Ephemera is a term for documents relating to ordinary daily life that are regarded as expendable at the time, but later generations can give a fascinating insight into many different aspects of history. These include tramway tickets, lottery tickets, concert programs, handbills, brochures, invoices, and many more, including chocolate cards.
In the past some chocolate manufacturers started enclosing small cards printed with coloured pictures of particular subjects in their products. These attractive cards encouraged consumers to collect the whole series, and so increased sales. Chocolate cards were produced first by foreign chocolate manufacturers and later by Turkish firms.
Companies like Tobler, Nestlé, Lombart, Poulain and Suchard all enclosed chocolate cards in their products manufactured in France, Britain and Switzerland. Collecting the different series became a popular pastime for children in particular, but adults too were often keen collectors.
Series consisted of between 6 and 24 cards, and the total number of different cards issued by these firms is enormous, approaching ten thousand, revealing the degree of interest which they aroused.
The Tobler firm founded in Bern in 1845 produced series of either 8 or 12 cards on 30 different subjects, including flowers, Robinson Crusoe, fairytales, birds, steam ships, and costumes. Those who managed to complete all the 12-card Nestlé series, for example, were promised generous prizes. In an album produced in the 1920s collectors were informed that when they had collected all the series in the album, they should take it to the company head office in Yeramian Han in the district of Galata in Istanbul, where the first seven applicants would be rewarded as follows: the first applicant was to receive 100 Ottoman liras, the second and third 50 Ottoman liras, and the next four applicants 25 Ottoman liras.
Every subsequent applicant would receive a watch. The cards in the completed albums were either stamped with the word ‘cancelled’, or perforated with a star shape so that they could not be used again.
From the 1930s Turkish chocolate firms followed suit with their own chocolate cards, mainly bearing black and white pictures. Chocolate firms like Melba and Lion issued series depicting film stars, districts of Istanbul, and famous people, and like the European companies provided albums to encourage collector.
However these local cards were significantly inferior in quality to their European equivalents, most of which were printed by colour lithography.
Chocolate cards served the dual purpose of teaching children about steamships, trains, birds, and so on, and encouraging the collectors’ instinct. It is only to be regretted that chocolate cards are no longer produced today, despite the fact that chocolate is produced by so many firms in such wide diversity. In an era without television, and when lifestyles were far more modest than they are today, these cards were each window onto a colorful world of the imagination.