A humidor is any container designed to store cigars, cigarettes, or pipe tobacco at the ideal level of humidity, which is 68 to 75 percent. They can be made of wood, glass, pottery, metal, or plastics and come in a wide range of sizes. Some are small enough to be carried in the hand, holding 2-10 cigars; others take up whole rooms, used by cigar stores to hold thousands of their wares.

As a collector, you’re more likely to come across desktop humidors in the form of boxes or jars designed to hold dozens to hundreds of cigars. Particularly charming desktop humidors have built-in pipe stands and Lazy Susan bases. Table and cabinet humidors, which have legs and rest on the floor like furniture, can store a couple thousand cigars.

While some humidors are lined with mahogany, the most popular wood for the interior of humidors is Spanish cedar because it holds more moisture than most woods and is not given to warping in high humidity. This salmon-red, tight-grained wood, which is not actually cedar but a member of the mahogany family, also repels tobacco beetles, which are the size of pinheads, eat tobacco, and lay eggs in cigars.

Spanish cedar can also infuse the cigars it surrounds with a pleasant spicy scent, which is why some cigars are sold in Spanish-cedar sheets. However, Spanish cedar dents easily and is not ideal for a beautiful veneer or marquetry, which is why humidors are generally built with a hard wood like cherry on the exterior.

Maintaining the right humidity level is vital to a cigar’s flavor, which is why, regardless of its material, a humidor must have an airtight seal. If the storage is too dry, a cigar will become stale and brittle. If the storage is too moist, the cigar will lose its flavor and attract beetles.

All humidors have a means of maintaining humidity. Antique humidors have a space or metal container in them for a wet sponge. Humidity was also achieved by adding water droplets to a tissue. Today, smaller humidors may also employ silica gel beads or high-tech polymer acrylic fleece, while larger humidors are sometimes equipped with electronic sensors that detect when the humidity inside needs to be adjusted.

Humidity level is measured through a device known as a hygrometer, first conceived by Leonardo da Vinci in the 1400s. Swiss physicist and geologist Bénédict de Saussure perfect t...

Early tobacco curing barns were built out of Spanish cedar, which is very common in Central America where tobacco is grown. Before the 18th century, Europeans mostly smoked tobacco in pipes, and cigars first became popular there in the 19th century. The first cabinet humidor was thought to have been invented by an Irish furniture maker Terence Manning, who brought home exotic woods and cabinetry techniques from South Africa in 1887. His family became known for their handcrafted humidors, and their techniques spread throughout Europe and America.

Earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain humidors—like those made by Royal Doulton, Delft, and Limoges—resemble cookie jars, and often have a place inside the lid to hold the sponge. Antique pottery humidors, which were often figural, were sometimes shaped into racist caricatures of African Americans or Native Americans. What’s more troubling is that the collectors market for such items is so strong, replicas of majolica pieces from Austria and Germany are being made now. If the clay is red or tan rather than white, then you know it's a knockoff.

Particularly rare examples of Black Americana porcelain humidors were made in Japan during the Nippon period (1891-1921). Only a handful of such patterns are known, including a design showing a black man in a hat playing a banjo. In this case, the replicas are much more common than the originals, so buyer beware.

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    

Extremely Fine Liberty & Co Tudric Humidor By Jessie M King 0851Iris Decorated 1900 Large Nippon Heavy Octagon Moriage Humidor Noreserve 1 Of 3Circa 1900 Egyptian Revival Humidor As-is Noreserve 1 Of 3Vintage C.n. Swift N.y. Oak Cigar Humidor W/ Brass Mounts & Tin Interior Nr YqzFantastic Alfred Dunhill Birds Eye Maple Humidor W/key & Cigar Cutter Excellent Dear Decorated 1900 Nippon Hexagon Moriage Humidor No Reserve 1 Of 3Tuxedo Tobacco Patterson Pipe Cigarette Smoking Tin Advertising Canister HumidorAntique Wwi Era Wooden 25" Smoking Smoke Cigar Stand Pedestal W/ Humidor Nr Yqz*no Reserve* Antique Fulper Pottery Mission Matte Brown Humidor Arts & CraftsCherry Cigar Humidor Cedar Lined W/ Cigars Don Sebastian Vintage Decatur Deco Walnut 9 Pipe Stand W/aztec Clay Humidor System Cohiba Leather Cigar Case Travel Humidor Holder 2 Tube Cigarette Case Holder Cohiba 8 Cigar Travel Humidor Case Humidifier Hygrometer Cohiba Black Leather Cigar Case Travel Humidor Holder 2 Tube Cigarette CaseRare Figural Humidor Tobacco Jar Johann Maresch Ca.1900Tatuaje Black Humidor W/ Zippered Case & Original Box 9 11/16" X 6 7/16"Vintage Wood Pipe Stand Humidor With Bagnell Damn PipeXikar 205xi 5 Count Travel Humidor Black 8 1/2" X 4 1/2" X 2" Locking ClaspAntique Majolica Man's Head Tobacco Jar Humidor Numbered 572 31** 9" LargeVintage Indian Chief Tobacco Jar Totem Top Lid Humidor Tobacciana CollectibleLacquer Finished Locking Humidor With Inlay TopExcaliber Hoyodemonterrey Cigar Desktop Humidor With HumidifierAnitque Majolica Pottery Humidor Box W Pipe Dutch Boy And Girl 19thc Vintage Lot Of 7 Tobacco Pipes With Pipe Holder And Humidor UsedWhitetail "buck" Glasstop Mahogany Finish 100 Capacity Cigar HumidorVintage Duk-it Round Solid Walnut Wood & Copper Humidor 12 Pipe Rack Majolica Pottery Tobacco Jar Humidor W Pipe On Top & Dutch Boy & Girl On FrontCsonka Cigar Traveler Valet Case Portable Humidor Hygrometer Made In UsaCigar Box Humidor Partagas D Signature SeriesGurkha 125th Anniversary Cigar Box Humidor Extremely Limited Edition & RareDun-rite Wood 10 Pipe Holder Rack With Lid And Amber Duraglas Humidor W/7 PipesCigar Humidor Vintage Cedar Lined AntiqueAntique Porcelain Baby Head W/ Pacifier Humidor/tobacco Jar -estateAntique & Rare Pottery/ceramic Humidor/tobacco Jar - Owl's Head Very InterestingCult Profile - Unusual & Beautiful 70 Count Cigar HumidorVtg Decatur Industries 12 Pc Wooden Pipe Holder W/glass Humidor PaintedVintage Amber Brown Humidor Glass Jar Cigar Pipe Tobacco Dun-rite Duraglas NyAntique Majolica Frog Tobacco Jar Humidor From The 1800s. Frog Is Sitting Vintage Idc Supreme Humidor Inlay Design Cedar Lines & Hygrometer Missing Key'sGouda Holland Hand Painted Canister Humidor City Scene Vintage [b]Herf-a-dor 10 Cigar Travel Humidor With Humidifier By Humi-care Black Whitetail Glass Top Humidor Cigar HumidorCohiba Black Cowhide Leather Cigar Tube 56 Ring Cigar Humidor