“The Cars of Today” cigarette card album, 1933
Object of the month February 2020
The sales personnel of the Parisian department store “Le Bon Marché” began distributing the first collectors' cards in the mid-19th century as a way to increase customer loyalty. The stratagem was almost certainly based on the popular religious devotional pictures that the Church had begun distributing to the faithful in the 14th century and which had been eagerly collected as bookmarks for prayer and hymn books.
The first picture series devoted to a single theme appeared in Germany sometime around 1872. They were included as a sales gimmick for Justus Liebig's meat extract products. This promotional idea was quickly adopted by other companies. The first German collector's album was released by the chocolate manufacturer Stollwerck in 1897. In the following years, collecting the small cards became a massively popular hobby: The pictures allowed people to go on long imaginary journeys or helped them get to know past or future worlds. The cards attached to cigarette boxes were particularly popular.
In the 1960s the trading cards began to be sold as separate items in their own packaging. Thus cards covering German films based on Karl May or depicting Bundesliga soccer players could be collected and glued into elaborately designed albums. There were five cards in each pack but certain motifs were duplicated so often that a collection often contained many copies of certain motifs. Other cards, on the other hand, were relatively rare, which made them particularly valuable for bartering purposes.
The cigarette album “Das Auto von heute” (“The Cars of Today”) exhibited here comes from the museum library's inventory and dates back to 1933. It was distributed by the Berlin-based cigarette factory Garbáty.