#throwbackthursday

 

GOT/GOT/NEED: THE HISTORY OF STICKERS AND TRADING CARDS

For many of us, trading cards are a throwback to childhood, to card albums we could never complete and to the inevitable 'got/got/need' trading sessions at school recess. With this in mind we're introducing #ThrowBackThursday, and we look back to discover new features in some of our favourite products. Today we'll talk about stickers and trading cards. Born as marketing tools, they became collectors' items only later. We'll take a look at their origins, at the Liebig 'case' and at Italian publisher Panini, inseparably linked to the history of trading cards.

BIRTH AND DIFFUSION

The first trading cards originated in France, in the second half of the XIXth century. They spread quickly to the rest of Europe and the USA, thanks to the prolific combination of chromolithography printing and the demand for advertising generated by the industrial revolution.

XIXth century trading cards differed from contemporary ones in many aspects. They were small colour prints featuring advertising messages, distributed by shops and department stores to their customers, to induce them to visit again. Seeing the formula's success, several printers began to use ad hoc images, with details alluding to the retailer's business, or cartouches and blank areas where the store's name could be inserted.
Chocolate producers were among the manufacturers who chose trading cards as an advertising medium, including Sprüngli, Stollwerck, Nestlé and Suchard.

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The cards were mostly anonymous, but in some instances it's possible to track down their illustrations' author: this is the case for the Ricqlès mint liqueur cards, designed by French artist René Préjelan.

Ad for Ricqlès Mint Alcohol, Paris-Lyon, 1900-04
Courtesy Museo della Figurina
Ad for Sprüngli, Zurich
Courtesy Museo della Figurina

THE LIEBIG CASE

The history of trading cards would doubtlessly not have been the same without the essential contribution of the company that more than any other linked its name to printed cards: Liebig, from Germany, producer of the highly renowned - at the time at least - beef extract.

Initially Liebig used readily available chromolithographies, and subsequently modified them according to its requirements (a very common practice in those days, a typical example of which was the replacing of a cake with the highly distinctive beef extract jar). In the end Liebig had them designed exclusively for its customers. Often Liebig commissioned the designs to celebrated artists, who were forbidden to sign their work.

Liebig didn't produce only cards, but a huge variety of gadgets and printed objects, such as menu cards, table placeholders, coasters, calendars and sundry items. Yet it was trading cards which became Liebig's main advertising medium. Though initially they were distributed only sporadically, 1,871 iconographic card series in several languages were published between approximately 1874 and 1975. In the Liebig cards golden era alone, approximately between 1890 and 1910, 755 series were published, printed in 45 million copies, totalling over 250 million cards.

Ad for Liebig, 1878-83
Courtesy Museo della Figurina
Ad for Liebig, 1878-83
Courtesy Museo della Figurina
Ad for Liebig, London, 1902
Courtesy Museo della Figurina

MODERN TRADING CARDS

Italy was left suffering, defeated and divided at the end of WW2. Sport acted as a kind of national glue: the extraordinary feats of road cyclists Coppi and Bartali, the legendary adventure of 'Grande Torino', the great Turin football team, gave back to Italians their enthusiasm and willingness to dream, as well as providing new icons in which to identify.

The roots of modern trading cards lie in the mood of those times, the cards gradually shedding their advertising function. Once again it was sport that provided the impulse. Small but highly enterprising publishers gave a free rein to their creativity and experimented with new initiatives. In a few years, trading cards rose to the rank of a distinct publishing genre.

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The first Panini-branded football trading cards collection was called Calciatori (Footballers) and saw the light at the start of the 1961-62 season. The card album was a rough and ready product, but it already featured the elements that in the following years would turn it into a publishing sensation. This was how Edizioni Panini (Panini publishers) was born. Their leading card collections are of course those related to football and sports; in the meantime, other publishers dedicated their card albums to highly popular anime TV cartoons, such as Mazinga Zeta.

Mazinga Z, 1980
Courtesy Museo della Figurina

In the pioneering period, each Serie A (the top professional football tier) team was represented by 14 players only, the cards often hand-coloured from images reproduced from black and white pictures. The Serie B (the second tier) first appeared in the 1963-64 season, while in 1967-68 the crests of third-tier teams, the Serie C, arrived on the scene, as silver-laminated stickers.

From the 1971-72 season onwards all the cards were of the sticker type. The old cards' 'tactile' appeal, apparently one of the collectors' pleasures, was totally lost, but they lead the way to a product that would soon become just as iconic: sticker cards.

Page and cover for Panini Stickers, 1972
Courtesy Museo della Figurina

The Fabulous Pixartprinting Time Machine is an editorial project developed by Pixartprinting. our goal is to present our products in a new, unexpected light: for this second episode we joined forces with Modena’s Museo della Figurina who kindly opened their amazing archive to grant us all of the images featured in this article.

License: Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives 4.0

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