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]

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]

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]

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]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Art Deco Era Cigar Store Indian Figural Smoking Stand Cast Iron AshtrayVintage Solid Brass Figural Nautical Beach Crab Ashtray W/articulating Claws YqzKorean War Usaf Sac Convair B-36 Bomber Desk Ashtray ModelRaf Spitfire Airplane Model Ashtray Trench Art Deco Green Stone Wwii Metal E10Wwii Lockheed Hudson Airplane Model Ashtray Metal Australia Map Trench Art E36762 Gr Antique French Yellow Amber Bakelite Ashtray Art DecoLovely Vintage Royal Doulton Stoneware Whitbread Ale & Stout Coin Dish/ashtrayZippo Blue Spider - Art Edition - Combined In Awesome Golden Spider Ashtray Vintage Hamm's Beer Glass Ashtray, Fergus Falls, Mn Distributor Hamm's BrewingVintage Frankart Nude Woman Deco Dancer Ashtray Holder Nice Signed & DatedAn Art Deco Carvacraft Amber Phenolic Bakelite Ashtray C1920/30Rare Vtg Ashtray Duralumin Used In Airship "akron" Goodyear Zeppelin Corp.Art Deco Nude Lady "venus De Milo" Satin & Black Glass Ashtray By Owens-illinoisEarly Tiffany Studios Footed Ashtray / Dish | Tsny Gold Desk Set | No ReserveBeautiful Intaglio Green Open Salt Or Ashtray In Jeweled Brass HolderVintage Slag Glass Ashtray Lighter Insulator Vtg Indian Motorcycle Company Glass Ashtray Springfield, Massachusetts Usa RareVintage 1946 Bronze Ashtray ''flick Your Ashes On Hitler's Hearth Ww11 Souvenir1994 Camel 8 Ball Zippo Lighter + Original Tin Ashtray Limited Unused Sealed JoeWw1 Zeppelin German L 31 Duralumin Original,fund Rasing Top Hat Ashtray Cigar Ashtray Lot Cohiba Johnny WalkerErotic Nude Lady Ashtray Topless Sleeping Sexy Female In Stockings Ornament N/rHolt Howard Cozy Kitten Ceramic Match Holder Ashtray 1960 Vintage CatOriginal Vietnam War 557 Tfs F-4 Phantom Ii Spook Lt. Colonel Kimes Ashtray1930 's Era Nautical Wilcox Crittenden Middletown Conn Brass? Dory Boat AshtrayVintage Ceramic Pipe Ashtray/rest - Holds 2 PipesAntique German Brass Lighter Attatched Ashtray Royal Courts DrgmVintage - Mack Truck Ashtray - Bulldog Hood Ornament - DisplayedVintage Mack Bulldog Chrome Cigar/cigarette Ashtray Rare Art Deco Spirit St. Louis Airplane Ashtray & Cigarette Impressive Holder Rare Vintage Saucy French Ashtray 70s Stihl Chainsaw Adv Sexy Viking Girl RisqueVintage Ahwahnee Hotel Yosemite California 50 Years '27-'77 Amber Glass AshtrayVintage Standing AshtrayRare Vintage 1972 Oldsmobile Showroom Advertising 75 Years Ashtray TrashcanMack Truck Chrome Bulldog Cigar Ashtray Patent 87931 Hood Ornament Older Hermes Paris France Silver Plate Ashtray - Golf Ball Center1934 Chicago Worlds Fair Firestone Tire Ashtray "century Of Progress"Glass Advertising Ashtray Cincinnati Reds Baseball ManVintage Ashtray: Dunlop B7 6.40-13 Tubeless Tyre Ashtray -1960's - Almost As NewNew York Worlds Fair ~ 1939 ~ Trylon & Perisphere ~ Strikalite AshtrayVintage 21 Club Hall Pottery Metal Jockey Ashtray 665Vintage 1950's Peterbilt Trucks Newark, California Advertising AshtrayGamewell Company Salesman's Sample AshtrayAntique Goodyear Tractor Tire AshtrayVintage Smokey Bear ~ Snuffit ~ Magnetic Dashboard Ashtray Pervent Forest FiresEvans Egg Shaped Pink Enamel Table Lighter And AshtrayVintage Brass? Pelican Pipe Rest Ashtray Art Deco-style Metal Stand HolderCommonwealth Edison Electric Little Bill Smoke Glass Ashtrays, MintSaab 1963 Dealership Ashtray Brass Advertising Ashtray Don Q Rum Puerto RicoVintage Chicago Northwestern System Railroad AshtrayBeautiful Hermes Change Tray Brand New Mosaique 24 Ashtray Hand Painted GeniuneRare Htf Mobiloil General Petroleum Building Figural Ashtray Cigarette HolderVintage Tobacco Tin Bagley's Old Colony Mixture W/ Ashtray Lid - Pilgrim GraphicEagle Club & Cafe Ashtray Yerington, Nevada Gaming Casino MetalVintage Pedestal Floor Standing AshtrayAntique U.s. Naval Ordnance Plant Alexandria, Va. Navy Day-1947 Copper Ashtray1934 Worlds Fair Chicago Century Of Progress Firestone Glass Rubber Tire AshtrayPadron Cigars Ashtray *new Never Used*Alaska-yukon-pacific Expo Seattle 1909 Ceramic Ashtray

