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    

Antique 1930s, Finnish Finland .813 Silver, 14k Gold Masonic Cigar Humidor BoxSuperb 19thc Large Bulldog Tobacco Humidor JarHeavy Antique Cigar Humidor Silver On Copper Lion Griffon Rampant Crest Gadroon Opus X 6 Humidor Large HumidorMail Pouch Tobacco Humidor Store Counter Display Tin – Scarce!Super Rare Eames Era Humidor Jean Gillon Jacaranda Italma Knoll Panton DanskCohiba Esplendidos Wood Humidor Case With Seals 1 1/2 Years Old Not For SmokingAntique Majolica Alligator Tobacco Jar HumidorAntique Copper Lined Smoke Stand/humidor-walnut WoodAntique Vintage Dutch Girl Johann Maresch Tobacco Jar Humidor With SpongeVintage Antique 20 Tobacco Pipe Lot With 2 Stands Humidor Sherlock Holmes AntlerSavoy Bubinga Cigar Humidor By Ashton ~ Absolutely Beautiful ~ Super ConditionCherry Finish Wood 50 Cigar Desktop Humidor - External Hygrometer Germany | Rare 30ties Stoneware Humidor / Tobacco Jar With Lid (1935)Rare! Gorgeous 30+ Ernesto Perez Carrillo Humidor - Series R Limitada 2005.No Reserve 150 Ct Red Wood Cigar Humidor - Great Display Show Case - RefurbishedOld Footed Wood Humidor 7" Tall W/boar Tusk Handles Razor Organizer Shave Den Rack Pipe Rack HumidorNo Reserve 400 Ct Cigar Humidor Cabinet End Table Display Case - RefurbishedRomeo Y Julieta Limited Edition Cigar Box/ Humidor, Rare.Cigar Band Desk-top Cigar Humidor >> Take A Look!Nice Savinelli Tobacco Humidor Made In ItalyAntique Egyptian Design Tin Cigar Box HumidorVintage Decatur Usa Walnut Wood Tobacco Pipe Rack & Humidor Jar For 8 PipesRoyal Doulton Dickensware Tobacco Humidor Antique Apollo Studios Tobacco Humidor Original Paint Tiffany Studios Handel EraMarzi & Remy Majolica No. 2918 German Tobacco Humidor In Very Good ConditionAntique Majolica Tobacco Jar Figural Drunk Man Head Fly On Nose Humidor GermanyHaviland Limoges Hand Painted Tobacco Humidor Arts & Crafts Flowering TobaccoVintage Elephant Humidor Tobacco Jar Porcelain Japan 4.5" AnthropomorphicVintage Wood Pipe Holder Stand Dun Rite Duraglas Amber Glass Tobacco HumidorVintage Spanish Worked Leather Secret Cigar Humidor Conquistador Motif Book TypeVintage / Antique Copper Rumidor Humidor Made In Usa20 Ct. Cherry Wood HumidorVintage Comoy's Blue Cobalt Jar Humidor LondonFine Antique Japanese Meiji Cloisonne Humidor Jar Bats And Dragon Claws Red WildNo Reserve 150 Ct Top Display Deluxe Cigar Humidor Box - Open BoxLarge Size Round Crystal Cigar Humidifier With Magnet For HumidorVintage Decatur Pipe Humidor & 4 Pipe Stand, A 2-pipe Display, & A 7-pipe Rack!