By Paula Kirwan

In spite of the ongoing controversy regarding tobacco usage, tobacciana – the collection of all things related to smoking – is a favorite category among collectors. The choices are vast, and availability and versatility of products make this the niche very appealing to both beginning and seasoned collectors. Such tobacciana memorabilia includes pipe holders, table lighters, tobacco tins, tobacco company stock certificates, match safes, smoke stands, smoking jackets and vintage ads and signs . . . and the list goes on and on.

Cigar collectibles are popular, and include cigar boxes, humidors, cutters and special cigar lighters. One collector, Joe Hruby, is in the Guinness Book of World Records with a record 165,480 different cigar bands, but his collection is now over 221,000. The possibilities are endless!

Novelty ashtrays are fun to collect, since you can find all shapes, sizes and subject matter. Collectors can specialize with specific themes like animals or clowns, or choose ashtrays that advertise businesses, hotels, tourist sites and specific products such as beer. The charming ashtray in the photo, above right, depicts a cheery genie ($135; B-225).

Having to hand roll tobacco in paper limited the number of cigarette smokers until 1865, when a man named Washington Duke from North Carolina began selling pre-rolled cigarettes. The rest is history! Cigarettes have generated a huge array of collectible items, including lighters, vintage advertising ads and posters, trading cards, ashtrays and cigarette holders.

The vintage sign in the photo, left, advertises cigarettes made by the firm Liggett & Myers; the firm created the L&M brand in 1953 (L&M Sign, $159; T-352). It was the one of the earliest brands to have a filter that wasn't simply a one-sided filter and was marketed as possessing a ''Pure White Miracle Tip of Alpha-Cellulose. " In 1954, Life Magazine ran ads for L&M featuring Barbara Stanwyck and Rosalind Russell giving testimonials for the brand's new "miracle product," the "alpha cellulose" filter that is "just what the doctor ordered." What a different time that was!

Although pipes have been in existence since ancient times, pipe usage spread around the world when European traders brought back tobacco plants from the Americas in the 1600s, and pipes, borrowed from the Native Americans, became the popular method of smoking. Antique wood pipes, bone pipes, clay pipes, and meerschaum pipes, which are made from a rare white stone, are prized among collectors.

 In 1827 the first friction match was sold, and it was the height of technology.  This breakthrough made carrying fire convenient, whereas previously, creating it was a time-consuming business that required deft usage of flint and steel. With the debut of friction matches, people needed a device to keep the matches safe and available for ready use. Match strikers were created for this purpose, and remain popular with collectors today. The match striker in the photo, right, is for Sir Edward Lee's Old Scotch Whisky, and is hand-painted "As supplied to the House of Commons" ($15; S-525).

Two categories of the most popular tobacciana collectibles worldwide are matchbooks, which were introduced in 1894, and matchboxes. The main reason is the accessibility of these items and the great variety of labels that have been used as a form of advertising over the years.

The Ronson Company introduced the automatic flame pocket lighter in 1926, and other companies like Zippo, Colibri and Dunhill soon followed with their own devices. Zippo lighters have since become the most collectible lighters.

Collecting tobacciana is a fun and rewarding hobby, but picking a favorite among the many choices of tobacco memorabilia may be the most challenging aspect of all!

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