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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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    

Vintage Ww1 Kaiser Novelty Ashtray- Solid Silver Dog Trench Art War Antique WwiArt Deco Nude Machine Age Chromium & Bakelite Pin-up Girl Ashtray Tops Brand NrArt Deco Airplane Ashtray Airtray Vintage Vic Pastushin Santa Monica Usa Chrome1920s Figural Polychome Painted Pin-up Girl Ashtray Marble Base Art Deco AntiqueWwii Trench Art B-29 Bomber Aluminum AshtrayVintage Art Nouveau Pin-up Girl Dresser Tray Ashtray Smoke Flower Cast Metal OldThe Monte Carlo Club Casino Ashtray - Las Vegas - 1945-1956 Excellent ConditionVintage Mack Truck Chrome & Brass Bull Dog Cigar Ashtray Hood Ornament Usa 87931Vintage Hall China Usa Novelty Black Ashtray Figural Lawn Jockey Man In CenterDragon Ashtray Figurine StatueMauna Loa Detroit Tiki Bar 7 Inch Wide Ceramic Ashtray Rare!Antique Douglas Dc 3 Airplane Ashtray Ashstand Metal **rare** 3 Color Houze Houzex Slag Glass Ashtray (model T, Model A, Insulator)Black Americana Butler Ashtray / Smoking StandCollection Of Planters Peanuts Items Cups Bank Scoops Salt Pepper & Ashtray DishTexas Centennial AshtrayOld Faithful Beer Salt Dish / Ashtray €Goodrich Worlds Fair Exhibit New York 1940 Tires Promo Ashtray Advertising VtgVintage Hauenstein Beer Glass Ashtray New Ulm, Minnesota August Schells BeerVintage Oliver Ashtray Osceola Implement Company Keith Miller Farm Tractor!Vintage Mid Century Cigarette Case Ashtray Desk Holder Set Match Holder 1950sPipes, Kaywoodie. Wade, Cb Perkins, Marbury, Brester Adagio & Pipe Ashtray Lot Usmc Ega Marine Corps Lot 3 Vintage Brass Ashtrays990001 Silver Vintage Tin Alloy Egypt Pyramids Ashtray Handicraft Art CollectionVintage Ceramic Nude Woman Soap Dish Ashtray Art DecoAntique Trench Art Heavy Brass Shell Ashtray. Uss Webster Navy Submarine 1945Vintage Antique Greyhound Dog Metal Cigarette Ashtray StandAntique Murano Art Glass Ashtray Bon Bon Dish Bowl-clear Encased Ruby Stain-rareVintage Signed Marhill Hechoen En Mexico Abalone Mop Ashtray Lighter & Case!!!Girl Nodder Ashtray Naughty Patent Tt Made In Japan Maryland B&o Baltimore Ohio Railroad Lot 43pc Maps Ashtray Postcards Magazines++Vintage Art Deco Metal Flip Ashtray - Includes Nude Pinup Table DisplayRare Dated 1914 Trench Art Wooden Soldiers Foot Smokers Ashtray 100% OriginalVintage Art Nouveau Avant Gard Devil Or Satan Ashtray Or Trinket TrayMack Truck Bulldog AshtrayB. F. Goodrich Tire Advertising Ashtray Nice !!Celtic Skull Skelaton Polyresin Ashtray Decor 5" Long 2" High 3 1/2" Wide DetailOld Art Deco/ Retro Metal Cast Iron Smoking Stand Cigarette Floor AshtrayVintage Art Deco Nude Chrome Woman Cobalt Blue Glass AshtrayEarly The Big Hat Reno Nevada Casino Glass Advertising AshtrayTerrific, Vintage Chrome Mack Truck Bulldog AshtrayOld Vtg Advertising Cast Iron Miniature Skillet Ashtray Oscar MayerAntique Heintz Sterling On Bronze Cigar Holder Ashtray Dogs Scene Rh Macy & CoVtg Heavy Cast Metal Naugthy Bar Ashtray Man's Hand Up Woman's Dress Oh!Supreme Glass AshtrayVintage Ceramic Nude Naked Lady Ashtray Black/white 1950's 1960's Made In JapanVintage 1960's Padres & Chargers San Diego Stadium Ashtray.Hummel "boy With Bird" #166 Tmk2 AshtraySherwin-williams Sw Cover The Earth Store Ashtray, RareGoebel Hummel "boy With Bird" Ashtray Tmk 3 #166Vintage Alfred Dunhill Ashtray/match HolderCigar Ashtray-romeo Y Julieta Medallas De Oro 1875! Beautiful!Vtg Ashtray Glass 1950 1960 Mcneff's Steakhouse Turlock Ca Carolyn Tavern Round (italy) "bevete Coca-cola" ( With Wave) Plastic 3-sided AshtrayMobil Oil Pegasus Ashtray! Longwood Service Station S. Broadway!100% Authentic Bnib Corum White Porcelain Ashtray - Admiral's CupVintage Pin Up Girl Dish Ashtray 1950's Hand Painted Holland Mold Wall CeramicVintage "cap" Mccool Pure Oil Troy Ohio Advertising Ashtray Made In UsaVery Vintage Art Nouveau Or Art Deco Metal Ashtray Or Dresser Trinket DishFirestone Tire Ashtray Vintage Tubeless Deluxe Champion

