Game Boxes

A National Cigar History Museum Exclusive

© Tony Hyman

Latest addition: October 7, 2010

    When novelty boxes first became legal, box makers responded with a wealth of interesting boxes, not the least of which were game boxes...boxes that had games built into them. These were especially popular with travelers who bought cigars and a game to play while smoking.  Travel was by train, stage-coach, packet boat, or barge, none of which were especially speedy unless compared to walking or horseback. Most, but not all, game boxes date from the 1880’s.

Bridge box


      During the 1920’s the card game of bridge became a national fad. An unidentified Cuban cigar company responded with a Craftsman style table box complete with 50 cigars, two different scoring charts, and a place for a deck of cards.

[3449]   A Curator’s favorite.




This plain looking box of 100 with its reversible sliding lid was patented in February 1879. The compartment suggests it came with a deck of cards as well as pegs. Cigars were made in Factory 5, 3rd Dist. NYC owned by A. Lichtenstein Son & Co at 309 E. 59th street, employer of 300 rollers in the mid 1880’s.

[3385, 3386]  A Curator’s favorite.


Cribbage game boxes


Terrific box designed for travelers with text around top and sides such as “Just one more game” “Voyagers and tourists social time companion” “Friendly entertainment: instruction and amusement” and “Companion for tourists and the leisure hour.”

The inside label is rules of cribbage signed by E.C. Hazard, a major distributor for whom the package was made in 1880. Came with pegs, and possibly a deck of cards. ID says the cigars were made in Fact. 765 in the 2nd District of New York City, owned by Kimball, Crouse & Co., a large factory employing 200 people located at 35 Warren Street in New York.  A Curator’s favorite.




Unusual folding checkerboard box with a picture of the Republican candidates in the election of 1888 under one board, the Democratic candidates under the other. The two boards can be displayed back to back displaying both sets of politicians so smokers can choose a cigar from their party of choice.  Simulated alligator paper on the outside originally gave it a suitcase-like look.  Box originally held 100/26 cigars plus a complete set of checkers (two of which are missing today).  ID is unreadable due to deterioration of outside paper. Label was a stock item and used often. More cigar boxes are associated with this election than any other. [8168, 8169,  8170]


UN-NAMED 250 box

Fabulous inlaid 250 combination checkerboard with backgammon board inside.  Hand inscribed inside “A. P----- for honorable account, July 27, 1882.”  Trade Mark inside lists maker as De Capo Cigar Factory (ID identifies Fact. 368, 3rd NYC, a two man factory owned by Adolph Rothbart, 2057 2nd Ave).


[3393]  [3394]

A Curator’s favorite.


    THE LATEST COMBINATION Companions applied for a patent in 1882 (and was used in 1883). It’s “Companions” frontmark suggests it may have been designed for travelers. The top brand illustrates chess pieces, but checkers are more likely. It’s possible that the original checkers could have been printed with chess piece identifications on one side, thus serving dual purpose. Filled with cigars by Factory 69, 3rd District New York (lower Manhattan), a small factory which closed a couple years later. Note the double lid, unsupported when open.  [3391]

[3388]   A Curator’s favorite.                [3389]


Checker board boxes

CHECKER BOARDS brand cigars were packed in a 100/26 NWHC box, the equivalent of two 50/13’s side by side, with an overall latched lid. Look carefully at the view on the right you can see a third compartment at the very back which held checkers. Packed in the small Factory 976, 3rd Dist New York City, belonging to Aaron Simmons at 128 East 109th street in 1881.  Created for Wellman, Peck & Co., San Francisco.

A Curator’s favorite.     [9863]  [9865]


Billiard box


    Billiard table hides 50 cigars made by Cuba’s famous long-lived Jose Piedra, though when is not known.  Best guess is

1920’s.  Box measures 12.5” x 5.75”

[3454]  A Curator’s favorite.


Not all game boxes are old

       The well know cigar maker Ritmeester, headquartered in the Netherlands, sold this cleverly stylish upright box in Australia. Whether it was available elsewhere is not known.

    Not in the NCM collection. I wish it were.


English Cigarette Company Creates a Terrific Game Box

    Not much is known about Nicolas Sarony & Company’s most distinctive Monte Carlo Cigarette tin game box. It came with cigarettes, a spinner, betting chips, and a four age booklet Rules of Roulette as played at Monte Carlo.



TOP: 12.5” tin with spinner and chips in place

RIGHT MIDDLE: Tin as usually found, without spinner


LEFT: Rulebook

BOTTOM:  Rulebook open