Cigarette cases prove to hold value

November 12, 2018

Cigarette cases with jewels can fetch high dollars in collectible markets.

One of the first serious collectors of Tobacciana (tobacco-related items) was George Arents, and today his collection is housed in the New York Public Library.

This collection includes Martin Waldesmuller’s 1507 book about American natives chewing on a “green leaf.” “Cosmographiae Introductio” is the earliest printed reference to tobacco. Tobacciana is a very broad field, so Arents, like many other collectors, narrowed it to specific items in this genre.

His choice was to collect only the rarest of the rare, such as Waldsmuller’s book. Others choose categories that are bit easier to find, such as match safes, cigar cutters or cigarette cases.

Cigarette cases are interesting in that they were fashioned to keep the cigarettes from being crushed. Even so, the cigarette case was as much about being stylish as it was a utilitarian accessory.

In the late 1800s, such designers as Faberge were exporting them from Russia, and the esteemed American company Pairpoint Manufacturing was trying its hand at them with much more reasonable prices.

Today, cases that were made by famous designers, lavishly created with precious metals and jewels, are some of those that bring the best prices.

It is not unusual to see prices into the thousands of dollars for such versions. Also those cases that might have belonged to someone famous, whether a British monarch or a Hollywood movie star, can be right pricey.

From the early 1900s through the mid-century, cigarette cases were quite the accessory for both men and women. They still are popular in some countries that have not banned smoking. Though there is a rare and expensive end of this collectible, there are also many examples that are priced right reasonably.

While the houses of Van Cleef & Arpels and Coco Chanel were producing cigarette cases, so were Montgomery Ward and Sears. This is a case of the more expensive the materials that went into the original product, the more expensive it seems to be as a vintage or antique collectible.

Some cases came with companion vestas or match safes in a set as did some that were matched to a woman’s purse or a man’s flask.

As with all collectibles, provenance helps the price. Many of these cases have engraved messages or initials on them that might be helpful in tracking down an original owner or maker.

This is an interesting collectible of a once very fashionable accessory.

Jean McClelland writes about antiques for The Herald-Dispatch.

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