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The Story of the British Telecom Tender Cards

In 1993, three years before British Telecom (BT) launched their new 'chip' based telephone cards, BT contacted 14 companies with a view to them tendering to supply 'The New BT Phonecard'. The artwork BT supplied for the tender was taken from the popular 'Britain's Calling' set of six Phonecards, released a year earlier in 1992. This page covers many aspects and photos of the many different tourism tender cards. If you have information or card variations not shown, please contact me. Thank you.

For further information about the BT tourism tender cards please see:

BT Tourism Tender Card Examples

Pictured below - Selection of tourism cards that were produced in the tender to supply The New BT Phonecard.

1996: The New BT Phonecard

On 25th May 1996 British Telecom (BT) released 'The New BT Phonecard'. The new BT Phonecard featured and used a built-in micro chip to contain information relating to telephone call credit. This new 'chip' technology replaced the ageing Landis & Gyr 'optical' card technology which BT had used since their telephone cards were first introduced in July 1981.

PUB003: £2 1st National Issue - BT Phonecard

Pictured above - The New BT Phonecard launched in May 1996 featured 'chip' technology.

1994/95: Smartcard Trials

In preparation for the change from 'optical' to 'chip' technology, various trials were conducted in limited areas in the UK, e.g. university campus, cities, regions, etc. These real-time trials started in late 1994 with the Alpha trial and concluded with the Beta trial in The Solent in 1995.

Pictured right - BT Smartcard from The Solent trial in 1995.

1993: Tendering for the new BT Smartcard

Before the real-time trials and subsequent release of the new 'chip' card technology British Telecom required supplier(s) who could produce their new telephone cards. To that end, in 1993 BT contacted 14 companies to seek whether they were interested in tendering for the forthcoming supply of Smartcards (as they were named at the time). The companies BT contacted were:

Bull CP8
Cowells Ltd
‣Cristel UK Ltd
Delphic Card Systems
Gemplus Card Service Ltd
‣GN Rathdown Ltd
‣GPT Payphone Systems ID Data Systems
‣Landis & Gyr Communications (UK) Ltd
McCORQUODALE Card Technology Ltd
Orga Card Systems (UK) Ltd
Schlumberger Technologies
Soliac
‣Surface Electronics Ltd

Of these companies, GN Rathdown, ID Data Systems, Landis & Gyr and Surface Electronics declined to tender.

The remaining ten companies were sent then artwork that had previously been used in the "Britain's Calling" optical series of six Phonecard set, one of which is pictured right. They were asked to provide samples for an initial tender adjudication process, focussing primarily on printing and other quality criteria.

At that stage Cristel UK declined to respond to the tender.

Pictured right - Original Britain's Calling 100unit Scots Guard Piper optical BT Phonecard released in 1992. The card's artwork was used in the tender for the new BT Smartcard.


Tourism Tender Card Variations

The remaining nine companies then produced samples for the adjudication process. Generally, these cards were not embedded with a module, although some companies sent samples of plain cards, and embedded ones. Some were matt finish; some were gloss; some printed on the reverse; some wrapped; and some with inserts.

Pictured above - Wrapped full face tourism tender card featuring Scots Guard Piper design.

None of the supplied tender cards were encoded for BT use, although some companies that produced embedded cards may have used chips and modules that they had been using for other supply contracts to other PTTs.


Tourism Tender Cards

Pictured below are examples, of in the main, and where available the same design 'Britain's Calling' card featuring King Henry VIII. In addition to the pictured cards below e.g. 'ORGA' which is pictured with a gloss finish, a matt finish variation was also produced. Thus significantly increasing the number of cards and variations that were produced. A conservative estimate would suggest some 100+ cards across the six card designs were produced by the nine companies.

To view a larger image of any particular card, simply click the picture of a card below. For further explanation of the cards pictured below, known variations, etc refers please click on the blue name e.g. BULL CP8 (chip).


How many tourism cards were produced in the tender?

Neither British Telecom or the nine companies that produced the tourism tender cards have ever confirmed how cards were produced and they have never appeared in any of the UK Phonecard catalogues. Technically of course they are not telephone cards, as they never carried payphone call credit, but they are in my opinion an important part of the story of BT Phonecards.

The table below lists the number of cards submitted to BT in the tender process. However, in reality the numbers that were produced by the various manufacturers and that may still be in circulation may be a lot higher than the figure recorded at the time of the adjudication process.

Tourism Tender Cards
   

Type

Finish

Quantity Produced

Wrapped?

Bull CP8

A

IV

Matt

10

Not wrapped

Gloss

20

Not wrapped

Bull CP8 (chip)

B

Chip VI

Matt

10

Not wrapped

Cowells

C

IVB

Matt

40

Not wrapped

Gloss

40

Not wrapped

Delphic

D

IVA

Gloss

50

Not wrapped

Gemplus

E

V

Matt

25

Wrapped

25

Not wrapped

Gloss

25

Wrapped

GPT (full face)

F

I

Gloss

Beefeater without a sticker 20

Wrapped

Henry VIII without a sticker 30

All other cards without a sticker 50

Henry VIII with sticker 40

William Shakespeare with sticker 50

GPT

G

II

Gloss

Full set of six cards without a sticker 20-50

Wrapped

Scot / Welsh with sticker 20

McCorquodale

H

IV

Gloss

50

Wrapped

McCorquodale (chip)

I

N/A

Gloss

3

Not wrapped

Orga

J

III

Matt

10

Not wrapped

Gloss

10

Schumberger

K

VII

Gloss

56

Not wrapped

Soliac

L

VIA

Matt

20

Not wrapped


Pictured above - Wrapped tourism tender card featuring Scots Guard Piper design with sticker 'SURFACE PRINT SAMPLE DO NOT REMOVE LABEL', some cards featured these stickers, while others cards of the same design didn't.

The image above is of a GPT card showing the Scots Guard Piper at Edinburgh Castle from the “Britain’s Calling” optical set. The manufacturers interested in tendering for Smartcard supply were given the artwork to test their ability to reproduce the colours and print register control. Also they were asked to supply the wrapping they would use if successful. GPT were indeed one of the successful suppliers. Some of their cards that they supplied had the sticker under the wrapping saying that it was a print sample - this is one such example. GPT supplies 2 types of cards with these stickers, the Scots Piper and the Welsh Costume. They were high gloss cards, and there were 20 of each supplied. The reverse of the card is printed on a black background, and the reverse of the wrapper is in dove grey, with £10 printed in a darker grey. The wrapper bears the barcode 5 016351700020, and instructions for use in black print.

GPT supplied the most comprehensive set of cards of any of the manufacturers, with full face printing and non-full face images. The instructions on the wrappers were in various colours depending on the denominations. In all they submitted about 600 cards.

For further information about the BT tourism tender you may find the following page useful:

BT Tourism Tender Card Examples


BT Tourism Tender Cards

If you have images or content that you'd like to contribute towards this webpage please do contact me with information, scans or photographs.

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Last updated: 18th June 2018

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