This site gives you an inside-look at what I see when examining and evaluating cigar boxes.

    When coming upon a cigar box, the first thing I notice is what TYPE of box it is and what it’s made of. It’s usually possible to estimate it’s age within 10 years. Very important is how clean it is.

    I look for evidence of paint, grease or water damage ... scribbling ... Magic Marker. If any substantial amount ... the size of a playing card or more ... I’m unlikely to be interested, but I do continue the examination.

    As I pick it up, I am answering the following questions:

    What tax stamp does it have? Early, GoldenAge, MachineAge?

    Is the stamp’s dating info undamaged?  f no stamp, why?.

    Is there a 4 x 4 outer label? If yes, is it complete and clean?

    What kind of top brand or top oval does it have?

    Is the edging intact? How much is missing?

    Once in hand, first and foremost is the question “Is this a cigar box?”

A quick flip to the bottom tells me a great deal.  The bottom is the only one of a cigar box’s 12 sides that is required by law to be true. The very first thing the bottom tells you is how old the box is.

[[[ILLUS: box bottoms: 8 pix, 4 pix to a page, vertical col]]]


1863-68 just tax stamp otherwise blank

1868-(hot brand legal until 1880s, rare after 1875)


1872- x-xx round ID with maker’s name

18-  round ID with Fact. No.


1880-1910    three-line ID, long CN

1910-192x - ID-CN POB


192x-1942  ID,CN and tax class

1942-1957± laws and procedures phased in

    I look for the cigarmaker’s ID, required by Federal law on boxes of cigars. If it’s there, it’s a cigar box. If the ID is not there the box is

[1] before 1863, [2] after 1962, or [3] not made in the U.S. 

    If a box dates before 1920, a quick flip to the bottom tells me which “Cigar Box Age” it came from.

       The ID tells me what state the cigars were made in and, in a few lucky cases, who made them. The bottom of the box is important because it is the only one of a box’s twelve sides that must by law be true.

    A glance at the bottom also do this because I formerly looked for boxes from factories from certain places: Florida (especially Key West), California, any state west of the Mississippi, Puerto Rico, Cuba. Also looking for specific factory numbers such as Indiana 202, Ohio 212 and New York 1, 11 and 50. “9th Dist. PA” on the bottom says its from the heart of PA’s producers of inexpensive custom brands ...

    I also want to know if the box is typical of it’s decade and this quickie look at the bottom tells me how many cigars were legally in the box. Interest goes up if it held a less common size (3,7,8,13,500). I am always attracted to “Sales Man’s Sample” boxes of 12.

    That’s a lot of writing to describe looking at a box before it gets opened. In life, it takes about 15 seconds to perform a first rate inspection.


Evaluating Condition

A Personal Note


A Cigar History Museum Exclusive 

© Tony Hyman, all rights reserved

Uploaded  January 31, 2012

Text revised, illus added  December 31, 2012