A Dated Pastime

In Bliss detergent, Card games, Coopers Fresh Aire, Crest Fine Foods, D H Brown & Son Ltd, Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd, Four Square, Four Square Supermarkets, Games, Gregg & Co, Gregg's, Grocery Archaeology, Lushus Jelly, Marmite, Mono wax paper, N W Stevens, Nugget shoe polish, Rawakelle tea, Reckitt and Colman, Red Band Biscottes, Sanitarium Health Foods, The Kiwi Polish Co Ltd, Vi-Max cereal, Vita-Brits cereal on March 20, 2013 at 10.46

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - FOUR SQUARE copy WM copy

Note: Due to repetitive theft by those who take my intellectual property from this blog without my permission, and reproduce it as merchandise for sale on sites such as Ebay, Redbubble and Trade Me,  I have now watermarked some images. If you are interested in purchasing merch of my designs you can head to my personal Redbubble store.


Trying to date items can be a difficult prospect but I am quite good at it – I have a sort of “sixth sense” when it comes to this task. I set myself to it by “zooming in”- I kind of squint my eyes, and really focus hard. It takes a while but I can usually get an item down to a three year period, and sometimes even down to the correct year without knowing much about it. I guess it is just being a highly visual person with an almost photographic memory who has been collecting for decades. It goes in and pretty much just lodges there forever. Apparently I have “a mind like a steel trap”. Which can be a great thing – but on the other hand, there are events you’d probably rather forget. Anyway, moving right along…

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s -MARMITE copy WM copy

As much as I have a vast storehouse in my cranium (although I still think I know very little and have a lot to learn) and a huge collection of images and books to draw on – sometimes it is just no help.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - VITA-BRITS copy WM copy

Point in case is this snap set that Foodstuffs (N.Z. ) Ltd , owner of many brands which I previously covered here, issued as a (presumably) give-away promotional item – something they did a lot of to promote their business over the years (I cover all that in the linked article). Back in the day all kinds of card games were a very popular pastime. I’m not sure when they started to fall out of favour, but I’m taking a guess at the early 1980s – coincidentally around the time that computer games popularised – small hand-held consoles like Donkey Kong were a “must have” for us kids and probably the death knell of more manual entertainment.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - MONO copy WM copy

This particular set was issued for Four Square supermarkets – but this is not the only promotional card set they did – there were two happy families sets over the years – one which I think was done in the late 1950s (I’ll get to that further on) and another one around 1981 (which I have posted on a few times over the last couple of years as I make my way through restoring and exploring each set).

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - BLISS copy WM copy

Anyway, with the one I showcase here – I am really not sure on exactly when it was produced – you would think with over ten different products it would not be so hard to work out with their combined company histories. Not the case.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - VI-MAX copy WM copy

Many of these products had already been around for decades and had changed little – subtle adjustments to packaging can be a good indicator of dates. However the design of Nugget polish featured, for instance – is of little help when it comes to narrowing the date as the design was barely modified over decades and was in use through the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and into the early 1960s.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - RAWAKELLE copy WM copy

One telling point which helps me “arrange” the timeline is that Foodstuffs issued one of the happy families game sets around this time – I believe for a number reasons just previous to the snap set coming out.

4 square happy families cards early 1960s 1961-1967 (2) copy

Some of the cards from the slightly earlier happy families set issued by foodstuffs in the late 1950s, but featuring many of the same products.


four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - RED BAND copy WM copy

Why do I think that? Because unlike the snap set – it features three products that have some clues that help me date it as such – and those are Crest canned foods, Jojo jelly crystals, and Rawakelle tea.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - GREGG'S copy WM copy

I know that Crest Fine Foods was sold in 1959 and the logo was being changed very shortly before that date. In fact I have some of the labels where the art department for Butland Industries has painted out the old logo and pasted a new one over it – so “in transition” at this point. The happy families set shows the old logo . A photo of a Woolworths store of 1964 shows the logo fully changed over. The snap set shows the new logo as well as a completely new can design for tinned peaches.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - CREST copy WM copy

Also, Rawakelle tea, which is also featured, was like Pam’s a Four Square/ Foodstuffs (New Zealand) Limited brand that was launched in 1957 . Jojo jelly, also featured, was launched in 1958 by N W Stevens/The Kiwi Polish Co Ltd that also produced Lushus (many baby boomers will remember this very popular jelly crystal brand) as well as a number of other desserts.

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - COOPER FRESHAIRE copy WM copy

So the happy family set was produced after 1957 and likely before 1960.

