The World of Playing Cards Logo
Published February 24, 2023 Updated June 08, 2024

74: The Wills/Waddington gift scheme

The scheme to promote playing cards as gifts by means of inserts in Wills' cigarette packets apparently saved Waddington from their financial problems in 1931. Here are some details of the cards involved.

1932 United Kingdom Mardon Tobacco Wills Add to Collection

There is another article on this site dealing with the Wills scheme run by Waddington from 1932-34. However, John Berry, in his book on the Waddington Archive, gives details of the back designs, their makers and the numbers of packs produced from a production list that he found there. There are omissions, as he could only work with what was held in the Archive, but I thought it was worthwhile putting together as much detail as possible with illustrations of the cards involved.

Below is an example of an order form used by Waddington, as held in the Archive.

The inserts

These were made by both Waddington and by the printing division of Imperial Tobacco, Mardon, Son & Hall. Some were numbered on the backs and some were specific to a particular brand of cigarette, e.g. Star.

Waddington print for Star cigarettes, numbered, on pink, produced at their Keighley factory from February 1932. Referred to as Tom Thumb. The total number of insert single cards produced was 425 million.

Mardon, Son & Hall production, blue backs, numbered. This example has an overprint on the back in red announcing the end date of the scheme: 28th February 1934. The total number of inserts made is given in John Berry's book as 1,200 million from a history of Wills, so the rest must have been made by Mardon.

The full-size packs

Some of these are identifiable, whereas others are missing from the Archive, so a bit of detective work is needed. Also, some of the packs are from the makers' ordinary output, rather than being made specifically for the scheme. There are three categories of gift: patience sets, bézique sets and full packs (both single and double boxes), so I'll look at them separately. As far as I can tell, Mardon, Son & Hall packs were only produced for the scheme and never sold over the counter to the general public (unless there were surplus packs at the end of the scheme).

Patience sets:

These are either by Mardon or De La Rue/Goodall. They seem to have no design reference numbers. Of the examples below the top row were produced by Mardon, the bottom row by De La Rue with Goodall ASs. The junk design was used well after the end of the scheme, even in the post-war period with Waddington courts.

Bézique sets:

These also seem to have been produced by Mardon or De La Rue/Goodall, in the latter case using packs from their normal range.

Three examples by De La Rue; note that the top ace is anonymous, whereas the middle one is De La Rue's and the bottom one is Goodall's. The top one is from a print run with the 8S upside-down (three over five).

Full packs:

These were provided initially by Waddington, but it became increasingly obvious that demand outstripped the capacity of one firm. As early as 1932 both De La Rue and Universal were invited to join in and produce some of the packs. Then Mardon produced their own packs to complement the output. In the list below I have given the reference numbers used in the ordering process that are to be found in the Waddington Archive. The suffix letters indicate colour variants of the design. Some are not related to an identifiable design either because John Berry doesn't give an illustration or even a verbal description of it or there is no example in the Archive, but one or two can be identified from other sources and the reference number assumed. I have also given the number of each pack ordered as given in the records, some of which had repeat orders. Given the overall numbers of packs involved, it isn't surprising that we still see plenty of them today, even in an unused state.

All the packs below are by Waddington unless otherwise stated. The Waddington packs are of one of two types: the cheaper grade printed at Keighley by photogravure in black and gold or silver with the associated courts, and the more expensive packs printed in Leeds with a different set of courts. The latter seem to have worn quite quickly, presumably because of the large number of packs being produced, so two slightly different versions of the courts can be discerned. It's quite possible that extreme wear on these plates led to the introduction of a redrawn set of courts some time around 1935, which were used in more expensive packs, but not in the Wills scheme.

W5 courts from Keighley

W2.1 courts from Leeds

W2.11 worn plates, which may have been retouched; in particular, the collar of the JH is the same both ends with small green squares, unlike in W2.1, where there is an elongated bar at one end.

The edges were usually gold or silver, but occasionally mixed colouring was used, e.g. gold and green, or silver and blue.

1001A/E: 50,000 each

1002B

1002A: 50,000

1002B: 50,000

1003A

1003A: 75,000

1003I: 25,000

1004A/C/D: 50,000 each

1004E: 15,000

1005C?

1005C/D/E: 50,000 A possible candidate for this design, plus box.

1006B/D: 50,000

Box for 1007A

Box for 1007C

1007A/C: 50,000

1008A & B: 70,000

1009A & B: 50,000

1010A & B: 50,000

1011A?

1011B?

1011A/B: 50,000 each. These are possible candidates for the design, given the descriptions of the colour schemes in John Berry's list. In the lower example, which was originally unopened, the AS and AC have been packed upside-down, though the back seems to be double-ended, i.e. has no right way up.

1011C/D: 60,000 each. These are both described as being red + gold on yellow, with different coloured boxes in each case.

