There are two kinds of information on every cigar box:

information that is [1] optional and [2] that required by law. 

        Optional information includes advertising, guarantees, slogans, ingredients lists, copyright and registration dates, type of labor, type of tobacco, source of tobacco, retail price and the like. Everything optional was exactly that. Pictures were optional, Text was optional. Truth was optional. The latter was abused unmercifully by this creative and opportunistic industry.

When it came to decorating a box with claims, there were no restrictions or guidelines. Anything went.  “Key West Favorite Cigars” (according to the label on the inside lid) were made by the “New York Cigar Factory” (according to a label on the bottom) but the cigar maker’s I.D. (required by law) identifies the cigars as having been made in Factory 978, 9th tax district of PA, a tiny one-man factory owned by Fred Runkle in Red Lion, the heart of the nation’s cheap cigar district. 

        Only required information can be trusted to be true. 

What information is required?

Tax laws required all cigar boxes made in the U.S. to have:

            [1]  tax stamps (1863-1959),

            [2]  cigar maker I.D.’s (1866-1960’s),

            [3]  caution notices (1868-1959)

            [4]  tax paid notices (1917-1959)

When you want to KNOW how old a box is, who made the cigars, and where their factory was, ONLY information required by law can be counted on as accurate. 

        Since the Feds kept changing the law (what a surprise!) Federal requirements are useful for dating a box.  Regulations governing cigar boxes changed in 1863, 1864, 1865, 1866,

1868, 1869, 1871, 1872, 1873, 1875, 1878, 1879, 1883, 1891, 1895, 1897, 1898, 1901, 1904, 1909, 1910, 1914, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1920, 1926, 1928, 1931, 1932, 1942, 1946, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1976 and a few other times.

        Fortunately you don’t have to memorize them all. If you learn a few rules, you can date almost any box. I tried to make them easy to understand by covering the various government mandates in separate exhibits. 

Many Museum visitors are able to get all they need in the Short Form Dating Guide at left.

If it’s not enough to help you, try Easy Dating then the specialized exhibits.

Good Luck. 


Dating Cigar Boxes

How to date most U.S. boxes

A Cigar History Museum EXCLUSIVE

  © Tony Hyman

Last minor modifications: May 29, 2015

This Exhibit includes

everything you need

to date cigar boxes

made 1860-1960.

Don’t be fooled by

these false dates found on boxes:

1880 - 1887 - 1912

Learn the real date here.

Most people find dating questions answered in:

Easy Dating

If that doesn’t answer your question, try these next.

Tax Stamps

1st time all in color

Import Stamps         

1st time all in color

Gov’t Regs:  ID’s        

Six types explained

Gov’t Regs: Notices

Caution Notices

Gov’t Regs: Tax Paid

1917-1919-1942 types

Gov’t Regs: NRA

National what?

CMIU Stamps

Seen 1st time anywhere

Dating Cuban Boxes

If exported to the US

Dating Canadian Boxes

Not as easy


Stamp related articles

Another topic

cheduled for 2018

Dating by Box Style

scheduled for 2018

Tony Hyman’s

Dating Guide

for people who like things very simple.

12 things to look at:


  1. 1.Is the Caution Notice printed on the box bottom or pasted on?               If printed on, it’s after 1910.

  2. 2.Is there a Tax Class Notice?            If yes, it’s 1917-1959.

  3. 3.Is the tax stamp about 4” long?      If yes, it’s 1916-1959.

  4. 4.Does 4” stamp picture a man?       If yes, it’s 1942-1959.

  5. 5.Is tax stamp orange on blue?          If yes, it’s 1919-1939.

  6. 6.Is the tax stamp about 8” long, black on blue with portrait?            If yes, it’s 1910-1915.

  7. 7.Is the tax stamp 10”+ long?           If yes, it’s before 1910.

  8. 8.Is the stamp dated 1883?       .      If yes it dates 1883-1898.

  9. 9.Is the portrait other than Clay?        If yes, it dates before 1878.

  10. 10.Is there a NRA eagle or stamp?     If yes, it dates 1934-35.

  11. 11.Is the letter T or TP part of the Factory number?                              If yes, it dates after 1945, and probably after 1960.

  12. 12.Were the cigars from Jamaica, Canary Islands or any Central American country?                         If yes, it likely dates after 1960.


Can you date this cigar box?   It’s actually easy.

1900’s?  1910’s?  1920’s?  1930’s?  1940’s?  1950’s?

You’ll know which decade after you see this exhibit.

If you own copies of any of these tax laws, I’d love to buy them or          
    photocopy them so I can share them.