Even though the practice of smoking tobacco has been around since the 16th century, cigarettes did not achieve widespread popularity until the middle of the 19th. Not surprisingly, that’s also about the time when the first ashtrays appeared.

Whether or not you smoke, ashtrays are appealing collectibles for numerous reasons. First, they are small, which means you can acquire hundreds of ashtrays and display them in a relatively finite amount of space. Second, they were made out of a wide range of materials, so if you are a fan of art glass, pounded copper, or ceramics, there is bound to be an ashtray for you. Third, ashtrays were produced during some of the most creative periods in history, which means there are ashtrays for fans of the Victorian era, Arts and Crafts, and Art Deco. Finally, ashtrays are snapshots of their culture, so it is not uncommon to find ashtrays that were produced to advertise products and events of the day.

Ceramic ashtrays in the United States ranged from the simple, folksy animal shapes produced by Rookwood and Red Wing to the geometric ashtrays of Homer Laughlin, whose Fiesta and Amberstone ashtrays were marked by the firm’s trademark concentric rings. Haeger Pottery made ashtrays for commercial settings (hotels, restaurants), as did Shenango and Hall.

More fanciful were the ceramic ashtrays of Brush-McCoy, whose pot-bellied ashtray flanked by a pair of open-mouthed frogs (that’s where you were supposed to put your fresh cigarettes) is quite collectible. Currier & Ives made ceramic ashtrays whose borders and cigarette rests acted as frames for the scenic prints in their centers. Van Briggle made ashtrays in the shapes of card suits, and Homer Laughlin produced an ashtray whose central image of a group of dogs playing poker is a classic—for a while, smoking cigarettes and playing cards were inseparable activities. As for Russel Wright, his ashtrays were paragons of efficiency, with matchbox holders built into their bases.

Ashtrays in the U.K. were somewhat more refined. Made of porcelain by such renowned potteries as Wedgwood, English ashtrays tended to be formal and highly decorated. Wedgwood produced countless Jasperware ashtrays, mostly in the firm’s signature cobalt hue but also in pink, purple, and black. Royal Winton produced rectangular stacking ashtrays with colorful scenes on black backgrounds—a set of four ashtrays accompanied by a matching cigarette box is considered a real catch.

Funkier were Royal Doulton’s "ash receivers," so-called because they were not shaped like trays. Instead, these pieces assumed the form of hollowed-out heads depicting scoundrels and characters of English lore, from the 18th-century highwayman Dick Turbin to generically named cartoonish coots such as Farmer John and Old Charley.

Other international ceramic ashtrays included those made by Limoges, Haviland, and Quimper in France; the blue-on-white hand-painted windmill ashtrays from Delft of Holland; Royal Bayreuth, Villeroy & Boch, and Hummel ashtrays from Germany; and Japan’s Noritake ashtrays, which were sometimes decorated with figural frogs, pelicans, and horse heads...

Of the glass ashtrays, some of the easiest to collect are the Depression glass pieces made in the United States by Anchor Hocking, Bartlett Collins, and Federal. The Manhattan pattern, with its concentric rings and trios or quartets of cigarette rests, was quite common, as were ashtrays in the shapes of playing-card suits. Less widespread were Art Deco ashtrays, whose bases were chunkier and more architectural than decorative. Greensburg, Knox, and Hazel Atlas are three other manufacturer names to look for.

After the Depression, pressed-glass patterns such as Daisy Button, Moon & Stars, and Hobnail seemed perfectly suited to ashtrays; carnival glass, milk glass, and vaseline glass were also used. U.S. manufacturers included Akro Agate, Cambridge, Fenton, and Imperial.

Art-glass ashtrays were also popular. Everyone from Steuben to Lalique to Waterford to Daum made them. The Venetians pulled at the edges of their molten crystal to create everything from thick bubble-glass ashtrays to whimsical pieces in the shapes of clowns, fish, and birds.

In the 20th century, metal ashtrays were common all over the world. Brass, bronze, and copper were routinely used, but so were chrome, aluminum, and silver, from sterling to plate. Breaking away from these monochromatic ashtrays were the cloisonné and enameled pieces exported from China.

