Let’s talk about what pricing Cigar Box labels really means. Recent history is always the best indicator of price. However, because thousands of labels are rare – meaning one of a kind or very few in existence- the price can only be whatever the owner is willing to let the label go for. If a buyer buys it, then that is the price at that point in time. Buying cigar labels is only done in one of two ways – buying them outright from another dealer or collector for an agreed upon price, or bidding on them in an auction. Unfortunately, auctions can sometimes be a source of anxiety for the buyer. The buyer sees a label and they want it. Unless it is a graded label, they may be unsure of the condition, which makes them unsure of how much to bid. Obviously, cheaper is better. However, once they get involved , the excitement can cause a bidding war. My advice – do the research, and decide on the condition before hand, then set yourself a limit.
When researching prices, most collectors/buyers use only a few trusted resources to price their cigar labels. I’ll mention just a couple that are used most often. The first resource is the soft back edition “The Price Guide Book of Cigar Label Art”. Versions of this book have been around since 1994. The guide has a fair amount of information on the history of labels, and its prices are a strong indicator of how rare a label is. The nice thing about this price guide is; in each annual edition the prices are updated, based on the latest selling trends. In addition, it tracks a Blue Chip cigar label index called “The Instone 100 “. Published by Instone – a well respected Cigar Label dealer, it is a compilation of very desirable and highly sought after Cigar labels and can be used as tool to track future price movements.
Another trusted resource is the ‘Astral On-line Price Guide’. It has been around since 2005, and is highly respected among buyers and sellers. There are several good reasons for this: first of all, Astral tracks real selling prices from most of the major auction sites, second, they have a methodology that prevents wide fluctuations in prices (based on any one individual sale), and they list prices based on condition. They also state, up front, that selling prices should be based on whatever the buyer and seller can agree on.
There are a few other price guides available today but they are either not as comprehensive, or their prices do not reflect recent selling prices as the two aforementioned guides. A few sellers price their labels based on the highest price they can find. This is unfortunate because this will only fool them into thinking they their label is worth more then it really is.
Pricing for rarer cigar box labels is very much like the pricing of respected artwork. That is where price guides are at best only a guide. If there aren’t enough buyers, then it is whatever the market will bear. One thing to note – rarer labels will always sell. Why? It’s basic supply and demand. When you have a collectible that is truly rare, the numbers of collectors far outnumber the pieces available.
If you think Cigar Labels will continue to rise in price, you would be correct based on the Instone100 index. However, if you are one of those people hanging on to the more common labels (labels that come in larger quantities), plan on waiting. Prices are based on many factors including: supply and demand and the economy . This is where guides can help you – to determine trends. If certain labels are not selling, or they are priced lower then you think they are worth, then you may want to hang on to them or even buy more while the prices are still cheap. Many older collectors would rather hand them down to their descendents because they know the prices will eventually go up.
Rare Cigar Label – Price at whatever the Market will bear Common Cigar Label – Guides are more accurate
In summary, if you are trying to sell or buy more common pieces, then trust the guides that have the most recent pricing. If you have a rarer piece, then price it at whatever you are willing to let it go for. However, like anything else, if you want it sold you must be willing to take whatever the market will bare.