Recent News: Ashtrays

Source: Google News

Past calling on 'princess' phone
Superior Telegram, February 5th

We love to vintage shop together, and whenever she and I have the chance, we devote at least one full day to scouring the antique malls, thrift and resale stores, and vintage shops. Any day of the year, we can make Black Friday look like child's play...Read more

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews BBC's Back In Time For The Weekend
Daily Mail, February 2nd

On the programme's forerunner last year, Back In Time For Dinner, he tucked into daily meals, cooked to authentic menus on vintage stoves. This time, he kept his distance. This six-part series has a clever double appeal. ... Dad's green velour armchair...Read more

Immortalising Bernard Buffet
Spear's WMS, January 27th

It showed a handgun, some books, a Ricard-branded ashtray on the edge of which rested a smoking cigarette, a coffee pot, and an antique desk lamp with a shade of pleated green fabric tilted to create a cone of light that illuminated the items, causing...Read more

Rex Needle: Family heirloom won by Bourne doctor to be auctioned
Bourne Local, January 26th

The engraved silver medal, with Birmingham hallmarks for 1906-07 and weighing 8 ounces, shows a vintage motor car from the period together with a scantily dressed woman, but has since been converted for use as an ashtray. Before he died, Dr Gilpin gave ...Read more

At home with Jimi Hendrix: art nouveau, Ena Sharples and John Lewis curtains
The Guardian, January 23rd

On a low bedside table: an ashtray and lamp, all reproduced as per the photos. Also a half-bottle of Mateus ... Etchingham recalls shopping for furniture with Hendrix in Portobello Road, and an antique oak chair is a specially made duplicate. And above...Read more

Vintage Albert Nipon, size 14 cerise skirt suit
Press Telegraph (blog), January 19th

Made in the United Kingdom, a striking,jacket/skirt combination from Albert Nipon's 'Boutique range. Nipon turned a small maternity-clothes company into an internationally known producer of ultra-feminine women's clothing during the early 1970s...Read more

The Museum of Innocence
The Smart Set, January 19th

And on each floor you discover a wealth of objects, carefully hidden behind vitrines: lipsticks, a girl's shoe, ceramic dogs, soda bottles, old cologne bottles, vintage photographs of people long forgotten, toothpaste, and false teeth in a glass of...Read more

Climate extremes threaten Australia's wine industry
Business Insider, January 14th

Even if wildfires don't destroy a crop, they can leave an entire vintage with "smoke taint", leading to wines that taste like an ashtray. [nL3N0UK17D]. The climate extremes seen through the 2015/16 season are a foretaste of future climate change...Read more