The home of the Cartophilic Society of Great Britain

Welcome to South Africa

Welcome to South Africa










Please Contact : 
Murray Morrison

or write: 
P.O.Box 22082, Fish Hoek, 2974, South Africa.

We hope you enjoy visiting our South African Branch – in its virtual format. Our featured card is by Taddy & Co, one of the most famous and collectable issuers. This set is “Boer Leaders”, issued in 1901. 

Let’s start our story of South African Cartophily with this link to the history of tobacco in South Africa; a great read and the perfect way of giving you some background knowledge:


May we also direct you to an article on the military history of South Africa, as viewed on cigarette cards. Written by Dr C Mazansky, and complete with illustrations, this appeared in the Military History Journal of December 1989, but now available online at:

There were two main issuers of cards in South Africa.
A short history of both appear here, plus the beginnings of a card gallery after each…

For the purposes of this article, card sizes are approximately as follows:
STANDARD – 82 x 41mm : MEDIUM – 63 X 44 mm : LARGE – 81 x 57 mm


The earliest cards so far known to have been issued by this company show the “South African Rugby Football Team, 1912-1913”. These were issued in 1912 as a standard sized set of 29 cards, commemorating the Rugby Union Tour of Europe, a series of friendly games during which the South African side played England, Scotland, Ireland, and France, as well as several matches against smaller teams; similar to the previous tour of 1906. Many commemorative items, especially postcards and ephemera, were produced and it is likely that African Tobacco thought they may as well join in to raise awareness of their own product.

It was not until after WW1, in 1919, that different cards were produced. These showed “South African Members of Legislative Assembly”, and were medium sized cards. 125 different subjects are known, so far. In 1922 a set of “Animals” arrived – a standard sized set of 60, but issued in two different printings.

The following year was a bumper year for cards, all standard sized; “Chinese Transport” (a set of 50), “Houses of Parliament”, a most attractive coloured set of un-numbered cards which each have a shield shaped flag inset to the front, and descriptive backs giving location, area, number of inhabitants, Capital, and Chief Industries (33 cards so far known). Also issued in 1923 were the following sets which really need a paragraph each.

Lets start with a very unusual pair, “Arcadia Fair” – and – “The Race Course”, two standard sized sets each of 25 cards, both coloured and un-bordered which make a large sectionalised picture when spread out on a smooth surface like a square jigsaw. The reverses are pretty much the same on both sets, the only difference being line three of the text which either ends with “there are” or “there”. The entire text tells the whole story: “This card is one of a series of 25, which, if placed in the proper order, will form a complete “Arcadia Fair” (or “Race Course”) scene. There are no numbers on the cards to indicate any order in which they are to be arranged – that is left to your own ingenuity.” Both of these sets were issued in 1923, and have the same green background, and we have always wondered if they were not intended to make one really huge picture combining both sets! What do you think? For ease of comparison we have added their pictures in the text here as well as in the gallery below.

The Arcadia Fair

The Arcadia Fair

The Race Course

The Race Course







Another important group is “Cinema Stars”, – two standard sized sets each of 50 cards which, in dealers catalogues and auctions are usually given the acronym of [OMBI]. This acronym simply means that an identical set was issued by more than one manufacturer; in this case the letters stand for Officers Mess (the African Tobacco Manufacturers brand with which these cards were issued), Bucktrout (of Guernsey) and Indo–Egyptian Cigarette Company (Cheribon). A first and second series were issued by each manufacturer. As an interesting sideline, the bottom border of the first series reads “BY COURTESY OF “PICTURES” NEWSPAPER (ENGLAND)”, a film-star magazine that closed in July 1922. Even more interestingly, some of the pictures from the cigarette cards also appear in a set of postcards issued by that magazine under the title of “Pictures” Portrait Gallery. Watch this space for a comparison photo. The second set does not credit the magazine, but number one of those cigarette cards also appears in the postcard set (its Will Rogers – PPG #10/204 ).

