by John Kitchen


By the title of this I do not mean crimes committed by cigarette packets, but rather those perpetrated against them and usually by collectors I might add. I have put together a list of 5 crimes in perhaps my order of shame, but you may have different opinions.


Packs that have been written on.

One of the worst things is to find a desirable packet which some previous collector has written across, particularly in ink which is irremovable without damaging the printed surface. This was usually done by cigarette card collectors in the days when packet collecting was virtually unknown and our treasures had no value other than as storage for their cards. I guess this absolves them from criminal responsibility, but what disappointments it has caused us modem day packeteers. I once came upon what had been a wonderful condition 5 for a penny packet of Cohen Weenen Bandmaster which had overwritten right across the front in heavy ink "Players Struggles For Existence". This really adds insult to injury for anyone with knowledge of cigarette cards for that is the most worthless, common or garden series of cards issued and even 80 years later is still readily available for a pound or two.


Packet fronts cut off.

Very common before cigarette packet collecting really got going was the habit of cutting out the front design from packets. This gave them the resemblance of cigarette cards and they were often stored in albums alongside cards. I once had a call from a dealer very excited at finding in an album what he thought were two unrecorded and rare Goodbody advertising cards. It turned out that they were the back and front panels cut from a Jolly Briton pack. What a terrible waste! After cigarette cards

G. day - Chester & Wrexham c1920

were discontinued during WWII many children turned to cutting the fronts from packets to keep their collecting going. At least by then the packets being defaced were of less value later. I know of one or two wonderful collections of early and rare packet fronts and would not want to diminish them in any way. I am always agonised when viewing tern by thinking "if only".



Packs that have had the glue tab cut off.

When I started collecting packs in the late 1960s it was common practice for collectors to open hull and slide packets for storage and display flat. This was perfectly understandable as kept three dimensionally large collections would be unacceptably bulky and anyway the packs look very nice with the whole label design shown in one view. Many collectors still keep their treasures this way and having done so myself for many years I have no problem at all with it. Unfortunately, novice collectors have often been unaware of methods of opening packs safely by soaking or heating and have simply cut them along one corner to achieve the result. Later collectors have tidied them up by soaking them and thrown away the offcut glue tab or in some cases re-attached it with a strip of paper.



Live packets which had the contents thrown away.

Hard to believe now, but when I started collecting, live packs were of limited interest and were regarded by many as just a nuisance. I know of a number of collectors in the past who have simply thrown cigarettes away in order to be able to flatten the packets and include them in their collections. To my own knowledge this fate has befallen a number of quite rare packs and to my eternal shame I have to admit to occasionally being guilty myself. As awareness of the value of complete full packets grew, I still emptied out the cigarettes to flatten the packets, but at least I kept them safe so that they could be restored later.

Slides thrown away.

This was very common until quite recently and still happens even now. As mentioned earlier it was the custom to flatten packets and this left the problem of what to do with the slide. A few collectors stored them separately and a few stored them flattened out and tucked in behind the hull, but the majority were simply thrown away. In particular plain slides were regarded as not worth keeping as they had nothing printed on them anyway. Interestingly when packs are sold on they are usually reassembled and if the original slide is missing it is common for a new one to be fashioned

from card to strength and appearance. Often the first thing the new owner does is to flatten the packet out again. Some old packs must have been soaked open many times during their life times. It is quite common to open a pack and find writing or marks inside made by a previous owner. Dealers seem to feel that packs will realise a better sale when assembled, but biggest problem with this can arise when a careless choice of adhesive is made to rejoin it. I have seen packs boiled by gluing with modem pva adhesives which leave strings of rubbery substance. Even worse can be the effects of sticky tape. I even came upon quite a rare old pack once that had been rejoined with a liquid metal glue dark grey in colour and oozing from the edges. Presumably it was all that was to hand at the time.


I do not mean any insult or offence to collectors by this little article. Times and opinions change over the years and most of us can look back now and wonder why on earth we did some of the things we did. It's all part of the fun of collecting.

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