1936-38 Ardath / Player and Sons Tennis Set

‘It’s In The Details’

Title Ardath / Player and Sons Tennis
Year 1936-38
Size 1 3/8″ x 2 5/8″
Images Color
Type Tobacco
Number in Set

1936-38 Ardath / Player and Sons Tennis Overview

Helen Jacobs 1936 Players TennisFred Perry 1936 Player and Sons TennisThe 1936 Player and Sons Tennis set is one of the more common 1930s tennis tobacco issues. Cards were issued by John Player and Sons Tobacco company, an Imperial Tobacco Company firm. These same cards were also issued in either 1937 or 1938 (there are some dating discrepancies), and distributed by Ardath tobacco products.

The cards are distinctive with bright white borders and full green background to resemble a tennis court. Against the background are black ink cartoon images that complement a full color image of a specific player. White lines on the court also accompany the images. The cartoons and the picture of the real player combined to showcase a particular tennis shot. Backs of the cards were split between providing information on the player as well as the shot that was demonstrated on the front.

The set is somewhat similar to others that provide instruction, such as the 1923 Sarony Tennis Strokes set or the 1930 Godfrey Phillips Lawn Tennis set, which offered instructional tips. But the set is better known for its individual pictures of players, such as Fred Perry, Helen Jacobs, and Betty Nuthall.

The cards have a semi-gloss on the front and back, and the backs had an adhesive, which allowed collectors to affix them into albums. That was their actual purpose as collectors were instructed to buy an album for one penny from their tobacco dealer.

Player’s vs. Ardath

Ardath and Player Tennis BacksWhile the two sets for Player and Ardath included the same pictures and checklist, they are not the same sets.

Front’s of the Player’s cards included the Player’s Cigarettes name while the Ardath cards did not name a brand. Backs of the Player’s cards had their name, John Player & Sons, at the bottom. But the Ardath bottoms included a slightly more extensive advertisement of “Ardath Tobacco Co. Ltd, Manufacturers of State Express and Ardath Cigarettes. I am not certain if the Ardath cards have been identified to come definitively in Ardath Cigarettes packages, State Express packages, or both.

Backs were different beyond that, too. While the Player cards were printed with black ink, Ardath cards have blue ink. The Player cards also advertised an album for sale that could be purchased for one cent. These albums, like other UK albums, were made of paper and relatively inexpensive, designed to hold a full set of the cards. No similar album was apparently made for Ardath’s set as there is no mention of that on the back. Finally, the Ardath border was more decorative than the standard thin line border on the Player cards. 

Shown here are backs for both cards.

There seems to be little debate on the Player cards, which are widely considered a 1936 set. Regarding the dating for the Ardath cards, however, there appear to be some conflicts there. The Cigarette and Trade Card Catalogue published by the London Cigarette Card Company states the cards are from 1937. However, PSA grades these cards as 1938 issues.

The Ardath cards are also much rarer. As of 2021, they’d graded a little more than 100 Ardath cards while they graded nearly 650 of the Player cards. As a result, the Ardath cards are more valuable, though, buyers and sellers will not always understand the difference in rarity between the two, leading to some underwhelming sales.

Daniel Prenn and G.P. Hughes Errors

Daniel Prenn 1936 Players Tennis Correction

Daniel Prenn 1936 Players Tennis Error

Of note in the Player’s set is the inclusion of an error card related to Daniel Prenn. The cartoon drawings on the card as well as the full-color images of the players show the steps in successfully completing a specific tennis action. To help collectors determine the movement, the order of the pictures are numbered to provide the proper sequence.

Prenn’s card features a backhand drive shot. The cartoon image shows him preparing to hit the ball and the full-color image shows the final result of his swing. The cartoon shot is numbered as ‘1’ while the follow-through shot is ‘2.’

The error card has the No. 1 but is missing the No. 2. A corrected version, however, displays the No. 2. The two cards are shown here (error on left, correction on right).

It is also not known if the error was also made in the 1937 Ardath set. But as that one is believed to have been issued a year after the Player’s set, there is a good chance the mistake was already fixed by then.

Additionally, another error exists in the Player and Sons set for G.P. Hughes, as well as a slight variation. As I wrote here, I recently discovered the variation merely by chance in 2018 when I was cataloging some cards.

Similar to the Prenn error, one of Hughes’ cards is missing the most of the number ‘1’ with only a speck of it showing. A second card does have the ‘1’ but it is over to the right side of the card near the border.

Hughes’ third card has both the ‘1’ and the ‘2’ with the ‘1’ significantly further away from the border. I would consider this to be the corrected card.

Also similar to the Prenn error, it is unknown if any of the other two found their way into the Ardath set.

1936-38 Ardath / Player and Sons Tennis Checklist

  1. Joan Hartigan
  2. Fred Perry
  3. E. Fearnley–Whittingstall
  4. Wilmer Allison
  5. Nellie Adamson
  6. Mary Heeley
  7. M.R. King
  8. H. G. N. Lee
  9. Seniorita Lizana
  10. C.E. Malfroy
  11. Joan O’Meara
  12. M.C. Scriven
  13. Kathleen Stammers
  14. H.W. Austin
  15. Miss Braddock
  16. Jack Crawford
  17. R. Hardwick
  18. N.M. Lyle
  19. Miss Mathieu
  20. Miss Meulemeester
  21. Mrs. F.S. Moody
  22. Miss Outratova
  23. Mrs. J.B. Pittman
  24. Daniel Prenn (error and correction)
  25. Dorothy Round
  26. Francis Shields
  27. Mrs. Sperling
  28. G. Von Cramm
  29. G. De Stefani
  30. C.E. Hare
  31. G.P. Hughes (two errors and a correction)
  32. Freda James
  33. A.M. Yorke
  34. Helen Jacobs
  35. V.G. Kirby
  36. J. Van Ryn
  37. J. Yamagishi
  38. Adrian Quist
  39. G. Lyttleton Rogers
  40. Jean Borotra
  41. H.C. Hopman
  42. D. Budge
  43. Mrs. Fabyan
  44. F. H. D. Wilde
  45. S.B. Wood
  46. R. Menzel
  47. Betty Nuthall
  48. C. R. D. Tuckey
  49. G. Mako
  50. V. McGrath

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