Enjoy the history of smoking without damaging your health

Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at 'smokerama'...

Friday, 19th January 2018, 9:56 am
Updated Friday, 19th January 2018, 11:15 am
This ashtray is something that was once common place. It is 3.50

For those of you that have decided that 2018 is the year to give up smoking, there is still one way you can enjoy smoking without affecting your health, or your good intentions. Collecting smokerama is a fascinating subject and covers a lot of our British social history.

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First World War officer who refused an order

It is four hundred years since tobacco was first introduced to Britain, but it was during the 19th century that it became a celebrated hobby. Poems and booklets about the “gentle art of smoking” were common - smoking was seen as a fitting past-time for busy city gentlemen in their luxurious clubs. The history and heritage of smoking was well-known in these circles. Cigarette cases, lighters, match holders and ashtrays are all sought after.

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Although 19th century lighters were used, most people trying to create a flame used friction matches. Matches were kept in a small-hinged box.

Known as ‘vesta cases’, these boxes were often decorated and were made in huge quantities. The novelty shaped cases are the most sought after and these can be worth several hundred pounds. It was not until the 20th century that inventors moved towards our modern lighter. As we headed into the 1920’s, lighters were jewelled, enamelled, lacquered or shaped and many different manufacturers produced lighters including Faberge, Cartier and Dunhill.Invented in the United States by George Grant Blaisdel during the early 1930s Zippo lighters were solid, rectangular and metal. As well as being attractive, they were also very functional.

Zippos enjoy a good collectable market and are still the most popular “smokerama” items today. Cigarette cases were often a luxury item made from silver and beautifully carved. An Edwardian gentleman may have had his initials carved into the lid. These types of cases can be bought at GB Antiques for about £30.

Large ashtrays were made for the pub trade advertising different brands of cigarettes like Benson and Hedges and Silk Cut, which were both popular brands in the 1980 and 90s. These sell for as little as a few pounds each but are very collectable, so keep your eyes open for these at car boots and markets. They are a good reminder of a time gone by, before smoking was banned in pubs and all public places.