‘An A to Z of Football Collectibles’ by Carl Wilkes (2019)

PAGECRESTEvery once in a while a book comes along which you quite simply have to own or even just read; for every football card collector this is that book.

I have known the author for a few years now and have had many conversations and dealings with him in his capacity as overseer of the Football Soccer Cards website; indeed, many of the cards that you will find in the FOREIGN CARDS section of this website have been supplied by him, so I have first hand experience of his great knowledge about the subject. And now he has committed that knowledge and experience to print in this huge and very welcome tome.20219 A-Z of Football Collectibles Wilkes bookSo let’s begin with the blurb…

“An illustrated history of football trade cards, an epic saga of 1,000 brands and myriad collections. The A-Z traces the earliest cards and stickers – British inventions, both – through a century of sports cards from tobacco cards to Panini stickers, via everything that came in between: footballers issued with chewing gum and sweet cigarettes, lucky bag mementoes, football teams cut from packets of tea, and many more. It chronicles the epoch of our forefathers and the very first football cards, dating back to the 1880s, followed by the era of their children and the earliest stickers – and so the rise of cigarette cards and paper soccer star adhesives. These days, along with our Panini stickers and trading cards, we appreciate these vintage treasures not only for their beauty but also for their value. Fond recollections of childhood passions past and present will warm hearts, while enchanting galleries of rarely seen cards will captivate football fans and collectors alike. Incorporating a guide to values, the A-Z is priceless. Carl Wilkes helped create the football cards scene of today. In the 80s he penned articles on soccer cards. In the 90s he issued the first ever soccer cards journal. By 1996 he had the first football cards website in the world. As creator and publisher of the Football Card Collector Magazine he has contributed articles to numerous newspapers, periodicals and books. In 2018 he appeared on TV in Stuck On You: The Football Sticker Story.”

So what do you get for your money? Well, after the obligatory dedications and introduction outlining the difference between trade and trading cards, you get a very detailed chapter by chapter run through all of the major football card distributors – trade, trading and cigarette – outlining their history and issues, together with some of the more obscure foreign and anonymous releases. Numbers of cards in sets, design features, variations and a rough price guide together with lovely examples from almost every set discussed fill out each of these chapters which are, by definition, arranged in alphabetical order. Certain issues are accorded their own fulsome chapters – A&BC, Barratt, Baines and FKS to name but a few – as well as certain publications of yore, most usually the old boys’ papers (note NOT comics) from the 1920s and 1930s (Adventure, Champion, et alia). Each major chapter or section is then separated by a double page spread of various card issues all of which are hugely attractive and most definitely reward the time spent looking wistfully at them. 304 pages packed to the rafters with glorious football cards! Much of the joy comes through simply leafing through the pages looking for examples of cards that you might have or catching sight of an elusive card, or the one that you had never been able to identify until now, in my case Green Shield Footballers of 1933.

The prices/values stated by the author may be the cause of some consternation to general collectors rather than the more hardened variety; the often quite scary amounts bandied around certainly made this collector blink and even smile on occasion, but there can be no doubt that the author is correct when he suggests that card prices are most certainly rising as more and more of the available ones go underground into collectors’ albums and vaults (or slabs?) never to be seen again. I am certainly aware of some HTAFC cards that were once out there and were quite readily available but that I now have almost no hope of ever seeing let alone buying. And a word of caution which is mentioned at least twice in this book – the author has never lost a penny yet in his dealings with his customers;  just remember that when you buy from him! 😉

Finally there are appendices dealing with buying, including how to best use the internet; selling and how best to price your cards to make them more appealing; bidding and the joy of forcing up fellow bidders to reduce their spending power; people/auctioneers to trust; the storage of cards (slabbing not recommended!); cards omitted from this book and tantalisingly tipped for inclusion in a second, updated version!; contacting the author; a select bibliography of not just books but also internet-based card websites; and, lastly, a glossary of significant card issuers.

Overall I am hugely impressed by the time and effort that has been put into this book. Attention to detail and the enormous number of card images make it a feast for the eyes and one that I will return to again and again, if only to re-acquaint myself with certain issues/companies. There are obviously gaps; I can think of several series/issues which are not included but, as the author does clearly state, he is already collating information and examples for a second, updated publication. 

So… would I recommend it? Most definitely! Time to start saving up…

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