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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Cards And Cigars

By Dick Martin

( Article orginally published September 1962 )

A fascinating sideline to any collection is the "association item." For the playing card collector there are a number of these interesting bypaths. They cover a myriad of objects, from advertising pieces and catalogs issued by card manufacturers, to china and jewelry decorated with playing card motifs.

Particularly desirable are old cigar box labels-and there are many enthusiastic collectors of these items of Americana. Decks of cards issued as cigarette and tobacco inserts in the 1880's and 1890''s are highly prized treasures in playing card collections, and cigar box labels of the same period, with playing card designs, iare logical companion pieces. These are comparatively scarce, which should be a challenge to any collector!

The five examples illustrated are the only ones the writer has been able to find. "'Trio Club" (1901), "Lone IBill" (1901), "Good Hand" (1900), and "Colonial Puffs" (1905) were all produced by the American Lithographic Company, one of the largest turn-of-the-century houses specializing in fine chromolithography, "Game," circa 1895, was issued by the 0. L. Schwenke Company.

The cigar box label was the apogee of the chromolithographer's art. The finest artists iand craftsmen of their day were employed by the large lithographic houses, and no expense was spared in making their products as lavish as possible. Many were elaborately embossed and embellished with real gold-leaf.

The artists worked directly upon the lithographic stones from which the labels were printed. They achieved subtleties in shading by a painstaking "stipple" technique, sometimes spending up to 20 hours of work on a single stone-and for the more elaborate pieces, as many as 10 or 12 stones had to be prepared; one for each color of ink used in the printing. It is no wonder that the finest process-color photography employed by the printers of today cannot equal the richness and brilliance of the old "chromo" prints that used to decorate boxes of cigars.

Antique Cigar Box Labels

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