The tade cards of the "Au Bon Marché" collection
The use of the trade card as commercial promotion is situated in Paris around
1850. At that time, Aristide Boucicaut was the owner of the department store "Au
Au Bon Marché". He had the idea to offre each week a different
color print to the children accompanied by their parents. It was a real
success. Soon other Parisian department stores followed his example. So there
are color trade cards printed for 'La Belle Jardiniére' and 'La Galerie
Lafayette' and even for many other small shops.
Later, the industrial revolution brought new products which should be promoted. We think of the rise of concentrated milk, chocolate, meat extract, soups, chicory, and many other new products. All these products needed their commercial support. The trade cards were quickly the publicity material of choice to promote a product.
The retail and large warehouses rewarded their loyal customers with a trade card. This card was either directly a picture of the specific product (see Suchard chocolate), or was a chromo of a publishing house with a commercial message.
This beautiful cards, with beautiful scenes on one side and on the other site an advertising message, pleased both children and parents. They could not long resist the growing passion for collecting by their children, so they were forced to increase the consumption of this promoted products or stores.
The public responded with great enthusiasm and collecting trade cards became a hipe. Cards were exchanged with friends and collected and pasted into albums. Highly decorative albums were compiled, making use of colorful scraps, trade cards, and other collectible items. The popularity of the trade card peaked around 1890 and then faded by the end of the century as other forms of advertising, primarily in mass-circulation magazines, replaced the trade card as a means of advertising products nationwide.
The issues of Au Bon Marché contains some of the highest quality
chromolithographs (trade cards) to be found anywhere in the world. The cards
(which are known as Chromos on the Continent) come in all shapes and sizes
covering a vast range of subjects and themes.
A lot of editors published trade cards to be distruted in the "Au Bon Marché" shop in Paris. In the collection you can find cards from Appel, Baladier, Delmasure, Henon, Minot, Vallet & Minot and mutch more.
The almost fully illustrated "Au Bon Marché" catalog can be found at: this link