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Cigarette Cards were issued by tobacco manufacturers both to protect the cigarettes by stiffening the pack, and also to gain customer loyalty to their particular brand of cigarettes. The cards depicting actresses, baseball players, Indian chiefs, and boxers issued in 1875 by Allen & Ginter cigarette brands, Richmond Straight Cut No. 1 and Pet are considered the first modern promotion scheme for any manufactured product as well as one of the first collectibles.

Most other tobacco companies followed suit. Some very early cigarette cards were printed on silk which was then attached to a paper backing. Each set of cards typically consisted of 25 or 50 related subjects, for example famous football players, Boy Scouts or British butterflies. They were discontinued in order to save paper during World War II, and never fully reintroduced thereafter.

The most famous single cigarette card came from American Tobacco's Sweet Caporal cigarettes and showed baseball player Honus Wagner[?], Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop (now a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame). Wagner objected to publication of the card, either because he did not want to promote cigarette smoking by children or because he was not being paid, or both. At any rate, the card was withdrawn and at most a few dozen remain in existence. Its value is in the range of $200,000 to $600,000. Recently a different Wagner cigar card, made when he was a minor-leaguer with the Louisville, Kentucky Colonels has surfaced. Only one of these is known to exist.

Perhaps the most famous, and sought-after, set of cards is the untitled series of cards issued by Taddy[?] and known by collectors as "Clowns and Circus Artistes". While not the rarest cards in existence (there are a number of series in which only one known example remains), they are still very rare and command high prices whenver they come up for auction.

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