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Planning Retirement Online

Family Treasures - Edition 8
                               August 2004


Purchase Miller's Price Guide 2004/2005

Family Treasures

Jill Churchill, who writes on antiques and collectables for YOURS magazine, continues her series



Cigarette Cases  

Who uses a cigarette case  (even if you haven’t given up smoking)? In, say, fifty years time, it’s not difficult to see that collectors will be fighting to get their hands on a genuine unaltered cigarette case of the early 20th century, the ‘casing’ of cigarettes by then being considered a quaint old custom


As smoking becomes more and more unacceptable, we might be tempted to throw away disused cigarette cases, and all the other paraphernalia associated with smoking.   Far better to put them in a clearly-labelled box and leave them to gain in value, for the benefit of the grandchildren. 

In the course of time, there may even be a difference in price between the early (1890-1913) cases, which were small, before the coming of filter-tips, and the post-1914 larger cases. 

Nothing but the melt-down value

Meanwhile, though, the news is not good. The silver case that someone gave father or grandfather for a 21st birthday present is rarely worth more than 20, or something like its ‘melt-down  value’ - ie the going prize per ounce of the silver. One dealer advised: ‘better to use the case to carry your business cards or your pills, dear.’

Exceptional cases? The enamelled ones, where the metal has been fancied-up with a bright pattern or a picture. A case with a stark geometrical design in those oh-so-20s colours of orange and black and yellow might be 300-400 to a collector of Art Deco.  

Pictures that tell a different story

Cases with pictures on them can be valuable, though it depends on the picture. If grandfather was a motoring enthusiast and had an enamelled case depicting a car, now of vintage variety, it’s worth could be upwards of 450 - that was the price of one model sold at Christie’s three years ago.

And if he was, as grandma might have said, ‘a bit of a lady’s man’  ... his cigarette case might pay off as mild erotica, but only if its design carried a racy pin-up of the 1920s.  One sold at at Phillips recently  for 750.

Values are still higher if an unclothed lady hides inside a plain outer case: I’ve seen examples selling for 1,000 to 3,000 depending on the quality of the enamelling (it mustn’t be chipped) and the, er, degree of nudity.

Always give an old silver case a careful clean if it’s highly engraved or embossed and look for a hallmark. If the mark seems to be in a foreign alphabet, take it to be checked by a jeweller: it may be Russian, brought here by post-Revolution refugees and now desirable as a piece of history. 


Previous editions:

Family Treasures - 1

Family Treasures - 2

Family Treasures - 3

Family Treasures - 4

Family Treasures - 5

Family Treasures - 6

Family Treasures - 7

Family Treasures - 8

For subsequent editions - see the laterlife interest index



laterlife interest

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