Towards the end of 1923 and early into 1924 standard sized cards, of “Miniatures” were issued. There are about 58 cards known, so possibly a set of 60 with some still to find.

This was the last standard sized set iaside by African Tobacco Manufacturers. And it was not until 1926 that four sets of medium sized, hand coloured, real photographic cards, 48 cards per set, took their place in the cigarette packets. These had very similar back designs and covered “British Aircraft”– “Cinema Artistes”– “National Costumes”– and – “Popular Dogs”. This last set was certainly the most popular with the public, and it remains the most expensive of the four in dealers catalogues today.

It seems fitting that the first large sized cards to be issued were to mark the “All Blacks South African Tour, 1928” – a set of 29 cards. Intriguingly, in the same year, they issued five other large sized sets, all silks, with printed paper backs; these were “Some Beautiful Roses” (set of 30), “Types of British Birds” (set of 25), “Types of British Butterflies” (set of 20), “Types of Railway Engines” (set of 25), and “Types of Sea Shells” (set of 25). The first two seem to be more readily available and are often found as complete sets – the final three are usually a case of buying a part set and completing it rather slowly. The Railway Engine set is most attractive, but strangely still quite unknown to many locomotive collectors, and we can think of no other silks featuring Railway Engines.. The backs can be rather lightly printed, so until we master the scanner only a sample front of each will appear in our second African Tobacco gallery below; the reason for the two galleries simply being that the silks belong to, and have been catalogued by someone else, in a much more scholarly way, and so they are out of order when added to the gallery below!

Around this time African Tobacco also issued two sets of “Playing Cards”, one have MP backs, the other SCOTS. They are seldom found as a complete pack these days, more usually as single type cards in playing-card collectors collections.

The 1930s started with a very popular medium sized set of 100 cards, entitled “Postage Stamps – Rarest Varieties”. This is one to look out for if you are also a philatelist as it shows a range of postage stamps, along with their values as at the time of printing.

There was a gap after this, but African Tobacco were again spurred into card production by a Rugby Tour, this time issuing a set to record the “Prominent New Zealand & Australian Rugby Players & Springbok 1937 Touring Team” – this was a set of 80 cards, issued in medium and large sized formats with two versions of each available. The complexity of sorting this out undoubtedly contributed to the fact it is scarce as complete sets. However it seemed a popular way to issue cards as the next two sets were also produced in a medium sized and a large sized format; these were the 1938 series of “Famous and Beautiful Women – a set of 50 cards showing renowned beauties from the past – and the 1939 series of “The World of Sport” – a set of 100 cards, issued with Officers Mess Cigarettes. Do look out for its special album, in which the cards would have been displayed in a very attractive slanted fashion. Again the cards and album are bi-lingual, Afrikaans and English. The latter seems to be readily available as a full set of the large cards, albeit highly priced, but the medium size cards are quite scarce.

The last issue, just as the world changed forever, was the 1939 “Caravaning in South Africa – a medium sized set of 100 cards. No more cards were issued after 1940. We imagine War stopped their production, as it stopped the dreams of many of their smokers.

We have not yet come across much information about this company. But if there is a collector or researcher out there who can fill in the empty spaces in our historical album, please contact us.

A sample front and back from all of these sets will eventually appear below in our card gallery. Just click on any card that pleases you and it will appear much larger on the screen. By moving your cursor to the left or right on that larger card you can progress through the entire gallery in either a backwards or forwards route.




A huge output of cards here, and they issued many more sets beneath the British American Tobacco umbrella, including cards with un-named decorative backs, or with totally plain backs.

United Tobacco started issuing cards in 1910, with a large sized series of 65 “Silk Flags of All Nations”, and two very scarce large sized series “Conundrums” and “Nursery Rhymes”; less than 20 cards are known from the first series and less than 10 of the second.

