I-SPY PRIORY TEA CARDS
In the late 1950s the Daily Mail teamed up with Priory Tea to begin producing I-Spy tea cards. These enabled the I-Spy concept to become part of what was during that decade a growing craze for collecting tea cards. In the early days of cigarettes, makers had used a small sheet of card to stiffen the packets. They began to print adverts on these then introduced the concept of small coloured cards for buyers to collect. Aimed at adults, inevitably they had a huge appeal to children. Cigarette cards disappeared during WW2 and didn’t reappear.
In 1954, two years after tea rationing ended, the firm of Brooke Bond had the idea of adding cards (the same size as the cigarette cards) to their quarter pound packets of tea (a size which had become the norm in shops). The cards became very popular and encouraged sales through what would later become known as pester power. Other firms soon followed suit.
Brooke Bond took over the old established brand of Priory Tea and decided to introduce a separate set of cards in the new packets, coming up with the I-Spy idea, unique to this brand. As with other sets, the I-Spy tea card series were only produced for a certain period, after which they were replaced by a new series. Although little research seems to have been done, I think the following sets were produced (dates where known)
1 – Out And About
2 – Pets (1957)
3 – People In Uniform (1957)
4 – Dogs (1957)
5 – Cars
6 – Flowering Trees (1959)
7 – Men At Work (1959)
8 – Bridges (1959)
9 – Cycles
10 – Wild Flowers
11 – Aircraft (1961)
12 – Birds (1962)
13 – Cars (New set 1964)
There were 24 cards to collect in each set, but this was increased to 50 for the last three sets. Many of the series were based on existing I-Spy book content but with new colour illustrations. Cards were issued in almost all the different Priory tea blends and also advertised in children’s comics from time to time.
Priory also sold albums (priced 6d, sold by grocers or direct from I Spy) in which to mount the cards. The early albums were unusual in that they could hold TWO sets of cards, but were printed end to end with two covers. So you collected one set, turned the album upside down and collected the other set. Later, the albums were issued for each set individually.
The album covers were a very similar design to the I-Spy books. The artwork was done by D W Ovenden, who also worked on some of the regular books. There was space to mount each card, and as in regular I-Spy books, an area to jot down when and where each subject was I-Spied (and a points score). Each card also had room to make notes and gave the individual score.
Books could be sent to Big Chief I-Spy once 750 points had been reached and again if you managed to score 1,000 points. Orders of merit and a feather for your head-dress were sent back with your book. For children who needed ‘swops’, you could send in extra cards and request missing cards from earlier sets. It’s quite hard to imagine the careful work involved in keeping track of all this!
The albums indicate that The Daily Mail ran an I-Spy column every day, and also promoted the I-Spy Membership packs sold in newsagents.
Priory produced their own special I-Spy badge (see top of the page), similar to the normal design but featuring a packet of tea. The badge may have been a promotional give-away, there are no details of how to buy them given in the albums.
Any further information welcome.