Antique Snuff Boxes: Small and Valuable Treasures Worth Sniffing Around For

Swiss Enamel & Gold Snuff Box, circa 1740. Photograph property of M.S. Rau Antiques

I often tell Members of the 31 Club that money in the antique and collectible world can be made with items smaller than a bread box. Besides not taking up too much space in your home until you get them sold, you won’t be faced with transporting these small treasures back and forth, which eats away at your time and erodes your profit. Snuff Boxes and Snuff Bottles certainly qualify as items smaller than a bread box, and they can be quite valuable. Today, I’ll focus mainly on snuff boxes.

Snuff, used for many centuries, is a tobacco that is ground into a very fine powder. It’s sniffed through the nose, tucked behind the lip, or tucked inside the cheek. It came in either a dry form or a moist form.

In Europe, in centuries gone by, the use of snuff was a very popular social ritual, mainly with the elite. Many a high society lady or gent would never leave home without their stylish snuff box and would often have several to choose from. They even had snuff boxes for every season. In China, snuff bottles were very popular, and the bottle stopper had a little pad on the inside of it. The process for use was the same.

In 19th Century America, some women might have smoked cigars in public for its shock value, however, there were far more ladies discreetly using snuff, which was perfectly acceptable. This was Women’s Lib 19th Century style, and it caught on.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and we find that anything to do with snuff has become highly collectible. If you find one for a collector, they’ll pay you handsomely, especially for the right one.

Snuff boxes can be made from almost any material. They were often made of antler, silver, wood, brass, gold, pewter and many others. They also can be a combination of several materials, artistically decorated. Most boxes were decorated with gold or silver, often with the owner’s initials engraved on them. Many were highly decorated, and of course, these are quite valuable. Let’s look at a few values in Kovel’s Price Guide to see if your eyebrows move a little north:

A 3” Gold Enamled Box of a Harbor Scene, c. 1830 valued at $17,250. If that’s too rich for your blood, how about a Metal, Gilt, Musical, engine-turned panels sized at four inches for $14,950. These must have been owned by a very special lady or gent.

$32,500. That’s the price of the snuff box shown in Today’s Photo. Offered at M.S. Rau Antiques, and this Swiss Enamel and Gold Snuff Box, circa 1740, looks like it contains a double ivory portrait,adding to its value. This is a real beauty. When you take a look at all their high end snuff boxes, you’ll have a better idea of the high quality, high end boxes out there.

Remember, we look for the higher end, rare items. As we work our way up the 31 Steps, our ever increasing knowledge of true quality and rarity will help us along the way. Please make every effort to attend antique shows in your area to see high quality items up close and face to face. The first goal is to be able to recognize quality when you see it.

Snuff was not reserved for the high society crowd. We regular folks used it, too. I can still remember the way my Grandmother would quickly sniff a little, sneeze, and then hold her dainty handkerchief to her nose. As a child, I often wondered why she would do this. Maybe to clear her nose, I thought.

Today, snuff is a dying industry. To the ladies and gents of days long gone, aside from being the socially chic thing to do then, that special little high from nicotines was what they were probably after. In those days, the use of snuff also made the dentists very happy, too. It caused many a mouth problem and surely increased the bottom line in the dentists’ books.

If you’re interested in “sniffing out” more information on snuff boxes, you might start by reading Christopher Proudlove’s Blog on Snuff Boxes at WriteAntiques.com and Tobacco.org has a very informative timeline of tobacco that’s quite interesting.

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Antique Dutch Silver Snuff Box Sold on eBay for $9,660 on March 17, 2008

Yesterday, I said that I would continue for a few day sharing things that will get you started on the journey to your million dollars in antiques & collectibles and help you get past your early steps of the 31 Steps. So,I’m continuing today.

Most people like to have things in their homes that remind them of trips they’ve taken or events that proved to be of great pleasure to them. Items we used in our everyday life are also items that bring back warm memories, and people will collect these. These items often end up in garage or house sales and can be purchased reasonably, then flipped for a fair profit.

There certainly are pieces of advertising that bring in tens of thousands of dollars to be found, but today I will be introducing you to some you are more likely to find.

I would suggest that anything associated with smoking and tobacco will be collected for the next 20 – 50 years. The reason for this is that smoking is going the way of so many other things that were common place fifty years ago, but today they barely exist. With that in mind, let’s examine what some of these articles might be.

The value of old plugs of chewing tobacco with the paper labels might surprise you. The same might be said of an unopened pack of cigarettes from the early days. In fact cigar boxes often command some serious money because of the wonderful designs that decorate these boxes. Let’s not forget the pipe tobacco bags and tins that are eagerly sought after or even the early snuff boxes that most women wouldn’t leave the house without.

There are ashtrays, matches, tobacco cutters, posters, tin signs, cigarette papers, cigar labels, and mirrors. And I am just getting started. I would like to list the value of all these things but it is easier just to tell you to look under advertising in the Kovels price guide you should already have purchased. There is a also a nice book by Warman’s called Tobacco Collectibles that I would highly recommend. You will be able to find many books on this subject by checking the companies at we are affiliates with, Abebooks, Amazon, and Schiffer Collector’s Books.

So many of the items that fall into this category can be purchased very inexpensively through Abebooks and Amazon when you buy them used, so please check these. We appreciate those who purchase through our affiliate because it helps keep this Blog running.

I’ll be adding these items to my next “What’s hot List.” Even items you can find on the cheap at garage, house and yard sales that canturn out to be quite valuable.

When I was little, I use to pick up cigar labels and pretend that they were rings. You would naturally ask what value is there in paper labels that when the cigar is finished. Wouldn’t they just be thrown away. But, cigar labels can bring up to $2,000 or more in today’s market. How about tin signs that advertise Tobacco products? Would you believe that certain signs bring over $5,000 and by placing it in the right auction, many times that.

There was a time when the most important thing I owned was my marbles and guess where I kept them? In Tobacco tins, of course. These tins today may bring $5,000, $10,000 or even more. Do you still have questions as to why I would ask you to search for these lowly items? I think that Tobacco collectibles are a treasure trove for the ones searching for them.

It could be well worth your while to become very knowledgeable in the area of tobacco related items, especially ones that included advertising.

Don’t just follow the daily Blog. Join with like-minded 31 Club Members. Turbo charge your treasure hunting today and start building a bank account big enough to last a lifetime. My 220 page book, 31 Steps to Your Millions in Antiques & Collectibles is FREE with your membership. The book is also available on Amazon.com. If you buy the book on Amazon, then the membership is FREE.

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