From the Vault - featured items from our collection

"Discover Australia with Shell" Trading Cards

"Discover Australia with Shell" Trading Cards

This collection item is actually four trading cards produced by Shell Australia.

In the 1960s, Shell Australia started a promotion called “Discover Australia with Shell”. When motorists would stop at a Shell gas station they would be given trading cards. There were different series – birds; shells, fish and coral; transportation; butterflies and moths; Australian beetles; citizenship; meteorology – and there were books to house the cards. Our four cards come from the “Shells, Fish and Coral” series. The number of cards in a series was usually around 60, and each are numbered, though multiple series could build upon each other. Our cards are numbered 64, 68, 79 and 120 “of a series”. The pictures were painted by a variety of Australian artists, including R. Malcolm Warner, Adrien George Feint and Nell Wilson. Interestingly, Warner had come to Canada as an Official War artist with Australian soldiers in 1944, completing a six-month tour of 24 air stations from Calgary to Greenwood, NS.

Shell first arrived in Australia in 1901 with kerosene, and with the first load of bulk fuel on the Shell ship Murex in 1903. Besides the trading cards, another interesting Shell advertising project was creating films and documentaries about Australia. Some were very openly advertisements for Shell, others were less so. One in particular about a mailman, The Back of Beyond (1954), won an award at the Venice Film Festival. Shell hired some of the best people in the film industry at the time. To reach more people in Australia, Shell had a Mobile Film Unit that would travel around the country bringing electricity, a screen and a projector to show the films. The “Discover Australia with Shell” cards, while on a smaller scale, served the same purpose as the films and documentaries – they served to connect Australia and its many inhabitants and thrilling landscapes with Shell in the minds of children and adults alike who might collect a card or two or more.

Additionally, Australia’s Highway 1, which circumnavigates Australia’s coast and cuts through Tasmania, was officially opened in 1955, tying together many state roads. At last, Australians and visitors had a means of driving around the entire country. This may have also led the Shell Company to create trading cards in the 1960s. Today there are over 900 Shell stations in Australia. Most are congregated along the edge of Australia where the vast majority of its population lives.

These four cards are preserved as part of the original Sam Waller collection. It is unknown how Sam himself acquired them.

Added: July, 2016

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