And where does that put me with dating the snap set?

four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - NUGGET copy WM copy

The snap set features a new design for Crest peaches so that’s my cut-off date on the lower end of the scale. It’s also worth noting that in the meantime since the happy families set had been issued – the Rawakelle packet had been the recipient of a makeover – but not wildly different. the only 1960s image I have seen of Cooper’s Fresh Aire is a  January 1962 ad  in which the can design seems to have been revised from what appears on the snap card. The product was definitely available by 1961 as exemplified by an ad in the New Zealand Film archive. This was still quite early days for television and the fact that they went to the effort to make an ad in this medium indicates it was a new product on the market and they wanted to make a splash.

snap box  copy

Outside of the early 1960s snap set box, a bit worse for wear.


four square snap late 1950s-early 1960s - SNAP WM copy

So in summary, I would date the snap set at some time between 1960 and January 1962. That gives us the answer – probably 1961. If you asked me on first glance to pick an era, I would have said 1950s. If you showed me the two together, I would say that the snap set was issued before the other. But it goes to show if you really concentrate and try to figure it out with some information that has been gathered to help – the facts don’t lie!

All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2013. All rights reserved.

  1. These are great – when I was a kid we drew our own (still with supermarket products on them) on old computer punch cards. We weren’t bothered about the holes.

    • These are a bit before my time but I definitely remember the later set being around. They are neat designs. I’d love to know who the commercial artists were behind them, but I guess we will never know.

  2. I loved my 1980s Happy Families set. Any chance you’ll post scans of those individual cards too?

    • Kylie I have started working my way through them. I’ve done three or four families so far which I have posted but I am restoring the cards as I go and its a tedious process. The links to the first ones are in the post. Thanks for reading.

  3. The 4 Square SNAP cards are very ‘suave’, cool graphics. I think we had 4 Square here in Oz too if I’m not mistaken, one at Forest Hill near the old spaceship playground in Melbourne. Would soooo like to have a set of these!!

  4. I did have a spare set Peter, unfortunately I just sold them (to an Australian collector). They come up every now and then on Trade Me, so if you join up and save a search, you’ll get a notification. Sometimes they sell for a little, sometimes a lot. Somewhere between 25-70 bucks and it’s quite unpredictable as to what they will reach. I haven’t quite worked out what that is about.

    • Thanks for the heads-up champ, am a member on trade-Me so will add search. Yeah the final auction price on some collectibles is unpredictable. Are they missed or, peeps have no idea wot they really bidding for?! *grin* BTW, keep up the good work… Brilliant www.

      • Just supply versus demand I think. Usually bidding is healthy for them as they are quite desirable item, but if there have been a few listed in the preceding weeks they do not fetch a good price. They are not as desirable as the slightly earlier Happy Families set I mention though, as it is much, much harder to find – especially complete (and equally as nice as the Snap set). One will turn up maybe once a year and may only be partial. To my knowledge the Snap set was never released via Four Square in Australia, although Four Square in Australia did some of its own promotional items that were only available in that country. I sold one set on Trade Me and one on Ebay Au so pays to have saved searches for both I guess. Ebay fetched a better price. Cheers

  5. Hi there, I am a student at AUT university in Auckland, New Zealand and am doing a project on the Four Square during the 30s and comparing it to the four square today…. I have found your website super helpful as a research source, but am facing the problem of not being able to reference it as it is unfortunately not “university approved”. Is there any chance you would be able to help me out with perhaps some sources that you have used to gather your information? Or even some advice as to where I may be able to gather some real useful information that I would be able to reference? Thanks heaps, Justin.

    • Hi Justin, yes it is super helpful, isn’t it? A little further looking around, and you would find I did an article here on that history a few months ago in a post entitled “Power Outlet: The Force of Four Square and Foodstuffs NZ Ltd”, published August 7, 2012. It’s listed on the home page under “recent posts”, but also comes up in the top results of Google in any search to do with Four Square. All sources should be credited there. If I haven’t, well – sometimes back then I was much less careful and missed things. It’s all a work in progress and these days I am much more attentive to it.

      The highest number of requests I get from students is for Foodstuffs Ltd related information – Four Square and Pam’s. I won’t bother asking you to credit me if you use information, quotes or pictures from my article, since every request to do so thus far has been empty promises from students. It’s one of the few little kickbacks I am *supposed to* get for all the hundreds of hours and money that goes into this project. I have created this as a historical resource to help people out but I like at least a nod for my work if it is utilised. So far that has not been forthcoming. Thanks for reading. Cheers

  6. I vividly remember, and played with these cards when they were new as a 5 or 6 year old in 1960 or 1961, so your dating probably right.

  7. Aha! Thanks for that information. Cheers.

  8. […] Ref. https://teara.govt.nz Ref. A Dated Pastime; […]

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