Do You Mind if I Smoke? Smoking Accessories and Tobaccoania

This unusual and impressive antique Victorian English Sterling silver and enamel combination vesta and cheroot cutter could be had for a mere $1,600 at AC Silver in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. (Photo: AC Silver)

This unusual and impressive antique Victorian English Sterling silver and enamel combination vesta and cheroot cutter could be had for a mere $1,600 at AC Silver in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. (Photo: AC Silver)

I don’t wish to glamorize smoking, however I have to admit that antique and vintage smoking accessories and paraphernalia are incredibly popular with all sorts of collectors and antique enthusiasts. These pieces invoke a bygone era in a way that other items simply cannot—their scarcity in modern times and the rarity of personal use makes them an artifact from a forgone century.

When discussing most items of antique silverware, we focus on the practicality and usefulness for our customers; however, with smoking accessories, paraphernalia and tobaccoania, we encourage our clients and collectors to admire some of these items without actually using them for their intended purpose!

Who Collects Smoking Accessories and Tobaccoania?

Folks who collect these particular items seem to have a particular fondness for a former time to which these pieces allude. This time was a golden age–an age where every film star smoked and carried a smart accessory to light the cigarette of the object of his affections, or a beautiful accessory from which to produce a cigarette.

Smoking accessories and tobaccoania are highly collectable and sought after items.  These pieces are attractive to collectors for the very reason which they are no longer commonly used. Cigarette cases, vesta cases and snuff boxes were once items which most gentlemen would carry every day, but now are considered to be relics of a different time.

For those of you who do still enjoy the odd cigar, or simply admire their craftsmanship, we are able to suggest a number of wonderful items which make for the perfect accompaniment to your pastime.  Whether you are looking for an exquisite storage piece for your beloved cigars, or interested in an antique Victorian cigarette case, A. C. Silver has a fantastic collection of tobaccoania.

This Victorian English Sterling silver and enamel cigarette case features a racy (for the time) scene. Price: $2,400. (Photo: AC Silver)

This Victorian English Sterling silver and enamel cigarette case features a racy (for the time) scene. Price: $2,400. (Photo: AC Silver)

Types of Smoking Accessories

Smoking accessories come in a great many varieties, and the most commonly found antique tobaccoania are vesta cases and cigarette cases. The cigarette cases were especially popular, as the easily destructible paper or cardboard packaging of cigarettes was made redundant by the much sturdier cigarette case. That being said, not everyone could have afforded silver cigarette cases, of course, so there were cases made in cheaper materials.

Match holders and cases are commonly referred to as vesta cases, because the most popular and commonly used brand of matches in the late 19th century was called Vesta. Vesta cases were incredibly popular in the Victorian age for good reason; the first matches that were created used an abundance of sulphur, which had an awful habit of spontaneously setting a light at the merest hint of friction. With matches mostly carried in the pocket of coats or a pair of trousers, this frequently meant that the matches would alight, setting light to the match box, and the clothes of the unfortunate person carrying the matches. The easiest solution to this was to create match boxes or vesta cases which were not flammable, and which would protect the user. Eventually, matches were developed to only be flammable when appropriate friction was purposefully applied. However in the meantime, as a matter of safety, Victorian gentlemen took to carrying these metal—often silver—vesta cases.

Some vesta cases incorporate other elements of smoking paraphernalia, for example the vesta case pictured above includes a cheroot cutter, and is therefore of a higher value than most other vesta cases. This feature also suggests that this item was intended specifically for the cigar smoker, rather than the cigarette smoker, and it features a less common design—a fishing fly—again, alluding to the gentlemanly nature of this item.

Erotica and Smoking Paraphernalia

Vesta cases and cigarette cases are among the most collectable smoking related antiques, and this is often due to the exquisite decoration which was added in enamel on to these cases. Particularly in the Victorian era—this was the height of the use of these cases—the decoration would commonly depict a woman in an erotic pose or state of undress which would’ve been considered positively explicit in the Victorian age!

This trend for erotica within smoking paraphernalia, smoking accessories and tobaccoania was due to the predominantly male consumption of tobacco and cigarettes, and was considered to be a strictly masculine pursuit.

Usability of Smoking Accessories

Practically speaking, antique silver smoking accessories and antique tobaccoania can be incredibly useful, if you happen to partake in the habit supported by these pieces. Smoking boxes, such as the gentleman’s compendium which we are able to offer our customers, can be used for a great deal of things, and its use is not limited to items of smoking paraphernalia. These pieces can be used as desk tidies, or as items for display in their own right, particularly when as striking as our example, which is a stunning piece of typical art deco craftsmanship.

A must have at the time, this large vintage Elizabeth II English Sterling silver gentleman’s smoking compendium in the Art Deco style will set you back $6,000 today. (Photo: AC Silver)

A must have at the time, this large vintage Elizabeth II English Sterling silver gentleman’s smoking compendium in the Art Deco style will set you back $6,000 today. (Photo: AC Silver)

Snuff boxes are especially unique, because they are demonstrative of a practice which has long since ceased to exist. The idea of a gentleman taking his snuff is one which has become a motif within depictions of French 18th- and 19th-century aristocracy. These snuff boxes were created in the finest compositions of materials possible, as snuff was as much of a status symbol as any watch or gadget today.

Snuff boxes are usually the most valuable of all smoking related items because the fashion for these items in the 18th century French royal and high societal court was for the boxes to be made entirely of gold, with exceptional decoration. We are fortunate enough to be able to offer our customers a fantastic example of a French golden snuff box from 1720s, which is heavily decorated in the typical style of this age and area.

This French 20-carat rose and yellow gold snuff box, part of AC Silver’s 18th-century collection, carries a $12,500 price tag. (Photo: AC Silver)

This French 20-carat rose and yellow gold snuff box, part of AC Silver’s 18th-century collection, carries a $12,500 price tag. (Photo: AC Silver)

Match strikers are wonderful items of antique smoking paraphernalia which still look as elegant on display in any home as they would have done during the Victorian or Edwardian era. Match strikers, such as our glass-bodied examples, can be used in homes which use candles and fireplaces, and so are pieces that are not exclusively used by smokers and smoking accessory collectors. These match strikers are in attractive forms, including glass pieces from the Edwardian era, and match striking features included on the bottom of vesta cases.

A fine piece for any smoker, this Edwardian English Sterling silver and glass match striker is a bargain at $1,100. (Photo: AC Silver)

A fine piece for any smoker, this Edwardian English Sterling silver and glass match striker is a bargain at $1,100. (Photo: AC Silver)

The value of these items depends—as is the case with all antiquities—on the age, condition and rarity of the piece. Vesta cases and cigarette cases depicting erotic images from the Victorian era are especially collectable. These are sought after as they are specific to this notoriously prudish time in history, where the hint of naked flesh was considered nudity or erotica.

These pieces are antiquated by their very nature, and make for fantastic gifts for those who appreciate craftsmanship and items which are evocative of a bygone era.


Jodie Smith is a copywriter and content editor at AC Silver; specializing in in fine antique jewelry and silverware. Her BA in English Literature, passion for creative writing and fascination for the most unusual and rare antiquities, produces copy with a more intriguing literary leaning. You can observe her musings on a variety of topics—from antique miniatures, to why austere Victorians adorned their silverware in images of nude women at AC Silver.

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