Recent News: Ashtrays

Source: Google News

Oroville museums closed for annual maintenance
Oroville Mercury Register, December 18th

1. The closed museums include the C.F. Lott Home, Chinese Temple and Museum Complex, Feather River Nature Center, and the Pioneer History Museum. Bolt's Antique Tool Museum, 1650 Broderick St., will remain open 10 a.m.-3:45 p.m. seven days a week, only...Read more

Auras: There's an App for That
MIT Technology Review (blog), December 17th

If Benjamin had it right, then your local antique store wouldn't charge you hundreds of dollars for a usable but less than perfect version of your grandparents' post–World War II formica kitchen table and naugahyde chairs. ... desiccated wonton I once...Read more

Russell's Retro offers a blast to the past
Arizona Daily Star, December 13th

Vintage metal swivel rocker outdoor chair with new vintage upholstery cushions, $250, Irridescent glass globe lamp with chrome base, $79.50, RCA Victor Atomic Mahogany console TV with fold back doors $395 at Russell's Retro Furnishings, 1132 E...Read more

Car wash thief leads to reframing of the holidays
Asheville Citizen-Times, December 13th

Gift recipients can pretend it came from an antique store. Or, if they don't want it, they could leave it in their car at the car wash. ... Just this ashtray…And this paddle game. The ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need. And this remote...Read more

The Green Book of Steely Dan References: Tales from the Girl in Girlie Trouble
UpstateLIVE, December 10th

As I place my order, I catch a glimpse of Bleecker Street Records. There, I had picked up a copy of The Nightfly a summer ago. I think about the album cover and wonder what Donald Fagen was trying to imply by sitting in front of a record player, with...Read more

Architect awarded for modernist furniture designs
Las Vegas Review-Journal, December 6th

Cowles Syndicate It takes an adventurous collector to buy vintage furnishings that are not in a famous style. Postmodernist furniture is readily ... Q: I have a Firestone rubber-tire ashtray from the 1939 New York World's Fair. The tire is a Firestone...Read more

Postmodernist furnishings have large price tag
HeraldNet, December 4th

It takes an adventurous collector to buy vintage furnishings that are not in a famous style. Postmodernist furniture is readily available to ... Q: I have a Firestone rubber-tire ashtray from the 1939 New York World's Fair. The tire is a Firestone...Read more

Who Doesn't Need a Kennedy Ashtray?
New York Times, December 3rd

I, too, was amazed at the world's largest collection of antique porcelain in the shape of vegetables. And disappointed. Mrs. Mellon's passion for modern art didn't extend to décor. As a fan of Art Deco and midcentury design, I couldn't work up any...Read more