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Aston Villa: On Cigarette and Trade Cards Paperback – 1 Nov 1993
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This is the third book on Aston Villa Football Club by Derrick Spinks. The book traces the history of the cigarette and trade card from before the turn of the century. All the cards have pictures of each player on the front and descriptions of the players on the back. Many seldom seen cards from the likes of Sherman Pools and newspaper and magazine issues as well as tobacco issues from Taddy to Woods, finishing off with the gum and candy issues of Chix, Bassett and Barrett.
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It's such a shame because the author probably knew all of this, and but for the fact that it was designed as a pure photo book, it could have been the definitive word on this area of collecting. The imagery is good, the backs of most cars are included, and the overall idea is great.
The lack of commentary and listings is a major flaw. I do know, even from my limited knowledge that there are gaps, but the extent of the gaps is unknowable. To add to the sense of frustration, the chronology is blurred - page 85 for example has a card featuring Gerry Hitchens next-but-one to Paul Rideout - and the absence of dates means there is uncertainty over what goes where.
On the subject of missing cards, readers should be aware that there are no A&BC or Topps cards included in the book, despite the title which implies these common trading cards would feature. Another complaint is the inclusion of a small percentage of cards which feature players who are either future or past Villa men, but who at the point of issue were representing other clubs. This is strange beyond comprehension - if the idea is to include everyone who ever played for the club, the book would be ten times the size. But just a smattering are included, of course without any notes or explanation. So, on page 85 we see a card for Steve Foster, representing Brighton and wearing an England kit. I guess he must also have played for Villa at some stage. Similarly, on pages 11-12 we see a lovely range of old cards from Cope's, but close scruitiny reveals that Hardy represents Liverpool, Ducat represents Arsenal, and Brawn represents Chelsea. Are there any missing Villa cards? Who knows? And are there any other past/future Villa men in the set, not pictured here? Probably.
Had those unnecessary cards, which are surely only a fraction of the total number in existence been left out, we would have had space left for some annotation - exactly what the book needs!
It's a good compendium if you want to look at pictures and recall great players from days gone by (even if most are beyond most people's memory). The very clear and readable card backs are a definite plus, and the quality of paper and printing are more than adequate. Having these illustrations is a help in identifying cards spotted on for sale on the internet, although one has to search thoroughly to locate a given card, since there is no indexing system. Experts may enjoy it more than those, like me, hoping to learn the hard details about the scope of Villa cards which ought to make up our collections.