Cigar smokers have been fussy abut the size, shape and blend of what they smoke ever since the 1880’s when a wide variety of choices became available.  Among connoisseurs, cigars of different size and blend were required for different meals or times of day.  As a result, non-smokers were often hesitant to choose cigars as gifts for fear of making the wrong purchase.  Cigar makers responded by creating “the assortment,” a box of cigars that took away all that worry.  The assortment, or variety pack, was designed to hold anywhere from three to as many as twelve different sizes and shapes (called “frontmarks” or “vitolas”) of cigar in one box. 

    Assortments are usually SBN’s or NWH’s with the addition of dividers and compartments to accommodate the various shapes of cigar.  Because of their long term popularity, however, cigar and box industry people speak of assortments as a class of box apart.

    That so many eye-catching assortments have been created during the last 100 years is no accident.  Since they were usually designed for the novelty-seeking Christmas trade, box makers had a free hand to create packages that were out of the ordinary and aesthetically pleasing.  Designs of a wider latitude were possible, breaking away from the limitations imposed by standard cigar packaging shapes of 13 or 17 cigars to the row.

    Assortments are often found with the top row of cigars nestled in a lift-out tray to permit access to the bottom row.  Trays and dividers are sometimes a nuisance to the user of the empty box, however, so today’s collector often finds assortments with trays missing or dividers broken out.

    A special category of assortment is called a “Your Choice.” These boxes offer the same cigar but in different colors or the same cigar under different brand names or pictures. In the latter case, names and images are usually competing political candidates or rival actresses. The smoker “votes” for his favorite by buying a cigar from the compartment named after his candidate or favorite celebrity.

    Choices were usually “Light, Medium and Dark” or “Mild, Medium and Strong.”  A retailer might accept a space hog like ROYAL PURPLE (below) from a cigar salesman on a short term basis since most stores wanted to stock only one color or strength of a particular cigar and a box like this would give customers the opportunity to sample a new brand in three strengths, and register an opinion before the storekeeper ordered a stock. The disadvantages of offering three strengths quickly became apparent to retailers. If all the cigars of one strength were sold, the retailer would be giving up display space for an empty compartment that could not legally be refilled from another box.

Assortments & Your Choice

A National Cigar History Museum Exclusive Exhibit

© Tony Hyman

Last addition: October 7, 2010

Any box which holds different sizes and shapes of one brand of cigars is called an “Assortment” a type of packing that seems to go back to the 1880s. Most that are found appear to date much later.  Assortments are used both as salesmen’s samples and Christmas gifts right up to today.


  Your Choice boxes offer smokers the opportunity to select from various colors or strengths of cigars, here Mild, Medium and Strong. The category also includes a type of novelty box that allows the smoker to ‘vote’ for an actress or a political candidate. They date as far back as the 1870’s, and were most popular before 1920.  [4358]



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