Ashes to Ashtrays
As they disappear from Daily Life, ashtrays have Become Smoking Collectibles
Neil A. Grauer
From the Print Edition:
Vince McMahon, Nov/Dec 99
(continued from page 1)
According to Wright, the museum had other types of ashtrays, mostly from nineteenth-century "companion sets" made for placement on desks or tables. These featured a ceramic or lead-glass jar or other compartment to hold cigars or cigarettes, a match holder, a match striker, sometimes a cigar cutter, and an ashtray.
"They were made of wood or ceramic materials, often in Eastern Europe, perhaps in Bohemia, and might contain a figure of, say, a monk going to the cellar to get beer, or a little girl feeding birds. We had probably 50 of them, all of different styles and themes," says Wright, who supervised the closing of the 16-year-old museum after its sponsor, UST Corp., parent firm of U.S. Tobacco, shut it down to use the space for offices. (The company's collection is in storage at its headquarters in Greenwich, Connecticut; UST plans to donate parts of it to museums and other institutions.)
For all the ruminations in the museum and collectibles worlds about the impending demise and disappearance of ashtrays, they are not quite ready to be consigned to history. Craftspeople still make some incredibly exquisite ones specifically for cigar smokers.
Of course, modestly priced modern ashtrays continue to be sold in most premium cigar stores, where fancy handmade ceramic, marble or glass ashtrays are priced in the $35 to $65 range. And run-of-the-mill ashtrays remain popular souvenir items to purchase--or pilfer. (We certainly don't advocate the latter, but tourists will be tourists.)
For example, should you have elected to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1898 Spanish-American War by going to Philadelphia's old Navy Yard to tour the USS Olympia, the last survivor of the 1890s "Great White Fleet" and the flagship of Admiral George Dewey, you could have picked up a commemorative Olympia ashtray for $2.99. And as the owners of Washington, D.C.'s Willard Hotel well know, guests have a penchant for swiping ashtrays. In 1987, the Willard removed its name from hotel ashtrays after 1,000 of them were pocketed in just three months, the hotel's spokeswoman, Ann McCraken, told The Washington Post. "I have a Willard ashtray," she added, "and I don't even smoke."
Neil A. Grauer, a Baltimore writer and caricaturist, is the author of Remember Laughter: A Life of James Thurber.
SOURCES TO TAP INTO
ASHTRAY COLLECTORS CONNECTIONS
by Chuck Thompson
10802 Greencreek, No. 703
Houston, Texas 77070-5367
An annual directory of ashtray collectors nationwide, providing information on who buys, sells and trades ashtrays. $9.95 postpaid.
CASINOS AND THEIR ASHTRAYS: A COLLECTORS GUIDE
by Art Anderson
P.O. Box 4103
Flint, Michigan 48504-0103
More than 1,000 casino ashtrays described and 780 of them pictured on 208 pages. $22 postpaid.
COLLECTOR'S GUIDE TO ASHTRAYS: IDENTIFICATION AND VALUES
by Nancy Wanvig
P.O. Box 3009
Paducah, Kentucky 42002-3009
The first full-color price guide devoted exclusively to ashtrays, with more than 2,000 pictured. 225 pages. $19.95, plus $2 shipping. (The first edition is out of print; a new edition was due out in September.)
GREAT CIGAR STUFF FOR COLLECTORS
Jerry Terranova and Douglas Congdon-Martin Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road
Atglen, Pennsylvania 19310
Covers a wide range of cigar collectibles, although ashtray coverage is limited to six pages. Available at bookstores for $29.95, or from the publisher, adding $3.95 for shipping.
by Philip Collins
85 Second Street, 6th floor
San Francisco, California 94105
A 1992 book on smoking collectibles, featuring many colorful ashtrays. $17.95 postpaid.
SMOKING COLLECTIBLES: A PRICE GUIDE
L-W Book Sales
P.O. Box 69
Gas City, Indiana 46933
Features almost every smoking-related item, including many ashtrays. 202 pages. At bookstores for $24.95, or from the publisher; add $3 for shipping.
TIRE ASHTRAY COLLECTOR'S GUIDE
1810 West State Street, Suite 427
Boise, Idaho 83702
Featuring a history of tire ashtrays, with more than 600 depicted. $12.95 postpaid.
THE TIRE ASHTRAY COLLECTING WEB SITE
BILL AND CATHY AKER'S WEB PAGE ON TIRE ASHTRAYS
CANADIAN ANTIQUES & COLLECTIBLES
Shows examples from the Carnival Chalkware Museum of ashtrays in the shape of animals, people and ships. Chalkware ashtrays were once popular prizes at carnivals.
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