1936 John Player & Son: National Flags and Arms (Series of 50)

One of the earliest examples of flags being used as a promotional cigarette or trade card was the 1936 set produced and published by John Player & Son – a tobacco company.

These cards are fascinating as they were published prior to World War II and reflect the political situation that was developing in Europe.

It is also interesting to note the countries they have selected as being “important” enough to be included.

With only 50 cards in the series the number of countries is obviously limited but there are some very strange choices even for that period. For example:

  1. There is only one country featured from Africa namely “South Africa”;
  2. The Vatican City is deemed worthy of a place in the collection;
  3. Ceylon, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and Syria are all conspicuous by their absence.

With hindsight, it is also interesting to look at a number of cards where the political landscape has changed considerably. Most notably:

  1. Irish Free State – the cards were issued the year before the establishment of Ireland (Eire)
  2. Germany – This card depicts the rise of the Nazi state and the use of the Swastika
  3. Yugoslavia – Now disbanded
  4. Siam – The Siam Empire ended in 1932 but, according to the cards, Thailand was still referred to as Siam even in 1936.

Considering these cards were produced pre-World War II there are a surprising number of original complete sets readily available from collectors and online. This is a clear indication of how popular cigarette card collecting had become by 1936 as John Player must have produced these cards in high volumes to explain the high number still available.

In order to bring these set to you we have scanned both the front and the back of the cards and shown them both in the same image. Click of the card depicted below to see the full detail.


These cards are over 75 years old and the quality of the scans reflects the condition they are in. We will have better scans available soon which we will substitute in due course. We hope this does not detract from your enjoyment.

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