Art is defined as the creation of something beautiful that affects the senses, mind, intellect and even the soul. Cigar Box Labels posses all four of these qualities so why shouldn’t we consider them true works of art? There seems to be something missing like; like who is the artist? or like is it a single piece of creation or reproduction? This is where things get a little fuzzy.
When you admire a beautiful piece of cigar label art, the knowledge of the original artist has long since disappeared. The best you can do is know the lithography company that reproduced the artwork. The artists that worked for the lithography companies created the art but the lithography company mass produced their work and took all the credit. In a way, this is no different then today – when viewing art produced for mass advertising. In addition, many artists today reproduce their works through prints or other mass production methods but they keep them in limited quantities. This is especially important if you’re considering parting with a hefty sum of money for a piece of ‘art’.
What makes vintage cigar label art different is the method in which they reproduced the original art. The use of chromolithography, strictly speaking, is a colored image printed by many applications of ink on multiple lithographic stones, each stone using a different color ink. Chromolithographs were elaborately made, using upwards of 13 or more stones to create a rich and sophisticated image. It took many skilled craftsmen to produce a cigar box label from stone – from the original artist that created the conceptual drawing, to the craftsmen who drew the images onto the stone, to the skilled printers who aligned the stones and laid the ink. Many chromolithographs were intended to duplicate watercolors and paintings, allowing the middle class to hang “art” in their home at an affordable price.
If you are thinking of purchasing a vintage cigar box label, the more you know about the subject, the better off you are. All vintage cigar label art is rare but it is not the original work. However, because vintage cigar box labels are both rare and antique (over 100 years old) they have a predetermined value determined by the collectors that buy them. You don’t need to be professionally trained to make a smart decision. Anyone can become a wise collector with patience, discipline and the right tools.
Prudent collectors know the marketplace, and the prices. Be informed, watch for auctions, monitor the buying and selling, and understand the grading system. Cultivate a good standing with cigar art retailers and community. Buy not for just an investment but for the love of the art and historical value it may bring. Who knows, another hundred years from now vintage cigar label art may become priceless.