Ozaka`s System of Self Defence

Ozaka`s System of Self Defence

The following year saw the issue of this most unusual set “Ozaka`s System of Self Defence”, 60 extra large cards, each printed in three different versions. The one we show right also advertises the famous `Springbok` Brand. Its certainly intriguing, though not very colourful.

In 1912, they also commemorated the 1912-1913 Springboks, just as African Tobacco had, with a series of 28 cards, plus issued a most unusual set of at least 70 extra large “Triangular Test Cricketers”. The following year, more silk flowers, a first and second series of South African native flora; then the small set of 10 cards, intriguingly named, and just as strange to look at, “Silhouettes of M.L.A`s” followed in 1914, along with the most charming “Merrie England Studies”, 30 standard sized cards which would grace any collection.

The 1920s saw more sporting sets (40 plain back “Cricketers & Their Autographs”, “South African Cricket Touring Team”, found in an autographed and plain format, surprisingly the autographed cards are less valuable! And “Race Horses – South Africa”, though the second series was delayed and did not appear until 1930. Also, the very attractive “All Sports Series”). Plus nature series (“Wild Flowers of South Africa”, “Animals and Birds”, “South African Birds”, and a set of 25 “Studdy Dogs”, from work by George Studdy and featuring his famous canine cutie “Bonzo” –  this set is not so well known as it ought to be.) And more silks (“British Butterflies”, “Old Masters” [paintings], “Pottery Types”, and “British Roses”). Plus series also found by other UK issuers (check out “Children of All Nations” and “The Story of Sand”, both also issued by Ogdens, and “Merchant Ships of the World”, also issued by WD & HO Wills. To name but a few. ) We must not ignore a very attractive set of 50 “Motor Cars”, or two sets of 50 “Stereoscopic Photographs”, one being devoted to views of South Africa. We have not come across a specific UTC branded viewer for these so it is likely they were happy that their collectors used commercially produced ones.

Production increased through the 1930s. The same themes as before, but also “Arms and Crests of Universities and Schools in South Africa”, “Eminent Film Personalities”, “Famous Figures from S.A. History” (though the latter issued without brand or manufacturer name).

Springbok Rugby and Cricket Teams 1931

Springbok Rugby and Cricket Teams 1931

There was also a most informative and attractive set of 52 large sized “Boy Scout, Girl Guide and Voortrekker Badges” which deserves to be added to more scouting albums, and two series of large cards – a set of 47 “Springbok Rugby and Cricket Teams” issued in 1931, (shown left), and a set of 62 to commemorate the “British Rugby Tour of South Africa” in 1938.

Look out too for a range of miniature playing cards from 1938, which immortalise their brand names, “Flag”, “Lifeboat”, “Lotus”, “Needlepoint” and, unsurprisingly “Rugger”; this last brand is also featured on a rather scarce set of cigarette card dominoes. Perhaps other brands also issued these but they have not survived. Strangely none have been found with “Springbok” brand – yet…

During the 1930s they also produced a fantastic selection of cards which were intended to be stuck in the numbered spaces in special albums. Many of these were bilingual, Afrikaans and English, and the albums were hard back, book-quality, in fact they often turn up today in book shops, the proprietors not realising they were actually issued with cigarettes. There is a very enjoyable article about a family memory of these cards and albums at:

South African Defence

South African Defence

But war clouds were gathering, and though they were still producing sets and albums through late 1930s and into the first years of WW2, the subjects were changing to include topical military sets “Aeroplanes of To-Day”, “Medals and Decorations of the British Commonwealth of Nations”, “Pictures of South Africa’s War Effort”, “Regimental Uniforms”, “Warriors of all Nations”, and “South African Defence”, which provides us with this amazing card of gas-masked gunnery.

Their last sets were issued in 1942; two sets of “Our South African Birds”, perhaps hoping wistfully for a time when one day binoculars would only be used to scan the skies for approaching feathered friends.


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