Vintage Vapors: Tobacciana and Smoking Collectibles

ID-100265365 By patrisyu
Free image courtesy of Patrisyu

The subject of tobacco often seems to divide public opinion in society today but when it comes to collectors, there is little doubt that tobacco memorabilia is always enduringly popular.

Antique smoking collectibles are a hot commodity right now and smoking paraphernalia such as tobacco pipes in all shapes and sizes are very popular and could be a good investment.

Building up your collection

Collectors around the world are widely interested in quite a range of tobacco-related items such as pipes, ashtrays, cigar boxes and cases and pretty much anything that is connected with the time in history when smoking was a ritual and sometimes a sign of wealth.

You will find that some collectors specialize in niche markets within the general topic of smoking collectibles, this might be concentrated on commercial packaging and advertising or it could be that they like to specifically collect different types of boxes and cases for cigars and cigarettes.

Inexpensive hobby

Probably one of the reasons why smoking collectibles are so popular is that you can often find tobacciana items that are selling for under $50, which makes it an inexpensive hobby and relatively easy to build up a sizeable collection for a reasonable sum of money.

There are of course plenty of expensive items around if you go looking for them and if you want an item that had a famous owner like a political figure with a penchant for smoking, there are plenty of examples of items like lighters and boxes fetching large sums of money at auction.


Smoking and ashtrays go hand in hand and you will find that there is a very diverse range of ashtrays that are made from many different materials, which are highly collectible.

Again, the appeal of ashtrays to collectors is not just the huge range of different ones you can find, but also the fact that many sell for reasonable prices and your collection will not take up as much space in your home as some other things that you could collect.

Many ashtrays evoke memories of different era’s, such as Art Deco and Victorian times. This means that you can find ceramic, metal, or glass ashtrays in many different forms.

Some of these designs are instantly recognizable to avid collectors, with Van Briggle famous for making ashtrays in the shape of card suits and Russel Wright, who made ashtrays that became a byword for efficiency, with matchbox holders integrated within the base of each one.

English ceramic producer Royal Doulton, created what they referred to as ash receivers. This seemed a more appropriate name as they were not shaped like trays but actually took on the shape of hollowed-out heads of notorious villains like Dick Turpin, which were used as a receptacle for the ash.

Adverts and labels

If you are looking to specialize in a certain area of tobacco-related collecting then you might want to consider advertising memorabilia and labels.

Tobacco adverts are exactly commonplace these days due to restrictions of course, but there are many posters and advertising materials relating to advertising specific brands throughout the ages, which have become highly sought after.

Colorful labels that you find on cigar boxes are also a favorite item to collect for many who are interested in tobacciana.

Cigar labels were printed using lithography and this process helped to create some works of art in the early years, with labels that used up to 10 different colors. Some expensive tobacco brands even used 24K gold leaf or bronze in their labels, but by the 1930’s, printing automation took over and less colors were needed to create the labels.

What this has meant is that there is a real treasure trove of early color labels in the marketplace that are really stunning to look at and naturally, quite collectable as well.


Collecting cigarette cards, which is also known as cartophily, is a huge area of collecting in its own right.

There are so many different collections out there, which feature movies stars, sports stars and almost any other topic you can think of. You do have to be on your game when collecting cards though, as there are many reproductions on the market and a rookie collector could easily be fooled into parting with their cash for something that is not genuine.

Whatever you think about smoking itself, there is little doubt that collecting anything to do with this activity from the past, could be very rewarding.

Archie Carruthers is a longtime antiques enthusiast and avid writer. When he’s not perusing the shops and fairs, he’s writing about his latest finds. Look for his interesting and informative posts mainly on antiques, collectibles and hobby websites and blogs.