Back in the day smoking was considered glamorous and sexy and an aid to all manner of good things, like weight loss and dealing with nerves.
While smoking is no longer considered de rigueur these days, items related to tobacco use are desirable and highly collectible. Think ashtrays, lighters, vesta and cigarette cases, pipes and tobacco tins.
And I’ll be honest, I love this sort of thing. Maybe it’s because my maternal grandparents were smokers when I was young. (I have a Camel lighter that belonged to my grandfather. My brother has their marble ashtray.)
Tobacciana items draw me like a moth to a flame…and I’m not the only one. I sell a fair amount of vintage ashtrays of all sorts. Not for huge amounts of money. Most are “bread and butter” items. Still if the price is right I pick them up.
Here’s a peek at what sells…
Folks love vintage glass advertising ashtrays, particularly from establishments no longer in business. This is a lot I bought in 2016 from an estate sale for $6. They were dusty/grimy, but nothing a good sudsy soak wouldn’t fix. I sold them as a lot, but in retrospect I could have charged more!
The Rocky Bend ashtray (paid $3.19) was a no-brainer. No, it wasn’t valuable but it was so cool.
Vintage ashtrays from well-known establishments sell too. This Goodwill find ($5.79) was an atypical image for Trader Vics and didn’t take long to sell.
Even1970s amateur pieces appeal to collectors, like this fresh and fun ashtray.
This 1960s cast iron and glass piece weighed a ton and I knew would be tricky/expensive to ship, but what a BIG, fantastic look. Rather wish I had kept this! It was perfection.
This 1970s ceramic ashtray is 7.5″ in diameter and offers a whole lot of grooviness. (This one hasn’t sold.)
This brass ashtray weighed over nine pounds. It was insanely big and heavy (obviously) but it was fantastic. I HAD to buy it!
This cigar ashtray was not so old (1997) but scarce. It became someone’s Father’s Day gift.
I know some folks shy away from buying (and selling) ashtrays seeing them as obsolete or because of their association with a dirty and dangerous habit. But nowadays ashtrays can be used for a variety of purposes. They are perfect as candy dishes, receptacles for coins or serving lemon wedges on a bar cart. And honestly some are just fabulous decor pieces.
Here’s what I’m looking for these days…
Vintage glass advertising pieces, particularly quirky and scarce ones.
I rather like the funeral home ashtray with the old-style phone dial.
This Uncle John’s Pancake House ashtray is one from my personal collection. I worked here as a waitress one summer before heading off to college. (Actually one of my brothers and several cousins worked here as well.) The restaurant in my hometown closed decades ago though it exists elsewhere. I believe this ashtray is quite scarce as I haven’t found any for sale online. (I may eventually try to sell it!)
Mid-century modern kidney-shaped and atomic ceramic ashtrays
The graphic quality of these is amazing!!
Ashtrays with faces, animals, people appeal to many folks. This brass devil ashtray is popular (selling from $12 up to $70) but it’s not one that I’d want in my house!
Perhaps the only ones I am NOT buying not are clear glass or anything fussy or with florals.
To be honest this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talking about ashtrays but I hope it’s whet your appetite to learn more and perhaps consider collecting or selling them.
Wishing you happy hunting,
Hey Karen, I hope you and your family are doing well. I love that iron and glass piece. Very cool. I have friend who smokes cigars and it would’ve been perfect for him!
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Hi Kevin. Good to hear from you. We are doing well. That iron and glass piece was just fabulous!
Hi Karen, I didn’t realize Uncle John’s was a franchise. I spent many a late night there back in the 70s. It was the only place open all night? If you ever decide to sell let me know. I’ll use it as a pin tray on my dresser. I have a book of matches in my keepsake box.
I too sell a lot of tobacciana. And I also have a small collection from my favorite places across the world.
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Hi Linda. I got stuck working those weekend overnight shifts!! It was pretty dreadful waiting on tables of drunk guys. I will let you know if I decide to sell the ashtray.
I LOVE vintage ashtrays, and collect them! I like how heavy the glass is, and how cool and smooth. I have never smoked, and only know one person who does, not in my area so I don’t have to smell it. The cast iron and glass piece is gorgeous.
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Hi Lisa. Yeah a collector! I really think they are such a fun thing to collect. I wish I had kept the iron and glass piece. 😔