Children love to collect things, swap things and play games to win things from other children’s collections. It didn’t take long after cigarette cards were first produced in 1887 for children to realise that they were a collectible commodity. Children would ask adults for the cards from their cigarette packets.
Frank Hughes (born 1902) remembers playing flick cards with friends in Wimbledon in 1913. The game involved ‘Flipping [cards] up against a wall and the nearest one would win the cigarette cards.’ Norman Douglas collected the rules to over 30 games played with these cards. He explains boys in particular were
"…so keen on these picture-games that you can see them playing at half-past six in the morning and after nine at night; and in the rain too; and when they have no fag-pictures they try to play the same games with bus tickets and then, if you’re not very careful, you can hear some shocking bad swear-word which they pick up I can’t think where, because bus tickets bend too easily and won’t fly as they should."
Cigarette cards reached their peak of popularity in the 1930s. However, in 1939 paper shortages halted their widespread production. After the Second World War, tea cards took over and in the 1990 trading card games, like Pokémon, were introduced and remain hugely popular with children today.