Players No 6 Cigarettes
Part of the British Scene?
The Players No6 brand, introduced in 1965, was Britain's best selling cigarette brand for most of the 70s. Player's advertising claimed it was 'Part of the British Scene'.
For the first half of the 70s, No 6 was number 1. Smokers were slowly waking up to the dangers of their habit in the 70s and health warnings first appeared on UK cigarette packets from 1971. However, what killed No 6 was the EU.
In 1978, tobacco taxation was harmonised with the EU and cigarettes were taxed by retail price, rather than by weight of tobacco. This might sound a minor arcane worry for hard pressed Customs and Excise employees, but it changed the cigarette market overnight.
Before this change small cigarettes were cheap and big ones were expensive. So King Size cigarettes were a luxury and small ones, like Player's No 6, were popular. After the tax change, the price difference between a pack of Player's No 6 and a pack of up-market Benson & Hedges Special Filter was almost incidental; 20 No 6 cost 52p and 20 Benson & Hedges cost 57p.
Overnight sales of No 6 tumbled and in the status conscious 80s, No6 was about as popular as a pair flares and a kipper tie. The brand quietly disappeared in 1993.
In the 60s
The No 6 name came from Players' marketing department; it had no real meaning. Like Embassy, launched in 1962, Players No6 coupons were an important part of the marketing strategy. Players No6 coupons were exchanged for gifts from a catalogue like Green Shield Stamps.
Like Embassy, No6 was mainly a filter brand. Although there was plain version, see the beige and brown pack on the middle row on the left in the picture (above left).
No6 targeted a different market from Embassy, the smaller Class 'A' market, the cheaper end then dominated by Woodbine.
The No6 launch coincided with a swing towards smaller, cheaper, cigarettes in the face of rising tobacco duty. Long-standing buyers of cheaper cigarettes were also finally catching onto the perceived health benefits of the filter. Thus No6 was able to match the phenomenal success Embassy achieved a few years earlier.
Player's No6 had a working class image, although the packaging also had a feminine appeal. Players No6 consequently appealed to female smokers. In the Michael Caine film, "Get Carter", Jack's niece, Doreen, smoked No6. Carter himself smoked Gitanes.
The feminine appeal of the packaging was partly deliberate, as manufacturers aimed for androgynous packaging for maximum appeal to both sexes.
Part of the British Scene?
By 1970 Players No6 had edged ahead of Embassy as Britain's number one cigarette, taking an incredible 21% (1) of the entire UK cigarette market for the filter brand alone. Players celebrated this popularity in their advertising. One campaign showed market stalls under the tag line, 'The most popular filter cigarette in Britain'. Players also claimed that No6 was 'Part of the British scene' in a campaign of the early seventies. Packs of No6 appeared alongside scenic views of Studland Bay in Dorset and Kirkstone Pass in the Lake District, amongst other landmarks.
They then celebrated the ordinariness of No6 with the campaign 'People like you are switching to No6', which showed pictures of workers and ordinary people.
Player No 6 Extra Mild
As concerns about the health risks of smoking became more prominent, many manufacturers launched mild versions of well known brands. Silk Cut, already a mild brand had a strong lead in this sector. Players introduced No6 Extra Mild in late 1972.
Players No 6 Extra Mild was packaged originally in a light blue box, with the No6 logo on a dark blue rectangle. The box appeal was feminine and the intended market were women aged 25 to 45 with working or lower middle class occupations.
Later the packaging was changed to be similar to the No6 regular, but with a light blue and mid blue stripe. (see photograph above).
Smokers switching to No6 were persuaded by the Player's name and the image of the cigarette which was perceived as sociable; remember this was the 70s. Also the price was attractive. However, No6 Extra Mild's sales were disappointing.
It little dent in Silk Cut's lead in this sector. By 1976 Player's No6 Extra Mild's market share was only 0.6%, well behind Silk Cut's 6.2%.
NB: There is no evidence to suggest mild cigarettes are any better for you than regular ones.
Players No 6 King Size
Like many other lower to mid range cigarette brands, Players launched a King Size version of No6, Players No6, in the early seventies. Like Extra Mild a different style of packaging was initially used, featuring a textured background and a more masculine look. As with Extra Mild, Players reverted to a similar pack to the Regular No6 later in the 70s.
