Baines Cards  





John Baines, of Bradford, began to produce his famous cricket and football cards in the 1880s and production continued until at least the 1920s when Baines sold his business. These cards were sold at a halfpenny a packet by all ‘respectable tobacconists, stationers and confectioners’ and were eagerly collected by small boys.

Being a Yorkshireman, Baines had carefully worked out how to make a profit from his little scheme. After the lads had saved up their hard-earned halfpennies and bought a packet of cards they were encouraged to carry on buying more because each week the fifty boys who were deemed to have the largest assortment of cards were given a free football jersey (like card collecting, replica shirts are nothing new). By working this way, John Baines had all the winners’ cards each week not to mention the unlucky losers’ collections. These could be immediately recycled and sold for yet more halfpennies.

This was not the only source of income as many of the cards bore advertisements for Pears Soap on the back, which, presumably, were paid for by the soap company. The idea was obviously a successful one because the cards were produced for about fifty years.

The cards came in many different shapes and sizes, and featured association football, rugby union, rugby league and cricket team illustrations. These ranged from the England cricket side and the South African Springboks down to small organisations such as Salford Trinity rugby league team and Wath-In-Nidd cricket club.

The early cards were generally of a shield shape and could be highly coloured or just two-toned. They bore the name of the team represented and often had a slogan such as ‘Play Up,’ Line Up.’ ‘Well Bowled,’ or ‘Well Hit’ and a portrait of a specifically named player or even a generic scene, which appeared on several cards. These portraits, like the clubs featured ranged from the famous to the now obscure. W.G. Grace was naturally a choice as were the likes of A.J. ‘Monkey’ Gould the famous Welsh three-quarter. The notion that Scotsmen are ‘careful’ seemed to have been around a century ago as a card featuring the West of Scotland rugby club bears as its slogan ‘Free Admission!’

Not surprisingly as the cards were produced in Bradford the majority of the teams seem to be from the northern counties. Some cards seem to represent non-existent teams. One card with a rugby scene had  the legend ‘Play Up Coseley.’ Coseley is a small town in the Black Country between Dudley and Wolverhampton, which does not seem to have ever had a rugby side. There are other errors such as a card bearing a picture of ‘J.F. Bryne’ and representing ‘Mossley’ which should be J.F. Byrne of Moseley. There is also at least one card showing John Baines himself so he was obviously not a shrinking violet!

The cards, which were produced in the 1920s, are not nearly as interesting possibly because they are the same shape and colour being either rugby, football or cricket ball shaped and in various shades of reddish brown. They also bear a slogan such as ‘Play Up’ or ‘Well Tackled’ together with the team name and a general scene in the centre.

Although John Baines claimed to be the ‘sole inventor and originator’ of these cards and, indeed, held a patent for them, W.N. Sharpe also of Bradford  produced similar cards. Sharpe also had a good claim in stating that he was ‘the largest football card printer in the world.’ This assertion also appeared on several Baines productions and as both sets of cards were published in the same city was W.N. Sharpe simply an alias of John Baines. 





Byrne Cigarette Card






More of these cards can be seen here