Regardless of the material they were made out of, ashtrays with advertisements on them were an economical way for companies to spread the word about their products and services. Since ashtrays were ubiquitous to bars, ashtrays sporting advertisements for beer and liquor brands were produced in great numbers, making them achievable collectibles today. Coors, Pabst, Olympia, Schlitz, Budweiser, Grain Belt, Stroh’s, Lone Star, Hamm’s, and Colt 45 are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to U.S. beer companies who advertised on ashtrays. In the U.K, Joule’s, Tennent’s, Bass, and Courage all left their marks on ashtrays, as did Heineken, Pilsner Urquell, St. Pauli Girl, Tuborg, Tucher Bier, and Hackerbräu.

If ashtrays for beer companies tended to be workmanlike, ashtrays for liquor producers were often handsome and sophisticated. Examples included the white Scotty dog figural in the center of a black ashtray for Black & White Scotch, or the Limoges ashtray with gold cigarette rests framing a portrait of Napoleon made for Camus Napoleon Cognac. Especially collectible is the yellow heart-shaped ashtray for Gordon’s gin, with the slogan "The Heart of a Good Cocktail" in black letters on the ashtray’s white rim.

Some people like to collect the glass or ceramic ashtrays made for U.S. casinos, Harrah’s the Sands, and the Hotel Fremont, to name but a few. Then there are collectors of ashtrays for nightclubs and entertainment spots, from the shallow, yellow glass squares made for the Playboy Club to the deep ceramic discs made for the Stork Club. Fraternal organizations made their own ashtrays, too—a Shrine ashtray featuring a figural of a red fez is particularly collectible.

Transportation-themed ashtrays were also popular. Those with a chrome airplane hovering over its ashtray are highly sought, as are the glass ashtrays sitting in a real rubber tires made by Firestone, Michelin, Goodyear, and others.

Finally there were the novelty ashtrays. The Big Mouths were hollow, porcelain ashtrays in the shape of tall, elongated heads with enormous, gaping mouths—vent holes in the head and ears allowed cigarette smoke to escape in comic ways. Most of these were made in Japan, but the most collectible ones are from the German firm of Shaffer & Vater.

Another type of Big Mouth had a rounder head and, inexplicably, a bee on the figure’s nose. There were Big Mouth animals, too, from cats and dogs to whales and frogs. Other novelty porcelain ashtrays included ones depicting Charlie Chaplin, happy-go-lucky hobos, and a tall conductor with strategically placed vents holes so that smoke would puff from his oversize ears.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Match World

Match World

This ambitious site showcases the 20,000-item Rankei Library matchbook collection, owned by the Japan Match Manufac… [read review or visit site]

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Kensitas Silk Flowers

Kensitas Silk Flowers

Don Wearmouth and his wife showcase the 230 beautiful silk designs that were distributed free with Kensitas cigaret… [read review or visit site]

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

Matchbox Labels

Matchbox Labels

Jane McDevitt's huge Flickr photoset of matchbox labels, primarily Eastern European, from the 1950s and 60s. These … [read review or visit site]

Plan 59

Plan 59

From the Nostlagia Factory in Virginia comes this celebration of 'mid-century automotive advertising illustrations'… [read review or visit site]

Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising

This gallery of cigarette magazine advertising from the 1940s and 50s contains no surgeon general's warning, just p… [read review or visit site]

American Package Museum

American Package Museum

Ian House's gallery of early 20th Century American package designs. Browse the exhibits in slide show mode or view … [read review or visit site]

Matchbook Museum

Matchbook Museum

James Lileks' gallery of 400 matchbooks from coffee shops, hotels, motels, bars, banks, restaurants and more. Lilek… [read review or visit site]

