New Error/Variation Discovered in 1936 Player’s Cigarettes Tennis Set

G.P. Hughes card has at least three variations

The 1936 Player’s Cigarettes tennis card set is an international issue distributed by John Player & Sons, which was a branch of the Imperial Tobacco Company. These cards from the UK are not terribly rare but are not as easily found in the U.S. Player & Sons produced numerous sets for distribution in their cigarette packages.

The set features a total of 50 cards, including the top tennis stars of the day. Like a few other pre-war sets, they were instructional in nature, depicting actual tennis strokes performed via cartoon illustrations and pictures of players. They are distinctive by the pictures and the solid green backgrounds.

The illustrations of the shots included numbers to show collectors the order of the particular tennis shot. An error in the set was previously known as Daniel Prenn has a card with both the No. 2 missing and present on his card. Recently, however, I have been able to spot a similar error that was not previously known.

GP Hughes 1936 Players Tennis 1 Near BorderGP Hughes 1936 Players Tennis No 1GP Hughes 1936 Players TennisG.P. Hughes, a player from Great Britain, is featured in the set as No. 31. Hughes is included in the set demonstrating a forehand volley and has, as we’re about to see, three different variations pictured here.

Like Prenn, he has a card with a missing number. The number on the card I have is not entirely missing but it includes only a speck of the No. 1 that should be there. Prenn’s correct card is shown here to the left and the card with the speck of ink is in the middle.

Interestingly, a third variation is also known. Shown here on the right, this version does have the No. 1 but it is far off to the side and clearly not in the right spot. At first glance, some might dismiss this as the card front simply not being aligned correctly. But a closer look shows that this is very clearly a different variation for a couple of reasons.

First, the ‘1’ does not have the hook at the top as the other one does. Instead, it is only a straight line that is different from the other ‘1’ on the standard card. Second, and more importantly, the rest of the card is not out of alignment. This is not simply a matter of all of the pictures/text on the card being shifted. That is evident because the No. 2 is in the same spot on both cards, as are the other things, such as the illustrations and the Player’s Cigarettes name. You can best see this by comparing the location of the ‘1’ to the cartoon illustration nearest it – it is clearly placed farther away on the card with the ‘1’ near the border.

So what happened here? With these types of things, it’s always difficult to say. But because we’ve got three different cards here, I think this scenario is possible. Hughes’ original card may have been printed without the ‘1’. I believe that is what happened with the Prenn error. The Prenn card missing the No. 2 is rarer than the corrected card that has it.

It is possible that both the Prenn and Hughes cards could have been printed without the numbers initially and then caught later. Why the speck on the Hughes? It is tough to say but my guess is that a small number of those could have been initially printed. Printers may have then recognized the error and printed some with the ‘1’ near the border. Realizing it should have been closer to the illustration, a final, third version may have been printed. Those would be the corrected cards and are the most plentiful.

So which of the two ‘error’ cards is the hardest to find? That, too, is tough to say. While I have seen a few copies of the Prenn error card, I have not seen either of the two Hughes errors that I have mentioned here other than the ones I own. All of the other G.P. Hughes cards I have seen have been the standard version with the ‘1’ and ‘2’ present with the ‘1’ being away from the border. So far, the other two seem equally tough.

Is that exactly the way it went down? We’ll never know. But we do know there are, at the very least, three different versions of this card.

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