In the late 70s in the wake of changes in taxation, Player's re-launched No 6 King Size with a new packet, left. The King Size pack bore the Royal Warrant, by appointment to HM the Queen Mother. This style of pack continued into the 1980s. A huge advertising campaign featuring surrealist images backed up the the change.
How much did Player's No 6 cost?
In 1972 a pack of 20 Players No 6 cost 21p for Regular or Extra Mild and you got five vouchers or coupons. Plain cigarettes were more expensive, as they contained more tobacco. Player's No 6 Plain cost 24½p (remember half pennies?) and also came with five vouchers. Players No6 King Size came with seven vouchers and cost 29p.
If these prices look cheap, they were, allowing for inflation these prices in today's money are £1.90 for 20 Players No 6 Regular or Extra Mild, £2.20 for 20 No 6 Plain and £2.60 for 20 No 6 King Size.
Player's No 6' reign as Britain's number one cigarette only lasted until the mid 70s. Its market share declined from the mid seventies and fell off a cliff after 1978. By the mid 80s, the brand was all but forgotten achieving only a 2% market share.
'Part of the British Scene'? Possibly, but the health issues around smoking and the European Community saw it off in the late 70s. Even in King Size form, No 6, a cheap 70s' working class brand, stood no chance in the status obsessed 80s. It was a part of the 70s' scene long forgotten.
(1) How the brands ranked - Maxwell International Estimates (1971)
Buy Players No 6 Collectables
With such a popular brand there was a huge amount of marketing paraphernalia. As well as the cigarette packets themselves, there were decanters, beer mats, sports programmes and many other items featuring Players No 6. Also look out for magazine advertisements.
Look out for:
Your comments on Player's No 6
"They were very popular in Ireland, there used to be a big sign on the main street in Dublin reading Players Please in neon" pj 11/04/2011
"Couldn't afford 10 No6 with my school dinner money, so I had to settle for No10s. Or, if we were really skint, 5 Park Drive." Jeff S 04/03/2012
"Always brought 10 No 6 with my dinner money they cost 10 1/2p and my dinner money was 12p. The other 1 1/2p was spent on a book of matches" Mark Westbury 23/09/2012
"where can i get no 6 from as a keep sake thank you" bob 24/11/2014
"old no 6 cigarettes from 60s with 7 remaining does anyone know how much these are worth" paula 16/09/2015
"I have a packet of no 6 player matches does anyone know how much there worth?" Claire 29/09/2015
"I have 2 unopened packs of players No 6 filter virginia. Would anyone be interested in them?" Clair 13/01/2016
l would be interested in taking a pack.
Robert" Robert 23/01/2016
"Hi claire do you still have the un opened no6. I am very interested. Rob" Robert Ernst 09/03/2016
"Hi claire do you still have the cigarettes only I'm very interested. Rob" Robert Ernst 09/03/2016
"The brand gave rise to the joke about a man sitting alone in a Chinese restaurant, his plate piled high. A friend comes in and asks, "What have you got there?" "Dunno," comes the reply, "I only came in for 20 No 6."" gilbert 22/03/2016
"Thanks for sharing this." Skque 08/08/2016
"I remember living in London 1970 and Players #6 as a cheap cigarette sold in vending machines. They were all over London. Even in the parks. Hyde that is." Carolan Weibel 05/09/2016
"We always called them "Numbies"
They were very much the cigarette of choice of the school child.
Number 10s were only for old dossers" Matthew Eyre 01/11/2016
"I have loads of players Number 6 vouchers in my loft any offers?" bill gathercole 03/11/2016
"I started work in 1967 on my way to work I always purchased a packet of 10 number 6 tiped the price 1/9 I think that's about 9p" David Stringer 04/01/2017
"I have an unopened packet of players no6 anyone know what they are worth pse" sue 11/01/2017
"i have an unopened pkt of 20 no.6 king size.