Found in Moms Basement

Found in Moms Basement

Paula Zargaj-Reynolds’ blog, an extensive collection of 20th century vintage advertising, is a visual feast. Scro… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Vintage Dc-3 Airplane Ashtray Smoking Stand Light Lamp ChromeVintage Royal Doulton Blue Glazed 1924 Wembley British Empire Exhibition AshtrayKaws Companion Ashtray Black Ver Originalfake X G1950Vintage Stoneware Beer Match Striker Tobacco Advertising Ashtray Bar Jug Bottle Vintage Art Deco Chrome Airplane Ashtray Stand TopWw2 Trench Art Brass Shell Plane & Shell Base Ashtray. UnusualVintage Atomic Mid Century Modern Drip Glaze Ceramic Hanging Ashtray Set JapanOriginal Frank Sinatra's Cal-neva Lodge Ashtray Early 60's 1936 Japanese Army Ashtray Badge Medal Navy Army Wwii Ww2 Commemorative Tin WarPlated Metal Trench Art Ashtray - Kangaroo & Wwii Plane - Original ConditionStanton Beer And Ale Ashtray Troy, New York2 Amalgamated Wireless Australasia 1950's Awa Radio Advertising Ashtrays PotteryVictorian Whitbread Beer China Tobacco Advertising Ashtray Bar Jug Beer Bottle Nice Old Rare Hoffman House Advertising Tobacco Cigar Display Ashtray Not TinWwii Homefront Ran-bunk-shus Benito Mussolini Bassons Dummy Products Ww2 AshtrayVintage "olympic Air-ride" Tyre Ashtray - Rubber Tyre / Glass Insert -australianVintage 1950s Jayhawk Motors Ashtray Ku Lawrence Topeka Kansas Ford ChevroletOld 1950s Vintage Smokey The Bear Snuffit Magnet Miniature Cig Ashtray Calif Usa*** Wwii Trench Art Shell Ashtray 1945 Uss Lorain Named *** Vintage Ashtray Made Of Duralumin Used On Airship Akron ~goodyear Zeppelin OhioDunhill Pipe Ashtray: Cast Pewter Crown & Rose W/ Pipe Rest & Cork KnockerRare Antique Ronson American Metal Works Bird Striker & Ashtray W/pelican PoemThompson & Co Humidor W/hygrometer Cherry Wood Cedar, Case, H. Upmann Ashtray Vintage New York 1939 World Fair Goodrich Rubber Tire Ashtray1958 Roseart Zippo Table Lighter Unusual Wood W/ Like Ashtray Near MintVintage Houze Akro Agate Insulator Slag Glass Ashtray Green Cream Brown & BlackVintage Serro Scotty Sportsman Camper Trailer Milk Glass Mug & Amber AshtrayAntique Cigar Cutter / Match Holder / Ashtray Vintage Texaco Pinup Glass AshtraysVintage Art Deco Lighted Ashtray StandHamm's Beer Locher Bros. Distributors Green Isle Minnesota Glass AshtrayVintage Glass Ashtray Mustang Club Ely Nevada Vintage 1960's R. Crumb Keep On Truckin Ashtray Beyond RareHarley Davidson Motorcycles Bar And Shield Ashtray Excellent Condition! LicensedHarding- Coolidge Paper Clip Tray Or Maybe Ashtray Or Paper Weight??????no Clue.Vtg 1930s Blue Opaline Glass & Gold Smoking Set 2 Ashtrays & Cigarette Holder Railroad, Railway Ashtray Great Northern Railroad Goat Design, CollectibleSilver Palace Casino - Casino Ashtray - Downtown - Las Vegas - Nevada - SmokeRare Boer War "trenchart" Brass Shell Case Ashtray Vintage 1941 Chevrolet Dealer Advertising AshtrayVintage Houze Akro Agate Insulator Slag Glass Ashtray Cream Red & Brown NrAntique Cast Iron Ashtray, New Orleans,painted,cigar,tobacciana,paintedSouvenir Copper Country Houghton Hancock Souvenir Ashtray And Toothpick HolderVintage Firestone Tire Ashtray AdvertisementVintage Bronze Horse And Horseshoe Ashtray, Signed K. & O. Co., Nr!Original Vintage Sinclair Go Dino Chrome Ashtray ~ C. 1950's ~ Very Good CondVintage Jax Beer Advertising Ashtray New Orleans, La. Ww2 German Glass Ashtray EliteVintage Us Navy Wwii Military Shell Trench Art Brass Ashtray Shell CasingVintage Solid Brass Ships Wheel Ashtray ~paragon Park~ Nantasket Beach MassRca Nipper "his Masters Voice" Souvenir Ashtray Or Pin Tray, Atlantic City, NjVtg 1950's Original Iron Fireman Ashtray Robot Ac Rehberger Co Art DecoNew Frontier Hotel Casino Las Vegas Nevada AshtrayVintage Metal Advertising Dice Ashtray, Drott Equipment, WisconsinVtg Mack Truck Brass Bull Dog On Chromed Cigar Ashtray 4" Hood Ornament - EstateC 1910 Antique Good Luck Black Cat Tin Pre Wwi Germany Ashtray! Adorable!Pinup Retro Ashtray Holland Mold Nude Figure Vintage Reproduction New!Vintage Allis Chalmers Tractor Advertising Metal Ashtray Tray A C Mfg. Co.Rare Antique Lady Nodder Ashtray - Risque With Nodding Legs And Fan - Nice!Syrian Arab Airlines 1970's Grey & White Melamine Ashtray - Rare

