Antique and Vintage Cigarette Cases

The functional reason for a cigarette case is to keep the fragile tubes of tobacco within from being crushed. But smoking cigarettes has never been a purely utilitarian pursuit. It has long been associated with style and fashion, which is why cigarette cases quickly became highly decorative personal accessories.

There are two general categories of antique and vintage cigarette cases. The first is the case designed for home use. In the late 19th century, Fabergé made rounded sterling silver cases with delicately worked surfaces and a slender row of tiny rose diamonds on the case’s thumb piece. In the 1920s, Art Deco cigarette boxes were fashioned out of polished panels of sterling, with stepped covers that recalled the shapes of Mayan temples. By the 1940s, home cigarette cases were being produced out of laminated slabs of Bakelite.

The more common type of case, and the one that probably comes to mind first when we think of cigarette cases, was the slim rectangle or square designed to fit in a jacket pocket or a small purse. In the late Victorian era, these cases were often paired with matching vesta cases, which were used to hold friction matches known as vestas. One of the unique attributes of a vesta case was a rough or ribbed area, often at the bottom of the case, so the vesta could be struck.

Silver was one of the most common materials used to make antique and vintage cigarette cases. Designers and jewelers would emboss and chase their cases to create everything from delicate floral or geometric patterns to bold designs, such as a coat of arms. The interiors of better cases were gilded, sometimes bearing a tender or congratulatory inscription. The surfaces of other cases were hammered, to give them an Arts and Crafts look. There were also silver cases whose flat surfaces were interrupted and punctuated by inlaid bands of gold.

After World War I, when cigarette smoking was extremely popular and chic, Paris became a center for cigarette-case design. One Parisian designer from the 1920s, Raymond Templier, created lacquered cases as well as silver-and-enamel cases, both sporting brightly colored geometric designs. Other Art Deco designers produced enamel cases with bold, graphic imagery—cases from this era featuring aircraft and animals are much prized by collectors today.

For well-to-do smokers, French jewelers such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels made cases that were encrusted with diamonds and other precious gemstones. But not all silver and enameled cigarette cases were so high-end, which makes cigarette cases good items for beginning silver collectors since they are smaller and less expensive to acquire than, say, a heavy, intensively worked candelabra.

At the other end of the cigarette-case spectrum were the tin cases manufactured in the 1920s and ’30s by tobacco companies. The most sought-after of these are the flat-fifties ca...

Lucky Strikes may have been the king of the flat-fifties cases. They produced cases for year-round use, as well as festive Christmas versions. In the early 1930s, they also sold a series of tins that were packed with one of 50 cards describing a bridge hand. Playing instructions written by a noted bridge expert of the day named Milton Work could be found on one side of the card, while the other featured endorsements from such trusted celebrities as Miss America and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

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]

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]