Any offers?" Robert Simner 28/01/2017
"Thanks for that, often wondered why such a powerful brand should disappear in a puff of smoke. So it was the EU that persuaded the UK to consume more tobacco." Alex Marr 12/02/2017
"I have just found a pack of 10 players no6 with 3 cigarettes in them does anyone know how much they will be worth?" Cheri 12/02/2017
"I have an empty packet with silver paper inside of Players No. 6 filter. the packet is the wide horizontal packet measuring 8cm / 3.1 inches. OFFERS" Christina Duncan 15/02/2017
"Anyone have a 20 packet of No6 they want to sell. Sealed preferred. Thanks" Gwyn 19/03/2017
"By 1970 - aged just nine - I was already a committed smoker. Players No. 6 was my ciggy of choice but often had to settle for a pack of five Park Drive of 'Woodies' (Woodbines)if money was tight. I walked many a long mile to school happily 'smoking my bus-fare'! My local newsagent would also sell a single ciggy for an old penny. After more than forty years a smoker I quit the habit in 2010 and have not smoked a single cigarette since. More than seven years down the line sometimes wonder what the attraction was..." Andy M 23/03/2017
"I have a sealed 20 pkt of players no.6 anyone know the value?" Tracey 12/05/2017
"Just found a old empty box of player no6 in a church cellar in leicester" Jamie 06/06/2017
"I use to smoke them they was a very good smoke" richard proctor 16/06/2017
"Any one got any embassy filter cigarettes to sell. Old style red packet,,not this black packaging,,cheersVI" julie 05/07/2017
"I have no6 king size and small size both 20s unopened and 20no 10 unopened all full and sealed if anyone interested thanks Paul
Praid" Paul 24/05/2018
I would be interested in one 20 & one 10 pack if you still have them.
Email me at -
firstname.lastname@example.org" Dexter dickémann 28/11/2018
"For research I am trying to find someone with a 1971 catalogue, just need a couple of pages scanned. email. email@example.com" clive1997 24/06/2019
"I remember that No6 were about the worst tasting ciggies that I smoked in the early 70s. No 10 were cheaper but had very little taste at all, the general comment was that you always lit another one straight away as it didn't feel as if you had smoked anything.
Generally, even on a student grant, I bought B&H and just smoked less which probably helped me give up." Peter 05/07/2019
"I remember smoking no6 king size . In the 1970s.a good smoke .no6 faded off the shelves.of newesagents.not knowi g why as a best seller.bring back please" Mark Vaughan 09/08/2019
"What ever happened to vanguard cigarettes . Thanks mark.ps any one knows" Mark Vaughan 09/08/2019
"Any one knows capstan full strength. Still avaible" Mark Vaughan 09/08/2019
"I also smoked piccadilly de lux cigarettes what happened to them ." Mark Vaughan 09/08/2019
"@Mark_Vaughan - I can tell you what happened to Vanguard. My dad worked with Imperial Tobacco during that time. What happened was that the brand caused a bit of a loss for the firm in Northern Ireland. It turned out that driving vans marked with the Vanguard branding wasn't a great idea in that area. It seemed the locals were blowing up about one van every week. So it kind of fizzled out." Alan 12/08/2019
"Hi I have a full pack of players no 6 1972 mate has 10 packs full all unopened. Wot is a pack worth to collectors thanks my email is firstname.lastname@example.org" Steve murray 17/09/2019
"I would definitely be interested in buying a pack of no6" Andrew Twynham 02/11/2019
"Aah happy days, smoking No.6 on the back seat of the top deck of a London Routemaster bus to and from school in the early / mid 1970s. Also, in the cinema for first showings of great films like The Godfather, Dirty Harry etc, etc. Life was so much better in those pre political correctness days!" Dermot 28/12/2019
"I loved no6" Shaun taylor 25/01/2020
"The explanation of the change in tobacco tax (that the EU taxed by retail price, not weight of tobacco) doesn't make sense. Surely, the converse would be true: a lower-priced cigarette would have less tax applied to it than an expensive brand, whereas before that, comparably sized packs of cigarettes would be taxed about the same." Joe H 13/05/2020
The reason is the cost of the tobacco without the tax was only a small part of making the cigarettes. So a small cigarette was only slightly cheaper than a large one (ignoring the tax).
Once the tax was added the tobacco became the most significant cost. So a small cigarette cost a lot less then a large one.
Yes you are right a small cigarette would still have been cheaper, but the difference would have been smaller. So even after the tax was added the small cigarette was still cheaper, but not much cheaper. So people thought they might as well pay a little bet more and have a king size." Steven 13/05/2020