The first Barclaycard

Counterculture and the UK's first credit card

20 February 2017

The original 1966 Barclaycard is one of the most important artefacts in the Barclays archive – and it’s currently on display at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) as part of an exhibition dedicated to the Swinging Sixties.

The V&A show – titled ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970’ – tracks the huge, era-defining social upheaval that centred on Swinging London.

Alongside the iconic figures of fashion and popular culture that feature in the exhibition – from The Beatles and Mary Quant to Ken Kesey and Twiggy – are some seemingly everyday objects, including the very first Barclaycard.

While a credit card might seem an unlikely inclusion in a celebration of 1960s counterculture, Barclaycard could claim to be both innovative and revolutionary (as these ad campaigns show).

As Maria Sienkiewicz, Barclays Group Archivist, says: “Our original 1966 Barclaycard is one of our smallest yet most important artefacts. Its launch as the UK’s first credit card marked a turning point in financial services provision, prompted a transformation in the spending habits of the nation, and saw a huge shift in style for bank advertising.”

You’ll have to be quick if you want to catch the V&A show, which runs until 26 February before going on tour to North America and Europe. 

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