Allan Blackburn column: Collections that are smokin’

Allan Blackburn
Allan Blackburn

Following on from last week’s thoughts regarding traditions surrounding New Year, this week we’ll look at surely the biggest New Year’s resolution of all – smoking.

For those of you who have decided that 2014 is the year to give up smoking, there is still one way you can enjoy smoking without affecting your health, or your good intentions. You can collect it!

It is 400 years since tobacco was first introduced to Britain but it was during the 19th century that it became a celebrated hobby. Poems and booklets about the “gentle art of smoking” were common. Smoking was seen as a fitting pastime for busy city gentlemen in their luxurious clubs. The history and heritage of smoking was well-known in these circles.

I’ve not smoked now for 30 years but find the field of Smokerama fascinating. We get some beautiful items coming into the centre but they don’t hang around for long.

Edwardian silver cigarette cases, often beautifully engraved, are a pleasure to keep out on display and not wrapped up or tucked away in a loft somewhere, like 
so many people’s collections are.

All small and easy to store or display; lighters, match holders and ashtrays are all sought after.

The most popular lighters are Zippos. They came with a lifetime guarantee and lived up to the durability promise so Zippo lighters enjoy a good collectable market.

Gold Ronson lighters are also worth tracking down and buying.

Cigarette cases were often a luxury item made from silver and beautifully carved. An Edwardian gentleman may have had his initials carved into the lid. These types of cases are worth about £30-£40 nowadays.

Slightly more affordable are pub ashtrays that advertise popular brands. Silk Cut and Benson and Hedges ones were manufactured in their thousands for the pub trade so are easy to find. They usually sell for under £5 each so it’s easy to grow a collection quite quickly.

It’s been nearly seven years since the smoking ban came into force and despite the number of smokers in England declining since the ban, the collection of Smokerama is an increasingly popular field. It crosses over into Breweriana as I mentioned last week so collecting smoking-related items appeals to many different people.