Cigar Prices in 1900

“Costly Cigars” in Cigar Store Magazine (July, 1900)

Edited for readability.

© Tony Hyman, All rights reserved

Uploaded October 18, 2012


    Cigars that are sold at $2 each do not enjoy a heavy sale. The chief demand for them is about the holiday season, and such cigars are usually purchased to give away. These and other very high-priced cigars, such as sell at $1.50 and $1.00 apiece, come in trimmed wooden boxes containing five, ten, or twenty-five. But while such cigars are mostly imported and sold in the holiday season, they may be found on sale year around. They are sometimes sold for wedding gifts, and for banquets, and for special costly dinners, where the guest would be more likely to put one of these cigars in his pocket as a souvenir than to smoke it; for many of these very costly cigars are quite large, and more of a smoke than a man might want to take.

    Very expensive cigars are made of the finest and costliest tobacco, and are made with the greatest care by cigarmakers of the highest skill; there are only a few men who can make them at all, and they receive high pay for their work, as much as 15¢ to 20¢ per cigar. Though generally large, most of these costly cigars are also graceful in shape; many but not all. There is, for instance, a $2.00 cigar that is rather clumsy in its outlines; it is longer than the ordinary big cigar, much thicker, and in its general build a stubby, chunky cigar. But while one may or may not admire its configuration, the cigar itself is made with the utmost perfection of workmanship. There is, for further example, another costly cigar that is big, almost straight-sided and cylindrical in form, and stubby at  both ends; certainly not of a very beautiful model; but the cigar itself is constructed perfectly. The same is true of all these costly cigars. Whether homely or graceful in outline, the workmanship displayed is uniformly faultless; not only is each cigar in every way perfectly made, but the cigars in a box will be found to be perfectly matched. These costly cigars represent, in fact, the highest art in cigar making.

    Such cigars may be found in an finer tobacconist’s  showcase, selling for $1.00, $1.25, $1.50, $1.75 and $2.00. Now and then a smoker who likes that kind of a big, heavy smoke comes in and buys a $2.00 cigar, and lights it up. The purchaser is quite as likely to be somebody with plenty of money who is feeling cheerful over a good dinner. While such cigars are sold at retail, fact, there are not many men who pay a dollar or more for a cigar. No matter how much money a man has, or how fond he may be of smoking, he hesitates to pay dollar for a smoke.     A wise shopper knows excellent cigars can be bought for less than a dollar apiece, and, in fact, the vast majority of fine  cigars sold are at prices below that. Quality cigars sold at 75¢, 65¢ and 60¢ each find their way out of the showcase more often than their pricier counterparts, but the sale of cigars at these prices could be no means be described as common. Men do come in and buy cigars at such prices and light them up and smoke them, but seldom fire up on them as they would on a stogy. It is not until a lower price still is reached, in the 50¢ cigars, the the costly cigar becomes an article of comparatively common consumption. And indeed 50¢ is about the top-nothch price for cigars in the most expensive hotels and restaurants. Higher-priced cigars may be had, but half a dollar for a cigar is about as much as men often pay.

    There are a good many cigars sold at 50¢ each and yet there are more sold for less than that, say for 40¢, 35¢ and 3/$1.00, prices that make them articles of regular and ordinary sale. It might be said, in fact, that this is about the standard thing in high-priced cigars. Then there are cigars at 30¢, of which there are many sold, and then comes tha cigar that is, after all, the most commonly sold among cigars that are described as costly or high-prices, and that is the cigar for a quarter of a dollar.


        This article isn’t of great significance. It’s somewhat obvious point is that less expensive cigars sell better than more expensive cigars. To quote Homer Simpson ... “Duh!” 

        On the other hand, it is interesting to note how casually a leading trade journal of the day writes of such pricey offerings in an age when most working men toiled for less than a dollar a day and bread was 7¢ a loaf. Most visitors will be surprised by the cost of Havana and clear Havana cigars a century ago. The identical article could have been written with equal relevance and accuracy in the 1950s when a fine clear Havana could still be had for 25¢.

       The article is printed in its entirety save for minor editing to enhance readability.