Collectors Corner #2:  A & BC Bubblegum Cards

Collectors Corner #2: A & BC Bubblegum Cards

Being a collector sometimes feels like having a borderline mental illness. The passion, the enthusiasm, the obsession. Collectors’ have different mindsets for their hobby that the non-collector will never really understand. Just ask my wife!

Depending on your predilection in life, and whether that collector’s switch in your brain has been flicked, the chances are that you collected some kind of football cards when you were younger. You possibly still do. Your age may also dictate what kinds of cards you collected: cigarette, bubblegum, tea, comic, panini, trading or the modern day nonsense!

Card collecting dates back to the late Victorian times and the first known cards featuring footballers were produced in 1894.

East Fife have featured in numerous collections over the years. The earliest East Fife card that I have found out about so far dates back to 1935, but I am sure that there will have been earlier ones out there. So let us know if you know of ones before that.

As we continue this series in the programme over the coming months, we’ll feature several different sets and cards that have been issued over the years, along with other wonderful pieces of East Fife memorabilia from the club’s 110 year history.

Today we’re heading back to the early 1970’s and some bubblegum cards that had kids of the time running into sweet shops and up to ice cream vans to part with their pennies.

A&BC Chewing Gum Ltd were formed in 1949. They produced numerous cards, on a variety of subjects, which were given away free in packets of bubble gum.

They produced their first set of 36 football cards in 1954, as part of the 120 card “All Sports” series set. Their first standalone football collection was a 92 card one in 1958 and their first Scottish football specific set was produced in 1962.

The company continued to publish a Scottish set each year until 1974 and but it was only once East Fife gained promotion to the First Division at the end of the 1970/71 season that our players were featured, with 21 cards of East Fife players being published in the 1971-1973 sets.

And they’re wonderful items to have in your collection.

The cards were all 80mm x 55mm in size and were made of actual hard card and not cheap paper or the sticker variety. They were double sided, with player info, stats and facts on the back of them. They varied in style. Some were more classic, some hideously garish. But all fun items to have in your collection.

They were issued in various series, with all the East Fife ones featuring in the “Scottish Footballers” ones. Each series also came with a couple of checklists for you to keep track of what you had and those seem to be my most lasting memory of buying these when I was a nipper.

Deep in my recesses, I can’t remember the players I had at the time but I do remember ticking the little boxes on the checklists.

You can still pick up the East Fife and other cards, including the checklists, on ebay today, as I’ve done myself over the last few years. They’re usually pretty cheap, apart from the checklists, which seem to be quite prized.

Of course, if you were around and actually collected these cards at the time, you’re left kicking yourself for never keeping hold of your own ones to start with.

If you’re reading this far and thinking what is this old geezer rambling on about, or more hopefully, you’re reading this and thinking that these sound great and you need to add these cards to your East Fife memorabilia collection asap, then here’s some details about what East Fife cards are available and what they’re all about.

There were 144 cards in the 1971 Scottish Footballer series with four East Fife players featuring – Billy McPhee (number 15), Bertie Miller (#65), John Martis (#92) and Joe Hughes (#126).

There were two checklists published in the set: number 57 for cards 1 – 73 and number 115 for cards 74 – 144.

All cards had purple backs and featured the height and weight of the player, a brief bio and a “did you know” factoid.

There were 179 cards over two Scottish Footballer series in 1972. Cards 1 – 89 had blue backs and cards 90 – 179 orange.

This time nine East Fife players were featured. Bobby Cairns (#8), John Martis (#26), Jim Hamilton (#44), Davie Gorman (#80) were the four featured in the first set; and Billy McPhee (#100), Peter McQuade (#122), Bobby Duncan (#143), Joe Hughes (#157) and Kevin Hegarty (#166) were the five featured in the second one.

The backs had a brief player bio and each had a question and you had to scratch the box beside it with a coin to get the answer. The scratching revealed such “fascinating” facts as Bobby Cairns works in a bank, Kevin Hegarty’s favourite player is Dennis Law, and Billy McPhee’s ambition is to keep East Fife in the first division.

There were 178 cards in the 1973 series, all of which had pink backs. Eight East Fife players featured: Jimmy Hamilton (#7), Ernie McGarr (#15), Billy McPhee (#43), Bobby Duncan (#51), Kevin Hegarty (#79), Walter Borthwick (#87), John Martis (#123) and Dave Clarke (#159).

The backs featured the usual brief player bio, along with personal stats and a cartoon fact. One of the facts gloats about how East Fife got Edinburgh lad Dave Clarke ahead of Hearts and Hibs, whilst another mentions that John Martis is the oldest player on the side, complete with a cartoon gravestone!

East Fife fell out of the First Division soon after and so with that fall went their appearances on any major card collections of any sorts since.

Maybe a nice touch in this anniversary year would be to produce a set of cards for the current squad to be given out at the turnstiles of home games over the course of the season. Start some new collectors off amongst the support.

I’ve always wanted us to be featured as part of a Panini sticker collection but that seems a far flung hope these days.

Never mind, there’s still a lot of cards from yesteryear that we can draw on for this feature, along with many other items of East Fife memorabilia. Watch out for them in future programmes.

[You can see more of East Fife’s A&BC cards, and others, on AFTN memorabilia section HERE]

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Authored by: GoF

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