Tobacco Retail Boxes, Cans & Jars

A National Cigar Museum Exclusive

© Tony Hyman

Latest addition: December 16, 2010

Minor modification: July 11, 2011

         Boxes in this exhibit are genuine retail boxes, but they held, sold and-or advertised cigarettes, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco or snuff...NOT CIGARS.

        This in no way intended to be a comprehensive exhibit of cigarette and tobacco boxes. These were selected because they are frequently misidentified as

cigar boxes on ebay.

Tobacco, not cigar, tin


        This lovely 3.5” x 5” tin looks just like a tin box that would have held 10 regular size cigars and was described as such on ebay. But it’s a tobacco tin. How do I know? By applying the same tests anyone should when inspecting a similar tin container.

        [1] The word “mixture” on the lid; [2] the Caution Notice reads “The manufacturer of this tobacco has...”  and, though not definitive, [3] the lid is hinged, characteristic of tobacco tins, rather than being a slip top, typical of cigar tins.

        In this case, it doesn’t matter too much what it is because (although cigar collectors don’t collect smoking tobacco items) tin collectors collect both tobacco and cigars. Typically tobacco tins sell for higher prices. This exceptional tin sells in excess of $200.     

        Another word to be conscious of on boxes and packages is the Spanish “picadura” which is shredded tobacco (usually salvaged quality leaf) intended for pipe or roll-your-own cigarettes. You won’t see it often because [1] Cuba didn’t produce much, [2] very little was exported and [3] VERY little was sent to the U.S., the center of world cigarette and pipe tobacco production.

    Pictured below is a very rare full package of Jose Gener’s LA ESCEPCION picadura. Measuring 5 1/4” x 3” x 3/4” it’s the only full one I’ve ever seen. Full packs as especially rare in the United States, though a fair number of gorgeous unused flat labels turn up on ebay, almost always misidentified as a cigar label, frequently by Spanish speakers who should know better, or are attempting to defraud. Example at left.


[10980]  [10981]  


        It’s a wooden rectangle, but that’s where its similarity to a cigar box ends. This maple chewing tobacco box with its fancy nickel trim and interlocked corners is regarded by collectors as one of the most beautiful tobacco boxes ever made.

        The creation of P. Lorillard and filled in their Factory 10, 5th District (Newark) NJ, it dates from the 1880’s. Outside dimensions are 11” x 5.75” x 4.5”. If in doubt as to what the contents were, the Caution Notice clearly reads “The manufacturer of the tobacco herein...”

[11717]   [11716]


Smoking and Chewing tobacco boxes


      The box on the left looks like a cigar box, but if you read the label it says “Tobacco manufactured by...”  This sounds elementary to say, but when a box is a cigar box it reads “Cigars manufactured by...” but this says “Tobacco manufactured by...”  That means the box held smoking or chewing tobacco, not cigars.

When  in doubt, read the Caution Notice. It will identify the contents as cigars, cigarettes, or tobacco. There is an exception: between 1868 and 1897 boxes that held small cigarette-size cigars are called cigarettes on their Caution Notices and frequently on the inner labels.

      WORDS TO LOOK FOR ON AN INNER LABEL: These words on a box mean it’s not a cigar box: Cigarettes, Plug, Cut Plug, Fine Cut, Birdseye, Smoking Tobacco, Chewing, Slab, Virginia Bright, Nigger Hair, Granulated, Mixture, Pipe or Twist. On Cuban packs and boxes, the word “cigarros” means cigarettes.  As noted above, the phrase “All tobacco cigarettes” is often a euphemism for cigarillo type cigars between 1868 and 1897 when tax laws didn’t have provisions for small cigars.


PALL MALL cigarette boxes

        Not a fake, fraud or fantasy, but also not a cigar item. These attractive plastic boxes held PALL MALL cigarettes for the Christmas trade. Exact dates of use are uncertain, either 1930’s or 40’s.

Green: [10245]  

Ivory colored box & leather-like box not in the NCM.



BLUE BOAR tobacco jar


    Cigar jar?  Nope!

    It’s exactly what it looks like...a jar topped by a blue boar in which BLUE BOAR brand smoking tobacco was packed around 1900-1910. Lovely satin glass, the jar is much more highly prized by glass collectors who, a few decades ago when I sold mine, pay three times more than tobacco collectors.  No longer in the NCM collection.


JOHN MIDDLETON pipe tobacco

John Middleton is a popular brand of pipe tobacco. This box, often erroneously identified on eBay as a cigar box, originally held a dozen small roughly cubic tin cans containing an assortment of blends and flavors. Measures 12” x 9” x 4”    Box not in the NCHM.