“Footballers & Cricketers” (Hills & Lacy)

Year of issue: 1923
Issued by: Anonymous, Poppletons, V.C.C., Watkins’s Cough Mixture
Trade reference number(s): 
Number of cards in set: 72 (24 footballers)
Size: approximately 40mm x 61mm
Approximate value (per card): Murrays & FCCM – prices vary per set but usually come in anywhere between £60.00 and £150.00

Where to start? For a long time I have catalogued these extremely rare cards separately as Anonymous, V.C.C., and Poppletons, but having read Carl Wilkesbook I am now convinced that they were produced by Hills & Lacy and supplied to the various companies who over-printed them with their own advertising marks. I’ll let Carl explain…

“The first series of football cards with a Barratt & Co. legend was issued in 1924 but this was not the first series of soccer cards available with Barratt confectionery. During 1922/23 a series of stunning photographic cards of footballers came into circulation. They were produced by a Victorian printer, Hills & Lacy, to revive a mid-Victorian tradition whereby a printer would produce cards with blank backs for other firms to customise with their own branding. These cards, a series of unbranded footballers and cricketers, marked a sea change for confectionery trade cards. They can be found with makers’ marks as diverse as Poppletons, VCC of London, and even a certain Watkins’s Cough Mixture! The cards also found their way into Barratt wares. The 1922/23 cards were such a success that Barratt instructed Hills & Lacy to print a series of sportsmen exclusively for Barratt. These cards, first issued in 1924, became so successful that Barratt printed a new series yearly for decades to come.”

So there you have it. As a result of this, I have decided to present the cards side by side where possible simply to show just how alike they are. First is the original, plain-backed Hills & Lacy card, then the V.C.C.card. For easy identification, the V.C.C. cards are numbered.

ANON Gough   VAA-030 VCC Gough

ANON Thain   VAA-030 VCC Thain

ANON Smith WH   VAA-030 VCC Smith WH

ZJC-110-2 ZJ5-39-2b Walden   VAA-030 VCC Walden

ANON Butler   VAA-030 VCC Butler

VAA-030 VCC Raitt

ANON Wilson   VAA-030 VCC Wilson ERROR

ZJC-110-2 ZJ5-39-2b McDonald   VAA-030 VCC McDonald

VAA-030 VCC Penn

VAA-030 VCC Hopkins

VAA-030 VCC Atkin

ANON KerrVAA-030 VCC Kerr

VAA-030 VCC White

VAA-030 VCC Bagge

VAA-030 VCC Lythgoe

VAA-030 VCC Robson

ZJC-110-2 ZJ5-39-2b ANON Birch   VAA-030 VCC Birch

ZJC-110-2 ZJ5-39-2b Jennings   VAA-030 VCC Jennings

ANON Simms   VAA-030 VCC Simms

ANON LAyton   VAA-030 VCC Layton ROGUE

ZJC-110-2 ZJ5-39-2b Tremelling   VAA-030 VCC Tremelling

ZJC-110-2 ZJ5-39-2b Beeson   VAA-030 VCC Beeson

VAA-030 VCC back

Alan Jenkins lists the following as the 26 unnumbered cards from the original Hills & Lacy set:

  • J.T. Atkin (Derby County)
  • H. Bagge (Fulham)
  • E. Beeson (Wycombe Wanderers)
  • J. Birch (Queens Park Rangers)
  • R. Butler (Bury)
  • F. Gough (Sheffield)
  • F. Graham (Millwall)
  • J.H. Hill (Burnley)
  • P. Hopkins (Hartlepoole)
  • W. Jennings (Luton Town)
  • J. Kerr (Brentford)
  • A. Layton (Stockport County)
  • J. Lythgoe (Norwich City)
  • R. McDonald (Tottenham Hotspur)
  • F. Penn (Fulham)
  • E. Pilkington (Oldham Athletic)
  • D. Raitt (Dundee)
  • E.R. Robson (Portsmouth)
  • E. Simms (Stockport)
  • W.H. Smith (Huddersfield Town)
  • A. Thain (Chelsea)
  • D. Tremelling (Birmingham)
  • F. Walden (Tottenham Hotspur)
  • H.A. White (Arsenal)
  • T. Wilson (Huddersfield Town)
  • F. Womack (Birmingham)

*I would dispute the inclusion of Graham (Millwall) and Hill (Burnley) as neither of these appear in the V.C.C. collection and I have not seen images cards of those players in either set.