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]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Imperial Russian 84 Zolotnik Silver Cigar Cigarette Case 1910 MoscowAntique 1933 Bham Art Deco Sterling Silver Pug Dog Enamel Cigarette CaseAntique Imperial Russian 84 Zolotnik Silver Niello Troika Cigarette Case 1900Antique Solid Sterling Silver Cigarette Case Arts & Crafts Hammered Finish 1898Superb Art Deco Classical Nudes Large Solid Silver Cigarette Card Case 1924Antique Sterling Silver Guilloche Enamel Ladies Card Cigarette Case FlowersSuperb ~ 172g Solid Silver ~ Cigarette / Card Case ~ 12 X 9cm ~ B'ham 1947Joblot Scrap Sterling Silver Bracelets Ring Heavy Old English Cigarette Case BoxRare Antique Imperial Russian 84 Zolotnik Silver Vesta Cigarette Case 1910Large Solid Silver Cigarette Case, London 1934, By Goldsmiths, 196.4gr.Fine Japanese Sterling Silver 950 Thick Paisley-scroll Card/cigarette Case-boxVintage Persian Persepolis Design Solid 84 Silver Cigarette Case C.1900's 163g Chinese Export Silver Box Cigarette Case Gold InteriorA George V Hallmarked Sterling Silver Cigarette Case, Birmingham Assay 1934Beautiful Sterling Silver Filigree Cigarette CaseBeautiful Solid Silver Art Nouveau German Cigarette Case Circa 1895Antique 1910 Bham Edwardian Sterling Silver Bostin Terrior Enamel Cigarette CaseArt Deco 1920s Vintage Cigarette Case Antique Decorative AccessoryAntique Japanese Silver Cigarette Case Holder Meiji Period Early 1900sVintage Japanese Pagoda 950 Sterling Silver Cigarette Case And LighterAntique Silver Cigarette Case, Ivory Opera Purse, Snuff Boxes - Very Rare Lot!Heavy Solid 800 Silver Cigarette Case - Business Card Case 195gFrench Art Deco Sterling Silver Enamel Minaudiere Cigarette Case Cheramy C1930 €Sterling Silver Enamel Art Deco Cigarette CaseTallent Antique Wood Carving Cigar Cigarette Tobacco Humidor Case Arts & CraftsPersian Silver Cigarette Case Box Birds In Garden Signed England British Birmingham Erotic Nude Silver Cigarette Case RareVery Fine Edwardian Persian (?) Silver Repousse Cigarette Case 159gExceptional Art Deco Solid Silver Cigarette Case Beautiful Nude Pin Up 1938Vintage Elgin Sterling Silver Usa Card/cigarette CaseAntique Sterling Silver 80 Grams Art Deco Cigarette Case Amethyst Cabochon ClaspAntique Victorian Silver Cigarette Case Etched Amazing Condition Sterling Silver Art Deco Engine Turned Cigarette Case Birmingham 1952 207 GmsStunning & Heavy Solid Silver Celtic Design Cigarette Case/box 585 GramsVintage Native American Cigarette Lighter Case Silver With 3 Turquoise Stones Stunning Ronson Mother Of Pearl Lytacase And Cigarette Holder In Original CaseJapanese Cloisonne Cigarette CaseSterling Silver Cigarette CaseVintage 1930s Solid Sterling Silver Cigarette Case 160 Grams #ca 228Vintage Mark Cross Leather Cigarette Case, Intenational Travel StampsVintage Ronson Art Deco Mastercase Lighter / Cigarette Case In The Original BoxOriginal Replica 1932 Second Release Camel Zippo Lighter Unused In Original CaseVintage Walker & Hall Monogrammed "eje" Sterling Silver Curved Cigarette CaseFine Japanese Silver & Gold Inlaid Komai-damascene Cigarette Case+lighter SetAntique Cherry Amber Bakelite Cigarette Holder Case Box Vintage Cheroot Long GfVintage Soviet Russian (ussr) 1958 Aluminium Aircraft Theme Cigarette Case1st World War Medal 58042 Pte.f.w.barrett R.war.r. + His Cigarette Case Vintage | Estate | Carved Meerschaum W/matching Cigarette Holder & Original CaseBeautiful Engraved Sterling Silver Cigarette Case In Original Box, Thailand 1940Vintage Sterling Silver & 14k Gold Cigarette CaseAntique C1920 Art Deco 9ct Rolled Gold Tobacco Smokers Cigarette Case39 Lot Shoemaker Leather Utility Cases For Cigarettes Pager Gloves Recorders & ?Vintage Etienne Aigner Black Lifting Cigarette Case & Lighter Case New In BoxAntique Silver Art Deco Cigarette Case Circa 1935Vintage Calibri Gold Tone Beam Sensor Butane Cigarette Cigar Lighter With CaseVintage Ronson Art Deco Black & Chrom Cigarette Lighter Case Holder Twentycase Dunhill Hafpak London Silver Cigarette Case, Makers Of Dunhill Lighters AntiqueS.800 Silver Cigarette Case.with Lighter Works.Sterling Silver .925 Ss & 14k 14kt Gold Cigarette Case Holder Jgs