About this history (last updated September 2013)
This article, written by Nigel Mercer from
Nigel’s Webspace, tells part
of the story of A&BC Chewing Gum,
one of the greatest producers of trade cards. Through his website Nigel began a
communication with Tony and Douglas Coakley, two of the original founders of
A&BC, which has produced the material for this story. The article has a special
focus on football cards, since this is the area of Nigel’s interest. There is a
lot more of the story which needs to be told. Anyone with comments on this
article or further information to add is asked to contact Nigel via this
The story of A&BC Chewing Gum is typical of many company tales. It has many highlights, challenges and frustrations. This article aims to record some of this history, focussing mainly on the history relating to their card production. The history has been prepared using material kindly supplied by Tony and Douglas Coakley, two of the original founders of the company. The Coakley brothers, now in their 80s, have assisted in the production of this article and their assistance is gratefully acknowledged. The interpretation of the history has been performed by Nigel's Webspace. This article is copyright and may not be reproduced without the permission of the author, Nigel Mercer.
The history has eight parts:
- 1. Introduction and beginnings
- 2. Card production and Topps
- 3. Football cards, Topps and the Beatles
- 4. The end of A&BC Chewing Gum
- 5. Non-football cards and stickers produced by A&BC Chewing Gum, 1953 to 1974
- 6. Football cards and stickers produced by A&BC Chewing Gum
- 7. The Braun family story
- 8. The Frank Conway story
Part 1 - Introduction and beginnings
A&BC Chewing Gum Ltd. formed in 1949, and folded in
1974. In its 25-year history it produced some of the best bubble gum and
collectors cards ever seen in the U.K. The company has become a favourite
amongst card traders and collectors for the quality, variety and imagination
shown in the design and production of their gum giveaways. Their range covered
film stars, the Beatles, the Monkees, Man from UNCLE, Civil War cards and
banknotes, as well as an impressive range of English and Scottish football
cards, pennants, pin-ups, emblems and crests. In the history of gum and trade
cards, they will go down as one of the greats.
In the aftermath of World War II four young men, recently demobbed from their War service, Mr Simon Anysz, Mr Rudy Braun, Mr Douglas Coakley and Mr Tony Coakley decided to form a company with the aim of producing and selling chewing gum. It was 1949 when sugar and confectionary were rationed (sweets until February 1953, sugar until September 1953).
the letters of their names the owners had wanted to call the company ‘ABC’, but
the Aerated Bread Company (a company which existed from 1862 until 1955 and
which was known as the A.B.C. Company) objected. Instead, the partners decided
on the name A&BC Chewing Gum Ltd.
Their gum was made of chewable plastic, not chicle (a natural gum from a tree native to Central America). Since sugar was not available without a licence, A&BC produced one of the first ever-sugarless chewing gums using an artificial sweetener. They worked in this way so that the product did not require sweet rationing coupons. Since the children of the time had difficulty obtaining sweets, A&BC’s chewing gum, and therefore the company, took off fairly quickly.
The company began producing their gum in a small factory in Cricklewood, North London. Besides the four directors there were five other employees in the early days. After a few years Mr Anysz was bought out, leaving Messrs Braun, Coakley and Coakley in control. Douglas Coakley was in charge of Sales and Marketing, with his younger brother Tony in charge of factories, machinery and production. Mr Braun was in charge of accounting.
In those days England had little money, the Exchange’s control of money supply was very tight and imports were strictly controlled. However, A&BC managed to circumvent a lot to the problems that came with the importation of machinery. There were many difficulties, fighting the then establishment who thought chewing gum was undesirable and not worth considering giving them a licence during this time of shortages; things were generally very restrictive.
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