 1930s, with thousands of sets issued. Movie stars were a very popular subject, and the British cigarette cards documented these movie stars from the very beginnings of motion pictures. These old cards now form a very historical record of the pioneers in the movie business.
A surprisingly large number of these old cigarette cards survive in nice condition. This is probably due to the large number of collectors who pursued these beautiful cards when they were issued. It is also due to the fact that British card collecting became an organized hobby long before card collecting gained popularity in the United States. There were British firms in the card selling business as far back as the early 1930s, and these companies helped preserve the supply and condition of many of these sets as they stocked them for their customers.
The stunning beauty of many of the cigarette card sets continues to attract collectors today. These cards were obviously a very important part of the cigarette business in the 1920s and 1930s and the quality of the cards was taken very seriously by the manufacturers. A successful card set meant increased cigarette sales, and the firms often tried to outdo each other, leaving collectors with cards featuring some very high quality artwork.
The checklists on this website are organized in alphabetical order by manufacturer. Under each manufacturer, the sets are listed in alphabetical order by set title. Many sets without a manufacturer listed are placed in the Anonymous (Mostly BAT) Checklists section.
I hope these checklists will be useful to anyone who loves these old cards and the oldtime movies and movie stars depicted. Any feedback is welcome.
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