Manufactured in 1965 by Somportex Ltd. to tie in with the release of the fourth James Bond movie “Thunderball”. Made in a small factory situated in London. This third UK set of James Bond bubble gum cards in quick succession, contained 72 cards. Each counter display box was filled with twelve groups of six pack strips for a total of 72 packs or 144 cards, each pack contained two cards and a piece of chewing gum.
Most of the cards depicting stills from the latest James Bond movie “Thunderball”, except for some publicity shots of the Aston Martin DB5. The cards are smaller than the ones manufactured in America by the Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corporation for “Thunderball”, but more on that later. The lettering on the reverse is printed in blue ink and describes the picture on the front.
The card sequence is a complete mess and doesn’t follow the movie's sequence in anyway at all. Card number 24 was replaced immediately, again due to press pressure, this time because they said it showed a man (James Bond) hitting a woman, but every Bond fan knows that the picture shown on the card is in fact Colonel Bouvard dressed up as his own widow, who is fighting for his live with James Bond. In a later stage, seven other cards where replaced during a reprint. The reprint was due to the very good sales figures in shops and in the cinema where the film was being shown. This was also the time of what can only be called Bond-Mania, were everything connected to Bond, from magazines to toy cars and beyond was flying off shop shelf’s. As the first print of cards were printed early, so cards could be in shops and cinemas when the film was released, it was printed without later film sequences, as these stills weren’t available at the time of printing, it was thought the reprint should replace some cards with the now available pictures from the junkanoo and final underwater sequences. Although still marked as a 72 card set it pushed the total to 80 cards including reprints. This reprint also produced a number of errors or misprinted cards, for example cards number 1 and 3 were reversed and can both be found titled as “Fast Agent” and “Rockets On The Road”. These misprints are hard to find and there may be many not know to this author.
The Somportex “Thunderball” cards are relatively easy to collect. You may find them at movie fairs, on eBay, etc…For a full set with wrapper you can expect to pay 300€. Personally it took me eight years to get them all, although I’m still on the look out for misprints. For me, it all started at a toy fair in Brussels where I purchased 4 cards for the price of 20 Belgian Francs or 0,50€ per card. A year later I discovered a bundle with more than one-hundred cards for about 200 Belgian Francs. For a collector it was my lucky day, but sadly I didn’t get a complete set, as there were many doubles. To complete the set I had to trade with other collectors and of course buy through the biggest source of all, eBay. Sometimes it can be hard slog to find that one missing card, but the thrill it gives when you do, more than makes up for the hunt.
Wrappers and counter display boxes are very hard to find, in the sixties nobody paid attention to a packaging paper or a hardboard counter display box. What a pity. If you mailed twelve of the above wrappers to Somportex Ltd., then in return they would send you a free “James Bond 007 Secret Agent Identity Card”. The thick laminated Identity Card was 6x4 in size and contained 4 pages; the outer cover was in red colour with black print, the inner white with black print. It was full of all the things a young spy needed to write secret codes. For example, the number or letter replacement. Most of these “Secret Agent Identity Cards” are lost or gone with the wind. This makes them very rare and very expensive, if you can even manage to find one at all. See pictures below. According to the description on the cards reverse side; there was a possibility to order a “Special 007 Holster complete with toy snub nose repeater pistol” at the Somportex Gun Dept. Have you ever seen one of those pistols? Neither have I.
"James Bond Secret Agent 007 Identity Card"
“Rare Colour Cards"
In June 2017 I discovered on eBay some coloured cards. When I contacted the seller, he told me they were issued at the same time. So I wanted a second opinion and contacted Graham Rye, Graham is the editor, designer and publisher of 007 MAGAZINE publications. I received the following answer: "The examples you have attached have been hand-coloured by a child. Somportex only ever released this set in black&white. The cards are *not* genuine!". Below, the coloured cards I discovered on eBay.