The Legends and Pioneers of the Cigar Box Label Collectible

New collectors and investors owe a great debt of gratitude to the legends and pioneers that have salvaged, collected, and promoted cigar box labels throughout the years.  Antique Cigar box labels are being marketed everywhere today.  Vintage Cigar Box labels are auctioned on “E-bay and Heritage Auctions”, and are being sold and traded through many on-line web-sites such as: Instone”, “Cerebro”, “Astral” and “CigarBoxLabels”.  In addition, secondary businesses have emerged that use the cigar box label image on T-shirts, coffee mugs, and shower curtains, all emblazoned with these beautiful images.

In this article I would like to provide a historical and chronological perspective of just a few of the many influential pioneers that are responsible for making the cigar label the respected collectible it is today.

A.D. Faber in 1949 was the first cigar label collector to publish a reference guide on ‘Cigar Label Art’.  The thing that distinguishes Cigar Label Art (and also accounts for its higher price) is the inclusion of a number of original cigar box labels and edgings as tip-in’s

Mark Trout is a legend in the cigar label community.  Born in New Jersey in the 1940’s Mark became interested in old paper in the early 1970’s. As the legend goes, Mark frequented the East Coast throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, traveling through New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  This is where he located old factories and picked through the trash bins looking for old paper. He soon discovered a cash of “Old Cigar Box” labels.  With Mark’s keen eye for old ephemera he knew instantly that the age, beauty, and depth of color of these old relics far exceeded many of the other paper collectibles he had acquired.   As one of the original full time ‘pickers’ of cigar box labels,  Mark literally saved tens of thousands of vintage Cigar Box labels from being destroyed in the landfills. He has been nick named “The Johnny Appleseed” of cigar labels.  Mark’s knowledge also included the history of these labels – he identified many of the old U.S. Label lithographers and the dates of their label production.   Without Marks passion for these original lithographs, the wide variety and quantity would not be available today for the enjoyment of collectors.

Joe and Sue Davidson are among the earliest collectors of cigar labels and author of the first books on the cigar box label, ‘the Art of the Cigar Label’ and ‘Smokers Art’.  Joe Davidson has been written up in the “Wall Street Journal” and appeared on Public TV for his successes in the marketing and collecting of rare and antique art. The book  the “Art of the Cigar Label” went into 6 consecutive printings & sold over 180,000 copies before Joe and Sue wrote “Smoker’s Art”.

Wayne Dunn discovered the beauty of cigar Labels in the early 1990’s. As a sales and marketing executive Wayne understood the marketing potential of these museum quality works of art. He soon educated himself on the history of stone lithography and became addicted to collecting. By the late 1990’s Wayne published the “1998 Cigar Label Art Visual Encyclopedia” and the first alphabetical cigar label price guide that is still used today to help guide collectors in the pricing of cigar labels.

Ed Barnes a computer software engineer and also a cigar label collector worked with Wayne Dunn in the 1990’s to create a visual encyclopedia of Cigar Labels and a CD ROM.  He also created the first cigar label news letter called the ‘Cigar Label Gazette’.

John Grossman is a renowned design artist, collector and author of ‘Labeling America –  Popular Culture On Cigar Box Labels’. He was also the creator of the “Gift line” of products where he beautifully transferred many of the ‘Golden Age’ cigar label images onto a score of various products such as ashtrays, gift wrap and mugs.    

Tony Hyman – avid collector of rare collectibles and spokesman for cigar boxes and cigar box labels, founder of the on-line ‘National Cigar Museum.He has promoted cigar labels through articles and speaking engagements.

Dr. Gerald Petrone is a San Diego physician who, many years ago, became addicted to tobacco advertising. He has written several books on Cigar Labels including:  “Tobacco Advertising: The Great Seduction,” giving readers a general overview of promotional techniques and gimmickry used by the tobacco industry from 1860-1930 and “Cigar Box Labels-Portraits of Life, Mirrors of History,” where he touches upon the birth of the cigar box labels, America’s cigar label industry and branding

Sid Emerson and Ken Nichols, have beenpioneers in cigar labels since the late 1980’s. They have traveled extensively searching for cigar labels and have both acquired sizable collections. Sid and Ken are avid spokesmen for the cigar label community.  Sid and Ken along with Judy Hill,  Chip Brooks,  Si Bass,  Ron Mcwhorter, and other  enthusiasts founded the ‘Cigar Label Society’ in Southern California.  Sid and Ken attend and promote cigar labels at the Long Beach Collectibles show.

Major Si Bass (U.S. Army retired) has been a cigar label enthusiast since the 1980’s and a patriotic and military guru, author of “Patriotic Cigar Label Arthe has promoted cigar label art by speaking at the Cigar Label Society meetings and promoting cigar labels at the Long Beach collectibles show.

Chip Brooks alias “Cigar Label Junkie” has been an enthusiast since 1972 and has written a number of articles in the “Cigar Label Gazette”.  He shares the beauty of these wonderful works of art in miniature, at the “Cigar Label Junkie” Website.

Tommy Vance has one of the largest cigar label collections in Florida and is a spokesman and writing contributor the ’Cigar City Gazette’  in Ybor city.

Dave Beach enthusiast since the 80’s, isauthor of ‘Antique Cigar Label Art’ where he displays his rare collection of Cigar labels in beautiful detailed color.

Jay T. Last author of ‘The Color Explosion:  Nineteenth-Century American Lithography from the J.T. last Collection’.  He made his antique lithography collection available for display at the famous Huntington Library.

Rupert Knowles has had an affair with antique cigar boxes and other tobacciana since the 1990’s. Rupert is a reprographer and has one of the largest cigar box collections in the world and has helped promote cigar boxes and cigar labels through articles.  Since 2001 he has continued to Edit and produce the “Price Guide Book of Cigar Label Art’ .

Mike Bianco in 2000 founded the ‘ Instone 100’ , a blue chip cigar label index . The ‘Instone 100’ is a compilation of very desirable and highly sought-after cigar label art representing a diverse sampling of themes. This index is updated annually for price changes and can be used as a tool to track future price movements.  He was also the founder of the ‘Cigar Label Art Digest’ and edits and updates “The Price Guide Book of Cigar Label Art”.

Terry  Celano has been a cigar label enthusiast  since the early 1980’s. In 2005 he founded the first on-line price guide and cigar label trading site. The ‘Astral On-line Price Guide’ is an up-to-date price guide that tracks cigar label selling prices on a daily basis. It provides a daily snapshot of the market with graphical displays of the latest trends. He also created the online ‘Cigar Label Forum’ where the cigar label community can ask questions, provide information, and discuss the latest cigar label news.

David Freiberg is a long time collector of Cigar box labels and other paper ephemera. In the early eighties printed one of the first hard copy price guides.

Ron Anzack artistic framing artist of cigar labels, has written informative articles for  “ E-Bay” and has created a website of visual images and general price guide.