1012A/B: 50,000 each

1013A

1013B

1013A: 50,000 by De La Rue

1013B: 50,000

1014B

1014A: 100,000

1014B: 100,000. Note that the example above is from the Ascot series, which was introduced into Waddington's normal range in July 1933. I don't know whether the 100,000 given in the orders for Wills includes packs destined for the Ascot series as well.

1015A

1015B

1015B, earlier version with no frame

1015A: 100,000

1015B: 100,000

1016B?

1016A: 50,000

1016B: 50,000. The image above is a possible candidate for the correct design; A is the green and gold version.

1016D/E: 50,000 each, marked as by De La Rue; D is blue and gold, E red and gold.

1017A/B

1017A: 50,000 printed by Universal PCCo.

1017B: 50,000 printed by Waddington

1017D: 75,000 as A, but printed by Waddington on pink board.

1017E: 50,000 as B, but printed on blue board.

1018B?

1018C?

1018B: 84,500 by De La Rue

1018C: 88,000 by De La Rue. The above examples are likely candidates for this design.

1019D

1019D (later printing, 1934)

1019C: 118,000

1019D: 112,000. There was a slight colour change in the last order for these in February 1934, in which pink is replaced by white.

1020C

1020B: 50,000

1020C: 50,000

1021A/B: 50,000 each

1022A/B: 50,000 each. Designs 1021 and 1022 seem to be single-colour designs on white board printed at Keighley.

1025E: 60,000 by De La Rue

1025K: 45,000 by De La Rue

1027B/H: 50,000 each

1029B

1029G

1029B: 50,000 by Universal. Note the tax wrapper is a Waddington one, so they must have been packed at Waddington's factory.

1029G: 50,000 by Waddington at the Leeds factory. These are the designs referred to in the order above from 17th November 1932. The design is incorrectly described as "Chinese sampan" (a small boat with oars), whereas it is, in fact, a Chinese junk.

1035A/1036A: 100,000 each, both in four colours + silver

1037

1037: 150,000

1038: 150,000 in full colour + white

1039

1040

1039: 185,000. Note the later joker, which may indicate that this example is from the second order from April 1934

1040: 185,000, the brown and blue butterfly design.

The following designs have no reference number.

Nell Gwynne

Nell Gwynne: 100,000

Charles II

Charles II: 100,000

Pheasant and Mallard

Pheasant: 85,000

Mallard: 85,000

There is one design that I can't attribute a number to yet. I know it in four colour schemes, which I can't align with any of the descriptions in John Berry's list from the Archive, and there are only two designs marked as being printed by Universal (Alf Cooke).

Other designs, by De La Rue/Goodall and Mardon, were used in the scheme, but no record of these appear to be included in the Waddington Archive. Most of the Mardon designs are well known and must have been produced in the same kind of quantities as those by Waddington. I give a few examples by each maker below.

De La Rue/Goodall

Mardon, Son & Hall

A few designs and the box used for single packs.

Universal

It's very difficult to tell whether Universal used other designs from their normal range. The design below is in a box also used by De La Rue, with a matching back stuck to it, which suggests the cards were used as gifts in the scheme, but they are not mentioned in John Berry's list. There's also a blue version.

I shall add more images, as and when I get them.



avatar
137 Articles

By Ken Lodge

Member since May 14, 2012

​I'm Ken Lodge and have been collecting playing cards since I was about eighteen months old (1945). I am also a trained academic, so I can observe and analyze reasonably well. I've applied these analytical techniques over a long period of time to the study of playing cards and have managed to assemble a large amount of information about them, especially those of the standard English pattern. About Ken Lodge →

1 comments

Alex Clays's Avatar'

Love this article! So difficult to tell the maker if you do not have a full deck.

Some of these backs came not only as full sized but also in patience size.

I believe the Geisha girls patience deck might have been made by Waddingtons as I have the deck wrapped in cellophane and with a golden seal, as required on the depicted letter.


Leave a Reply


Related Articles

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

A limited edition art print of the King of Diamonds 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

A limited edition art print of the 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

A limited edition art print of the Jack of Hearts 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Queen of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

1875 Hand-drawn transformation cards, c1875

Hand-drawn transformation cards, c1875

A complete set of hand-drawn transformation cards from c1875, using a standard De La Rue pack.

Classification of Numeral Card Designs in French-suited packs

Classification of Numeral Card Designs in French-suited packs

The classification of numeral cards in French-suited packs, covering various pip designs in over 400...

The Douce Collection

The Douce Collection

The Douce Collection of playing cards in the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

The Henry Hart Puzzle

The Henry Hart Puzzle

Explore the intricate history and unique design variations of Henry Hart's playing cards, tracing th...

Playing Card Research Archives maintained by The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards

Playing Card Research Archives maintained by The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards

The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards maintains an extensive archive of materials from n...

