Lucky Strike Memorabilia
Lucky Strike is an American brand of cigarette owned by the British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco groups. Often referred to as "Luckies", Lucky Strike was the top selling cigarette in the United States during the 1930s. Lucky Strike memorabilia includes all products manufactured in order to promote the brand, including vintage advertisemnts, ashtrays, cigarette tins and ceramic shop signs.
The brand was first introduced by R.A. Patterson of Richmond, Virginia, in 1871 as cut-plug chewing tobacco and later a cigarette. In 1905, the company was acquired by the American Tobacco Company (ATC), and Lucky Strike would later prove to be its answer to R. J. Reynolds' Camel.
In 1917, the brand started using the slogan, "It's Toasted", to inform consumers about the manufacturing method in which the tobacco is toasted rather than sun-dried, a process touted as making the cigarette's taste more desirable.
In the late 1920s, the brand was sold as a route to thinness for women. One typical ad said, "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet." Sales of Lucky Strikes increased by more than 300% during the first year of the advertising campaign. Sales went from 14 billion cigarettes in 1925 to 40 billion sold in 1930, making Lucky Strike the leading brand nationwide.
Lucky Strike's association with radio music programs began during the 1920s on NBC. By 1928, the bandleader and vaudeville producer B. A. Rolfe was performing on radio and recording as "B.A. Rolfe and his Lucky Strike Orchestra" for Edison Records. In 1935, ATC began to sponsor Your Hit Parade, featuring North Carolina tobacco auctioneer Lee Aubrey "Speed" Riggs (later, another tobacco auctioneer from Lexington, Kentucky, F.E. Boone, was added). The weekly radio show's countdown catapulted the brand's success, remaining popular for 25 years. The shows capitalized on the tobacco auction theme and each ended with the signature phrase "Sold, American." The company's advertising campaigns generally featured a theme that stressed the quality of the tobacco purchased at auction for use in making Lucky Strike cigarettes and claimed that the higher quality tobacco resulted in a cigarette with better flavour. American engaged in a series of advertisements using Hollywood actors as endorsers of Lucky Strike, including testimonials from Douglas Fairbanks, concerning the cigarette's flavour.
Lucky Strike was also a sponsor of comedian Jack Benny's radio and TV show, The Jack Benny Show, which was also introduced as The Lucky Strike Program.
The brand's signature dark green pack was changed to white in 1942. In a famous advertising campaign that used the slogan "Lucky Strike Green has gone to war", the company claimed the change was made because the copper used in the green colour was needed for World War II. American Tobacco actually used chromium to produce the green ink, and copper to produce the gold-coloured trim. A limited supply of each was available, and substitute materials made the package look drab. However, the truth of the matter was that the white package was introduced to modernize the label and to increase the appeal of the package among female smokers; market studies showed that the green package was not found attractive to women, who had become important consumers of tobacco products. The war effort became a convenient way to make the product more marketable while appearing patriotic at the same time. Famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy was challenged by company president George Washington Hill to improve the existing green and red package, with a $50,000 bet at stake. Loewy changed the background from green to white, making it more attractive to women as well as cutting printing costs by eliminating the need for green dye. He also placed the Lucky Strike target logo on both sides of the package, a move that increased both visibility and sales. Hill paid off the bet.
The message "L.S.M.F.T." ("Lucky Strike means fine tobacco") was introduced on the package in 1945.
As a result of British American Tobacco plc's buying out American Tobacco Company in 1976, Lucky Strike came under control of BAT. The company acquired Formula 1s Tyrrell Racing team in 1997 and rebranded it as British American Racing the following year, sponsoring the team with its Lucky Strike and stablemate 555 brands. The team was bought outright by partners Honda by 2006, though Lucky Strike continued to sponsor the team until the end of that year.
In 1978 and 1994, export rights and U.S. rights were purchased by Brown & Williamson. In the 1960s, filtered styles were launched in addition to a mentholated version called "Lucky Strike Green". This time "Green" was referring to menthol and not to the overall package color. In late 2006, both the Full Flavored and Light filtered varieties of Lucky Strike cigarettes were discontinued in North America. However, Lucky Strike continued to have marketing and distribution support in territories controlled by British American Tobacco as a global drive brand. In addition, R. J. Reynolds continues to market the original, non-filter Lucky Strikes in the United States. Lucky Strikes currently have a small base of smokers.
In 2007, a new packaging of Lucky Strikes was released, with a two-way opening which split seven cigarettes from the rest. In the same year, the company used the world's smallest man, He Pingping, in their ad campaigns.
In 2009, Lucky Strike Silver (the brand marketed as lighter) changed their UK packets from the quintessential red design to blue, albeit with a red teaser outer covering the packet.
There is a wealth of Lucky Strike branded stock available to collectors. In general terms, the older any branded item is, the more valuable it is likely to be
Much collected Lucky Strike memorabilia includes cigarette packets, coasters, vintage advertising and shop signs, keyrings, clocks, cigarette tins, tobacco tins, advertising ephemera, clothing (including baseball caps and jackets), and posters.
As with the vast majority of collectibles, condition is key. Serious collectors should focus their energies on items in excellent to mint condition, as these will be much harder to come by than items in average to good condition.
Lucky Strikes may have been the king of the flat-fifties cases. They produced cases for year-round use, as well as festive Christmas versions. In the early 1930s, they also sold a series of tins that were packed with one of 50 cards describing a bridge hand. Playing instructions written by a noted bridge expert of the day named Milton Work could be found on one side of the card, while the other featured endorsements from such trusted celebrities as Miss America and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Although Lucky Strike is an iconic American brand, the market for such collectibles extends far beyond the US.
Five assorted Lucky Strike tobacco tins sold for $30 at TW Conroy, LLC in December 2004.
A Lucky Strike neon sign brought $150 to Victorian Casino Antiques in March 2011.
A Keith Haring Lucky Strike poster sold for €100 at Van Sabben Auctions in November 2008.
A 1930s Lucky Strike "Doctor" original advertisement with green packs sold for a whopping $4,200 at Grey Flannel Auctions, Inc. in September 2006.
A round oak Lucky Strike advertising clock sold for $250 at Tom Harris Auctions in May 2008.
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