Tobacciana - Collector's Favorite

by Penny Westbrook
Contributing research: Cindy Reece

Posted 1999

Despite the ongoing controversy of tobacco items in today’s society, they still remain a favorite among many collectors. Whatever your stand on the subject, Tobacco memorabilia is admired by collectors for its creativity and beauty.

Collecting Tobacciana is a challenging and rewarding hobby. From the novice to the more seasoned collector, Tobacciana provides something for everyone. Many collectors choose to collect by subject or may strictly collect a specific item. Collecting can include a variety of tobacco and smoking related items/products. Some of these favorites include media advertisements, posters, cigar labels/bands, silk tobacco labels, pouches, tins, signs, lighters, pipes, and boxes/containers, etc. When collecting don’t overlook paper items such as stocks, certificates, tax revenues, cigarette cards, and tags. The list seems endless of all the pieces of tobacco memorabilia.

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Vignette taken from Stock certificate - The American Tobacco Company, ca. 1960s

Since the first tobacco advertisements appeared around 1789, they have always appealed to the consumer. Attractive print ads have graced many billboards and magazines often being referred to as “The Great Seduction…with values”. These have become some of the most sought after pieces in the collectible market. Though many of these are still affordable, some older pieces in excellent condition can cost a collector hundreds of dollars.

Colorful labels found on cigar boxes are another favorite. The beauty and artistry of these labels is overwhelming. Cigar labels were printed by a process known as Lithography. In the early years, cigar labels were printed with 8 to 10 colors. Other higher priced labels were embossed and contained bronze or 24K gold leaf. In the 1920s, with improved automation, the ability to reduce the ink to four colors came about. The cigar industry began to fall and the lustrous quality of the labels had vanished by the 1930s. Today’s collector treasures these small works of art.

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(CLOCKWISE)
• VICTORY CIGAR LABEL CA. 1920 - 1940.
• PET CIGARETTES CARD 1900S.
• PLAYERS CIGARETTES CARD - PLAYER FILM STAR KATHERINE HEPBURN CA. 1934.
•PET CIGARETTES CARD 1900S.
• SPANA LEO CIGAR LABEL CA. 1910 - 1920.

 

Collectors worldwide enjoy collecting Cigarette or Tobacco cards, also known as Cartophily. The cigarette card was introduced as a packet stiffener to help strengthen the paper packaging. They would usually feature a picture on one side and product information on the other. In the late 1800s, due to many of the tobacco users being sailors these cards feature nautical themes. These mini advertisements range in different topics and contain many cards to a specific series. Cards may feature movie stars, ships, aircraft, motor cars, sports, animals, Victorian ladies, flowers, etc. Cards produced before World War II are believed to be of higher quality. Even today new discoveries are found, continually changing the history of these cards. Studying tobacco cards before buying is essential for the novice, for many reproductions appear in today’s market.

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Fast Mail J. J. BAGLEY & CO. CHEWING

TABLE LIGHTER CA. 1920S.
PIPE - G. WESTBROOK COLLECTION.

Choosing a favorite among tobacco memorabilia may be the most challenging aspect of this hobby. From the art to the accessories, selecting which items to collect is a great challenge. 

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