Anyone collecting German cigarette cards will find that the vast majority of cards and albums on offer are from Reemtsma. The company produced only 26 different sets, yet such was the output that over 50 years after the last pictures were issued, there is scarcely a flea market in Germany where one doesn't find some of the commoner issues.
Reemtsma's first four series of cards were issued in cigarette packets in the normal way. The first was a set of "Kleine Bilder" (small pictures) issued in 1923 with "Ernte 23" (harvest of '23) cigarettes. This makes it one of the first series issued after the first world war. I have found no references to Reemtsma before 1923 so presumably this was the year the company was founded, the number 23 therefore being particularly significant. Reemtsma still exists today, as do Ernte 23 cigarettes. The series was followed in 1924 with a set of "Große Bilder" (large pictures). The company also issued two books depicting the Paris and Amsterdam Olympic games in 1924 and 1928.
Around 1932, Reemtsma had the idea of putting coupons in cigarette packets instead of picture cards. When a set of coupons had been collected, they could be exchanged for a set of pictures. The coupons were numbered from 1 to 50 and came in two sizes, single coupons in smaller packets of cigarettes and double coupons in larger packets. There were also unnumbered coupons which could be used as any number. When a set of coupons had been collected, they could be exchanged for a set of pictures. This had the advantage that pictures were no longer restricted by the size of cigarette packets. It also meant that collectors always got sets of mint pictures and could still obtain older series.
Elaborate albums were published. Paperback ones were sold for RM1 each. Some special series such as the Olympic games ones, Deutschland Erwacht and Adolf Hitler were hard-backed and cost RM1.60. Most of these were in the form of reference books, and the pictures were stuck in to provide the illustrations. In this way, even poor families who could not afford to feed and clothe their children could manage to build up an educational reference library.
Whilst Reemtsma concentrated on producing cigarettes, the picture side of the business was dealt with by the "Picture Service" (Bilderdienst). Originally, this was known as the Bilderdienst Altona-Bahrenfeld, after the place where Reemtsma's factory was situated. After a boundary revision, it became the Bilderdienst Hamburg-Bahrenfeld, when Altona became part of Hamburg. Finally it was known simply as the Bilderdienst Hamburg.
These pictures are more trading cards than cigarette cards since they weren't included in the packets. Also the size and number of picture in a set means they are difficult to collect in a satisfactory way. True if you just want them as an investment, you can lock them away somewhere without too many problems. However most collectors like to collect cards in a way that they can display them and enjoy them from time to time. This is difficult with Reemtsma pictures. They are so large that for the larger pictures one needs a standard Murray's plastic sleeve for each picture. The large number of pictures in a set means that the sleeves can end up costing more than the pictures, not to mention taking up a large amount of space. Even then, the pictures were meant to be stuck in albums and have no explanatory text on them. I have come to the conclusion that the only satisfactory way to collect them really is to stick them in an album, which will be anathema to most collectors. In the meantime, I have learned to compromise. I buy sets of mint pictures in their original wrappers. Then I buy an album with the cards stuck in so I can see which cards I have wrapped up in the drawer.
Instead of simply supplying a complete set of pictures, the pictures were divided into "Bildergruppen" (picture groups). This presumably made it easier to determine how many coupons should be exchanged for a set, since a fixed number of coupons could be exchanged for one picture group. A set of double-sized coupons or two sets of single-sized ones could be exchanged for one picture group. Each group usually contained 50 normal pictures or 25 double sized pictures. However there were some exceptions such as Deutsche Kulturbilder where they contained 60 smaller sized pictures. There appears to have been no logic at all to the distribution of pictures amongst the groups so that for example picture group 53 from volume 1 of Olympia 1936 contains pictures 2, 5, 9, 12, 15, 19, 22 etc.
A complete list of the Reemtsma sets follows. Follow the links to find out more information about the individual sets.
|Name||Year of issue||No. in set||Album No.|
|Aus Deutschlands Vogelwelt
|Aus Wald und Flur, Pflanzen unserer Heimat
(From woods and meadows, native plants)
|Aus Wald und Flur, Tiere unserer Heimat
(From woods and meadows, native animals)
|Bilder aus aller Welt
(Pictures from around the world)
|Bilder deutscher Geschichte
(Pictures from German history)
|Deutsche Kulturbilder, deutsches Leben in fünf
Jahrhunderten 1400 - 1900
(Pictures of German culture, German life in five centuries 1500 - 1900)
(German fairy tales)
|Die olympischen Spiele - Paris 1924
(The Olympic Games - Paris 1924)
|Die olympischen Spiele 1928 Amsterdam
(The Olympic Games 1928 Amsterdam)
|Gestalten der Weltgeschichte
(Figures from world history)
|Märchen der Voelker
(People's fairy tales)
|Malerei der Gotik und Frührenaissance
(Gothic and early renaissance art)
|Malerei der Renaisssance
|Malerei des Barock
|Olympia 1932 Los Angeles
(1932 Olympiad, Los Angeles)
|Olympia 1936 Band 1
(1936 Olympiad, Vol. 1)
|Olympia 1936 Band 2
(1936 Olympiad, Vol. 2)
(Robber State England)
|Vom Werden deutscher Filmkunst, Der stumme Film
(The making of German cinematic art, The silent film)
|Vom Werden deutscher Filmkunst, Der Tonfilm
(The making of German cinematic art, The sound film)
|Wunder der Tierwelt
(Wonders of the animal kingdom)
* Initially, there were 16 different albums. After a while, Reemtsma decided to discontinue some of the earlier series of pictures and replace them with new ones. The numbering of the new albums started again from 1, as did the numbering of the picture groups. The album numbers marked with * were thus used twice. However the numbers 5 to 9 are missing from the second series. The sets available were listed on the backs of the coupons, and later coupons give a list in which there is no album 5 listed and also a note that further sets of cards are in preparation. We can therefore assume that Deutschlands Vogelwelt had been withdrawn and was about to be replaced by something else. Possibly replacements for albums 6 - 9 were also in preparation. Probably these were never issued due to the war. It would be interesting to know which series were planned.
When were the last Reemtsma cards issued?
Various markings were used on the wrapping for the picture groups to assist with the quality control, the last of which were simply date stamps. Raw materials became scarce during WW2 and from the 1st May 1942 cigarette cards were banned as a means of saving paper. To be fair to the people who had collected vouchers, these could be exchanged until 1st October 1942. No attempt appears to have been made to recycle cards which had already been produced, and after this Reemtsma were left with vast stocks. I have been told that after the war Reemtsma issued these cards and that it was possible to obtain the non-political issues into the early 1950s. I have a wrapper from Deutsche Märchen with the date 4th November 1947 which would seem to support this. I also have a wrapper from Raubstaat England with the date 20th February 1947 which indicates that maybe it was not only purely non-political cards which were distributed after the war.
However whether Reemtsma really did stop issuing cards from 1942 until the end of the war is not clear. I have several wrappers in my collection with dates in 1944 and Köberich notes that large numbers of wrappers are known with the date 31st March 1945. It is difficult to believe that Reemtsma would have continued issuing the cards illegally but yet the existence of these cards cannot be denied. Maybe Reemtsma continued producing these cards to build up stocks without issuing them in the hope that they could be legally issued again after the war was over.