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    

Russian Silver 84 Cigarette CaseVery Fine C1900 Chinese Natural Butterscotch Amber 14k Gold Cigarette Tip CaseMarathon Rare Art Deco Enamel Petrol Pocket Lighter & Cigarette Case Boxed SetWw1 Dated 1914 -18 German Airmans Pilots Cigarette Case With Aviation Badge RfcExtremely Fine Antique Persian Islamic Hallmarked Solid Silver Cigarette Case Rare Antique Sterling Silver Cigarette Case Cover Circa 1900Rare Antique Japanese Hallmarked Silver Finely Decorated Cigarette Card CaseVintage Ronson Mother Of Pearl Gas Lighter & Cigarette Case Boxed Parker Dunhill Wunup Bakelite Cigarette Case Box & Shop Advertisement DisplayArt Deco Silver & Enamel Cigarette / Card Case Birmingham 1932Rare Solid Silver Enamel Guilloche Cigarette Case/compact & Lipstick Holder SetGerman Cigarette Case Sturmbaon Ww1 Alpacca Marked Original RareAntiques Russian Silver 84 Cigarette Case Box 185.7 GramsThe Man From U.n.c.l.e. 1965 Ideal Spy "cigarette Case & Lighter" Hidden PistolAntique Silver Art Nouveau Cigarette Case Hallmarked Birmingham 1917.Ww2 Raf Cigarette Case Silver Badge & Airman Medical CertificateVintage Thorens Lighter Semi-automatic J-hook Pocket Cigarette Flint CaseRare Solid Silver Enamel Guilloche Patent Cigarette Case & Compact Case Set 1938Beautiful English Antique L1916 Solid Sterling Silver Cigarette Case Gilt LinedStunning Wien Austrian Plique A Jour Sterling Silver Cigarette CaseAntique Chinese Silver Dragon Cigarette Case2 X Silver Cigarette Cases Rare & Superb Solid Silver Enamel Boer War Patent Victorian Cigarette Case 189919th Century Chinese Export Silver Dragon Cigarette Case. Guang Li.Antique Silver Engraved Cigarette Case By Samuel M Levi Birmingham 1946 96 GramsRare Dunhill Solid Aluminum Cigarette Box W/ Sculpted Horse Head In Relief1930 Hm Silver & Enamel Art Deco Cigarette CaseA Good Quality Heavy Sterling Silver Cigarette Case Birmingham 1941 130 GramsHarrods Large & Stylish Art Deco Sterling Silver Cigarette Case.weight:223g.Vintage Louis Vuitton Monogram Cigarette Case Money Holder NiceA Fine Quality Heavy Sterling Silver Cigarette Case Birmingham 1959 192 GramsA Vintage Faux Tortoiseshell Combination Vanity & Grooming Case & Cigarette CaseAntique Vintage Japan Japanese Silver Mixed Metal Cigarette Card CaseDunhill Leather Cigarette Case New!Vintage 2000 Nos Unused Zippo Marlboro Moon Over Mountains Lighter W/seal & CaseSolid Silver Art Deco Cigarette Case -engine Turned Slimline - 1928 - 4 OuncesArt Deco English Blue Guilloche Enamel Ladies Cigarette Cheroot Case By NealsonVintage Solid 18kt Gold Sterling Theodore Starr Cigarette Case Art DecoVintage Sterling Silver Cigarette Case - Birmingham 1944 - F C Richards - 6ozQuality Antique 1930's Art Deco Wooden Burr Walnut Elm Cigarette / Cheroot CaseArt Deco Silver Cigarette Case, 1937, 132gmGarrard Excellent Sterling Silver Cigarette Case 1955, Manchester Evening NewsOversized Art Deco Sterling Silver Cigarette Case W Rose & Yellow GoldArt Deco Silver Cigarette Case, 1913, 109gmWw2 Japanese Navy Officer's Cigarette Case & Lighter Antique German Silver Cigarette Case 800 Franz Hiess Sohne Vienna Meerschaum(damaged) 800 Coin Silver - Heavy Antique (opens!) 59.7g - Cigarette Case Ct8581Fine Japanese Etched Sterling Silver Landscape Cigarette/card Case-boxFabulous Antique English Solid Sterling Silver Cigarette Case Of Curved Form!!!!Vintage Sterling Silver Cigarette Case - Birmingham 1936 - William Neale - 6ozWw2 Japanese Army Soldier Officer's Cigarette Case Vintage American Indian Sterling Silver Turquoise Cigarette Lighter Case Vintage Brown Etienne Aigner Genuine Leather Cigarette Case 120sLarge & Stylish Art Deco Style Sterling Silver Cigarette Case.weight:182g.True Vintage Art Deco Cigarette Case, Marked 478Fine Quality Heavy Antique Solid Silver & Gilt Cigarette CaseSoild Silver Art Deco Cigarette Case Birmingham 19291:6 Scale Did 8th Wwii German T Becker D80068 - Cigarette Case W/ LighterEstate Vintage Collectible Cigarette Lighter Case Mother Of Pearl Golden Brass ?(damaged) Sterling Silver - Heavy Antique (opens!) 68.6g - Cigarette Case Ct8231