As I mentioned in one of my previous blog articles, the cigar box label collectible is still relatively new, and unknown to the general public.
Cigar box labels were produced in huge numbers over a 50 year period in American History (1860 – 1910). Originally, cigar box labels were meant to be only ads, to be discarded after the ads made their run. However, because they were once mass produced, cigar manufactures, cigar box makers, and printers all accumulated unused bundles on their shelves. These laid dormant in old warehouses and stores until they were rediscovered in the 1970’s. Then in the 1980’s, these unused labels began to spread across America as collectors began to see their value. Many collectors acquired a passion for collecting these “eye grabbing” master pieces.
The cigar box label collector is a unique individual that has an appreciation for art. They understand their beauty, age, and historical value. Most mention the painstaking process of stone lithography, and how rare they are compared to other collectibles. What you might not expect, is that most collectors are not cigar smokers. They are equally divided between men and women.
Most seasoned cigar label collectors are interested in the vintage cigar labels created by stone lithography. Thus, there is a high end market for “hard to find” vintage cigar box labels. These are considered rare and can fetch high premiums.
If you are a novice of cigar label collecting, there is a distinction between cigar box labels that were used on cigar boxes and cigar box labels that were produced but never used on cigar boxes. Most collectors today, mainly purchase cigar labels that were never used on cigar boxes.
This should not be discouraging for a new collector because there are literally thousands of titles for the collector to choose. Quality low price cigar labels are still available. The shrewd investors are buying as many as possible because they are confident prices will continue to rise. The “Instone 100” - an index of 100 cigar label titles – have been tracked since 1994. Charts show that if you invested $4,000 in 1994 the same 100 labels in 2010 are now worth $34,000. This is a whopping increase of 850%.!
Currently, there are at least 25,000 known titles, with most having an inner and outer labels, and salesman sample. Nevertheless, the total number of an individual titles are probably less then 50000 world wide.
Today, most collectors/investors, use the internet. On-line auctions are beneficial to collectors in that they make available many more cigar box labels than an individual might otherwise encounter. However they also bring in many inexperienced or uninformed buyers, as well as some with more money than common sense. Labels come in all conditions so be very careful when buying off the internet. The most common places to check out prices are the ASTRAL On-line Price Guide, and ‘The Price Guide Book of Cigar Label Art’. Astral distinguishes prices based on condition and also has a grading scale that can be used by the novice.