1983 The Art of Erté

The Art of Erté

Luxury playing cards displaying artwork by Erté, published in 1983 by Sobranie of London.

2006 The Chamber of 52 Cards

The Chamber of 52 Cards

Playing cards published by Peter Wood as a tribute to the rock band Genesis.

1985 Atout Cœur!

Atout Cœur!

Poster designs by children for an anti-smoking campaign in the Midi-Pyrenées region of France.

1675 English cards from the reign of Charles II

English cards from the reign of Charles II

This article explores a historic pack of English playing cards from circa 1675, likely used by King ...

Introduction to Collecting Themes

Introduction to Collecting Themes

Playing cards can be broadly categorised into standard and non-standard designs, with collectors app...

1961 Sweetule Natural History cards

Sweetule Natural History cards

Small cards featuring natural history subjects, given away with packets of sweet cigarettes.

1875 Lend Me Five Shillings

Lend Me Five Shillings

or “Her Majesty’s Privy Purse” - a merry round-the-table game published by D. Ogilvy.

1875 Laughing Made Easy

Laughing Made Easy

a Victorian card game published by D. Ogilvy.

2002 Classic Card Games for Kids

Classic Card Games for Kids

A boxed set of playing cards, Happy Families and an alphabet pack with rules for 22 games.

1904 So-Lah – A Game of Music

So-Lah – A Game of Music

An early 20th century domino-type musical card game by Goodall.

2018 Marmite

Marmite

Fifty-Four images celebrating a UK savoury spread, that has been around one hundred and twenty two y...

1877 Word Making and Word Taking

Word Making and Word Taking

How crossword and spelling games became popular.

2021 Film Noir

Film Noir

A deck of 55 cards, celebrating hard boiled heroes, wise-cracking women, mean streets, guns and gums...

2016 Science Fiction

Science Fiction

A deck of 55 cards, celebrating a time when Science Fiction truly was, Science Fiction.

2004 The Beatles playing cards

The Beatles playing cards

Two packs featuring photos of The Beatles issued by the same publisher in 2004 and 2005.

1991 Costume Playing Cards

Costume Playing Cards

Four centuries of costumes from the Costume Court at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

2020 Commoners playing cards

Commoners playing cards

Created by Ian Cumpstey dedicated to the common land and the countryside.

2019 Liber Ludorum

Liber Ludorum

Liber Ludorum playing cards created by Ian Cumpstey in the insular style, United Kingdom, 2019.

2018 Pike and Clover playing cards

Pike and Clover playing cards

Pike and Clover playing cards created by Ian Cumpstey, Cumbria, UK, 2018.

2023 Inglewood Hunting Deck

Inglewood Hunting Deck

Inglewood Hunting Deck created by Ian Cumpstey, United Kingdom, 2023.

2010 Pin-Ups

Pin-Ups

A deck of 55 cards celebrating a golden age of cheeky, naughty, bold and curvy ladies in film.

2008 Classic Movie Posters

Classic Movie Posters

A deck of 55 cards presenting vintage classic movies and their stars.

2014 That’s Entertainment

That’s Entertainment

A deck of 55 cards celebrating 20th Century vaudeville, musicals and cabaret.

1981 British Monarchs

British Monarchs

Commemorating the royal wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer on the 29th

2005 Rock & Pop Legends

Rock & Pop Legends

Stunning photos of a selection of US and UK music artists.

2004 The Beatles • Yellow Submarine

The Beatles • Yellow Submarine

A colourful deck celebrating the 1968 animated feature film based on the Lennon/McCartney song of th...

1999 Dutch Court playing cards

Dutch Court playing cards

Games & Print Services’ version of the Dutch pattern.

2013 Past Masters’ Association Presentation Pack

Past Masters’ Association Presentation Pack

The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards Past Masters’ Association Presentation Pack, 2013....

The Search for New Games in the late 19<sup>th</sup> century

The Search for New Games in the late 19th century

A few new games survived and are still around today; most came and went and are only witnessed in th...

1904 Miniature Card Dominoes

Miniature Card Dominoes

A miniature set of Goodall domino cards (5.9 x 3.5 cms) still in perfect condition.

1875 T. Drayton & Son

T. Drayton & Son

Bezique and Whist boxed sets by T. Drayton & Son, London, c.1875.

2011 Colour doodle deck

Colour doodle deck

“1952-2002 commemorative deck” customised with doodles by an uncredited artist, UK, 2011.

2020 Alice in Wonderland: we’re all mad here

Alice in Wonderland: we’re all mad here

Alice in Wonderland themed playing cards, UK, 2020.

2023 Wren 300 playing cards

Wren 300 playing cards

Papercuts by Chloe Campbell of the 52 Wren churches in the City of London.

2023 Marlow playing cards

Marlow playing cards

Visitor attractions and businesses to be found in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.