Becoming an I-Spy club member was made particularly easy. Membership packs were sold alongside the books from as early as 1952 right through into the 1980s. The contents varied over that time but typically included a sample book, badge, the I-Spy Secret Code book and a membership card which was numbered. The packs are hard to document as so few survive intact and complete, and I would appreciate any more details or scans.
1952 Membership Pack
This may be the earliest I-Spy membership pack. It is dated August 1952, the previous owner – Geoffrey Pyecroft – carefully filled it in. The paper envelope contained a membership card (a clever mosaic design based on indian beadwork), a News Chronicle I-Spy badge and a mysterious Tally-book card, which is missing as these had to be returned to Big Chief I-Spy. A really clever concept, children were encouraged to ‘recruit’ friends, and by collecting their tally-cards you could be awarded the rank of Tribal Recruiting Officer. The pack also contained three publications; a random I-Spy book from the series; the I-Spy Code Book, and The Great Tribe book.
The Great Tribe book was a very detailed publication, going into every aspect of being a Redskin; how to form tribes, secret ceremonies, games, and all sorts of invented folklore. You were allowed to show the book to non-members – deemed Palefaces – if they were interested in joining. This 16 page booklet was perhaps the pinnacle of Warrell’s vision for I-Spy, but was deemed over complicated and revised down then dropped altogether within a couple of years, with just some of basics retained in a leaflet about You And I-Spy.
The Secret Code Book was for members only, and carried a number of codes both to communicate with other members and read secret messages in the News Chronicle every Friday.
In all it was a very detailed and well thought out introduction which may have gone above the heads of some young children but must have been very appealing all the same. Had I-Spy developed into something akin to The Scouts and Cubs, with adults helping, then who knows where Big Chief could have gone with all this. Yet he chose to trust children to make of it all what they could and it seems to have worked.
This pack cost a shilling, which wasn’t bad considering the content. They are quite hard to find today, especially with their contents intact.
This appears to be a second issue of the News Chronicle Great tribe booklet, which again only appeared in membership packs. The content is very similar to the 1952 edition above (as are the illustrations) but it lists more Honorable Ranks that could be achieved. In addition, the membership number is 350,912, almost double that on the 1952 example I have. It is a bit strange that the cover design actually looks older than the one it replaced, but I would suggest a date of circa 1957. I wonder what Redskin Martin A. French is doing 60 years on?
This is the pack cover from a later membership kit. There is no reference to News Chronicle on it which suggests a date of post-1960. I do not own this, so cannot confirm.
The Code Book above is the first of the Daily Mail editions. Redskin Andrew McTieran filled it in in 1962. Again it looks quite dated in design terms. The book also contains material from the now deleted Great Tribe booklet, while the membership number is up to B881,841.
1964 Membership Pack
By 1964 the membership pack was overhauled completely and had a new look cover sheet. For 2/6d you now got two random I-Spy books from the 6d range, and a 16 page I-Spy Code Book with a new cover (though the content was much as before.) In addition there was an A5 letter from Big Chief I Spy, along with a ‘You And I-Spy’ tips list on the reverse and some merchandise including an I-Spy tie for 4/-! The Tally Card was now just a way to register and send in your personal details, although whether The Daily Mail or Big Chief ever did anything with this data isn’t known. The membership number in this case is C331250. All this came inside a passport style card wallet to keep the paperwork together in.
1981 Membership Kit
By this time the membership pack was somewhat reduced. It contained a special I-Spy Starter Book, with pages taken from across the series. This book was published at least as early as 1976 and could also be purchased separately, with a list of all the titles in the series. As the kit cost 50p and the Starter Book was 35p on it’s own, this wasn’t bad value for money.
The pack also contained the latest Membership and Code Book. The example in this kit is from 1977 which suggests it was not updated much. Inside there were a selection of different secret codes, and the artwork appears to have been cut and pasted together from older books, with some new pages.
The once separate membership card was now printed on the back cover, but was still numbered. The I-Spy badge completed the kit (although is not mentioned on the paper cover sheet.)
There was still a daily I-Spy column in The Daily Mail. To fully join, you needed to decode a message in the newspaper, and send this along with your details in on a postcard. Big Chief would then send you an order of merit to prove you were enrolled.