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17 May 2004

Vice cards

The practice of placing prostitutes cards in phone boxes is known as ‘carding’ and it is a particularly English phenomenon specific to London and the seaside resorts of Brighton and Hove where they serve a flourishing tourist trade...

Carding started as a kitchen table industry with a handful of prostitutes and their maids cutting-out images, drawing their own illustrations, rubbing-down lettering and then passing it all over to a trusted printer. It developed in to an extensive, professional, well-organised and highly technical production process that utilised the latest manufacturing systems...

The first advantage to carding was that telephone boxes provided the means for a client to respond immediately to the advertisement. Even more important was free media space. Telephone boxes make it physically possible for the girls to place an advert without the knowledge or consent of the owner and without paying. This is not feasible with more traditional media such as newspapers, magazines or shop windows.

From an essay about vice cards as a cultural icon or typographic curio, found on the website of the St Bride Printing Library.

Posted at 01:10 PM in Collecting | Permalink


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The other great value of carding, I discovered as a tourist visiting London, is that they make the best kind of postcards to send back home to yer mates - particularly the married ones. Indeed, even without the foetid stench of urine that also decorates phone booths, they uniquely sum up the experience of getting about London better than any postcard you could buy in a souvenir shop, newsagent, or offy.

Posted by: Dom at 18 May 2004 23:05:32

Until recently, I had one blutacked to my monitor. It was handwritten in black felt tip, with a number in red beneath. It just said:-

I Love My Job

Posted by: Kim at 20 May 2004 14:59:36

How obscene... I certainly wouldn't be mailing that to anyone in a hurry!

Posted by: Dom at 22 May 2004 03:10:50