These are the cards which are known to exist in the V.C.C. set and are numbered as they appear there.

  1. F. Gough (Sheffield) [sic] – should be H. (Harry) Gough
  2. A. Thain (Chelsea)
  3. W.H. Smith (Huddersfield Town)
  4. F. Walden (Tottenham Hotspur)
  5. Unknown – probably Pilkington, Womack or Layton
  6. Unknown – probably Pilkington, Womack or Layton
  7. R. Butler (Bury)
  8. D. Raitt (Dundee)
  9. T. Wilson (Huddesfield [sic] Town)
  10. R. McDonald (Tottenham Hotspur)
  11. F. Penn (Fulham)
  12. P. Hopkins (Hartlepoole) [sic] – should be W. ‘Tot’ Hopkins
  13. J.T. Atkin (Derby County)
  14. Unknown – probably Pilkington, Womack or Layton
  15. J. Kerr (Brentford) – note that he is simply “Kerr” on the H&L card
  16. H.A. White (Arsenal)
  17. H. Bagge (Fulham)
  18. J. Lythgoe (Norwich City)
  19. E.R. Robson (Portsmouth)
  20. J. Birch (Queens Park Rangers)
  21. W. Jennings (Luton Town)
  22. E. Simms (South Shields) / A. Layton (Stockport County)
  23. D. Tremelling (Birmingham)
  24. E. Beeson (Wycombe Wanderers)

And then there are a few conundrums…

The card of Stockport County’s Arthur Layton would seem to be a perfect fit for both sets until you note that the V.C.C. card has him numbered as 22 – the same as Ernie Simms! The position of the number looks a little suspicious too, but the back of the card seems to be a genuine V.C.C. printing. I have included him anyway as a “double 1922” but would suspect that this might be an error and that he should have been one of the three missing cards in the V.C.C issue – 5, 6 and 14 – the other two of which will almost certainly be the Hills & Lacy cards of Elliott Pilkington (Oldham Athletic) and Frank Womack (Birmingham).

ZJC-110-2 ZJ5-39-2b Pilkington   ZJC-110-2 ZJ5-39-2b Womack

Below are the only examples of Poppletons cards that I can show you. It is interesting to see that there is a V.C.C. card with a Poppletons overprint.

1923 POPPLETONS Wilson   1923 POPPLETONS Wilson backZJC-110-2 ZJ5-39-2b VCC POPPLETONS overprint

And error cards…


Note that the Hills & Lacy Tom Wilson error card above – Huddesfield Town” – was repeated with the V.C.C. issue. I could have included the Gough and Hopkins cards here, but as they are only initials errors I haven’t.


When were these cards released? Well it’s a pretty safe bet that they were issued in late 1923, but there are one or two surprises within the set itself.

  • R. Butler signed for Bury in July 1923 so he is the ‘key’ card – he dates it;
  • But White signed for Blackpool in March 1923 – why is he still shown an Arsenal player? Almost certainly an oversight.
  • Yet David Raitt had moved from Dundee to Everton in summer of 1922 yet he appears as a Dundee player – why?
  • Ed Robson had moved from Portsmouth to Sunderland by May 1922 yet he appears as a Pompey player – again, why?
  • Jack Atkin had retired from football back in 1921 – why include him at all? Strange choice.
  • Edward ‘Ted’ Beeson of Wycombe Wanderers is another strange one because he never played a single game for WWFC in the first team, and only represented the Reserves for one season 1921-22. Again – why include him?

It’s also noteworthy that the V.C.C. cards use exactly the same images as those of the Godfrey Phillips ‘Pinnace’ series, although some of the teams have changed because of player transfers.

I am short of several images here – can YOU help, please?