The object featured is a hinged metal cigarette case, with a gold coloured interior and a leather covered exterior.  It is designed to hold standard sized manufactured cigarettes, which are held in place by an elastic band.

Cigarette cases were first introduced in the 19th century when large scale production of cigarettes of uniform size stimulated the development of cases to hold and protect them from damage. Early cases were made from base metals with the sole purpose of providing a means for carrying cigarettes on the person without crushing them. However, silver cases became popular, due to their durability, value and suitability for being inscribed and decorated. In late Victorian times gold, highly decorated, cases were prized.  Peter Carl Fabergé, produced gold cases lined with gems for the Tsar of Russia and his family.

For everyday use cases needed to be slim with rounded edges so that they could be easily removed from a pocket. Over the years, as cigarette consumption increased, so did the manufacture of cigarette cases of varying quality, but similar shape. Some held cigarettes in both the lid and the base.

Sales of cigarette cases has declined along with the reduction in the number of people smoking. Moreover, cases were designed to fit in jacket pockets and the wearing of suits has become less fashionable.

The case pictured here does not have a manufacturer’s name, so is unlikely to be made of precious metal, but it is stylish and would, no doubt, have been seen as a desirable  possession.

Good quality vintage cases are readily available and there are collectors of such cases and other smoking related objects.

Key theme(s):

Home & Garden

More information:

Date 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s
Material(s) MetalLeather
Item number MBPO180

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • Who in your family has owned a cigarette case?
  • What was the case made of?
  • How many cigarettes did it hold?
  • What else could a cigarette case be used for?
  • Can you name any James Bond films which featured a cigarette case?

User Stories

There are several stories of soldiers in the Second World War whose lives were saved by a bullet hitting a cigarette case.

It has been reported that there was a brief increase in sales of cases in Europe when cigarette packets started to carry graphic health warnings.

Can I recommend to you Bob Newhart’s recording ‘Introducing Tobacco to Civilisation’. This is available on streaming services and is still very funny.

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