Recent News: Ashtrays

Source: Google News

When the Beatles met Elvis in LA, and why the friendship turned bitter
LA Observed, August 24th

The house was furnished in what I would describe as Vegas Overdone — heavy, overstuffed chairs and faux antique tables, which might have been something you'd find in a medieval castle. The windows were covered by heavy, satiny drapes, and the lighting...Read more

Winery in Trinity Co. will lose grapes because of smoke
KRCRTV.COM, August 20th

"It was used ashtray, just like eating a used cigarettes and ashes. It was really awful," Marni explained with ... The Rapf's said they plan on keeping older vintage's on reserve until next year when they can harvest again. Butter Creek Ranch is an...Read more

This DIY book case hides an awesome secret
Gay Star News, August 20th

Who doesn't dream of a secret room in their home, safely tucked away from prying eyes and annoying co-habitants? Reddit user BaconJacobs has made this dream come true (and shared it with the internet) by converting his home's former coal chute room ...Read more

Keep Cool With a Classic Auto Air A/C Upgrade for Your Mustang
Mustang 360, August 18th

As the summer months wind down and we reflect on how we only spotted a few vintage Mustangs out and about at shows and cruise-ins (here in the hot and sticky south anyway) it is easy to see that many owners are shy to bring their rides out when the ...Read more

With poultry paltry, rabbits rampant on first full day of Jefferson Co. Fair
Herald-Mail Media, August 16th

The fair's main entrance was a riot of colors, as more than 100 antique cars lined the field in three long rows, a popular stop Sunday afternoon among fairgoers on their way to the main exhibits and show areas. Tim Hudson, a member of the Country Roads...Read more

Goldman Trader-Turned-New York Chef Opens Restaurant in London
Bloomberg, August 9th

Levine is known for his playful culinary style and presentation, with dishes such as a tuna tartare cigar served in a vintage glass ashtray. He has high hopes for his brunch menu, with options such as pancake-crusted sausage lollipops; lobster Benedict...Read more

Forest Fires Could Make California Wines Taste Like Salami and Wet Ashtrays
Munchies_ Food by VICE, August 7th

An Australian report on smoke taint noted, “Wines made from grapes exposed to smoke during sensitive growth stages can exhibit aromas and flavors resembling smoked meat, disinfectant, leather, salami, and ashtrays.” Even for Islay scotch lovers, that's...Read more

A downtown Seattle apartment is elevated with imagination, instinct and tough ...
The Seattle Times, July 31st

Her instinct skews modern, and vintage and antique and industrial and keepsake and artistic. It's in the blend, really. Two secondhand Midcentury Modern chairs, covered in a creamy Holland & Sherry cashmere herringbone, anchor the living room. On the ...Read more