NO SMOKING! We see the signs everywhere prohibiting the once acceptable, but now taboo, habit of lighting up.
In 1965 Congress passed a bill requiring all cigarettes to carry a health warning issued by the Surgeon General. America took the warning seriously, as did our legislators, and by 1995 we started to see statewide smoking bans. Over the next two decades public smoking decreased and as cigarettes disappeared, so did ashtrays. Once a staple in restaurants and hotels and sold everywhere from decorator shops to drug stores, they are now all but extinct — the exception being the vintage shops and antique malls where they are trending as a top collectible for 2017!
The brilliant colors and abstract design of art glass from the mid-20th Century began to appear in antique malls in the form of stretch glass vases and tall bottles as far back as 2005. Now they have been joined by the once lowly ashtray. No longer seen as a utilitarian piece, it has become appreciated as a decorative art. With their brilliant jewel tones of red, green and blue and unique geometric shapes, art glass ashtrays from 1950-1970 are proudly displayed by their collectors and used by top designer across the U.S. and Europe. Fenton, Imperial, Viking Glass and Cambridge will be your more modest pieces, running in the $20-$50 range. For those with deeper pockets the works of Steuben Glass, Waterford and Lalique are top sellers. Want to add a little whimsy to your room? There are also some great animal forms available.
Resale shops and flea markets will often yield an advertising piece if you are willing to dig. When public smoking was at its peak, companies found ashtrays to be an effective and inexpensive form of advertising. Beer and liquor ads are a common finds. Beer advertising from breweries like Schlitz, Budweiser, Lone, and Hamms are an easy find and can often be had in the $10-$40 range. Advertising ashtrays from liquor companies will tend to be more elegant and pricey. Popular examples are the Scottie dog Black & White Scotch and Limoges Camus Napoleon Cognac ashtray with a portrait of Napoleon.
The phenomenon of the Man Cave has brought increased interest to a group of collectible ashtrays. Transportation themed trays with a glass dish sitting in a real rubber tire made by Firestone, Michelin or Goodyear are popular. Mass-produced trays manufactured specifically for casinos and night clubs such as Harrah’s, the Playboy Club, and The Stork Club are a good find. Hotel lobby free standing ashtrays of chrome and glass from 1930-1950 are seeing a gradual increase in value if they are in good condition. For the art lover there are the elegant brass and cast metal Art Nouveau trays from France featuring the female form. Or, if your taste runs more to the risque, the mid-20th Century “Pin-up Girl” ashtrays from Holland Molds are both fun to collect and a good investment.
Some of the finest quality porcelain ashtrays come from the Europe and the Orient. Sophisticated, delicate and painstakingly decorated, mint condition pieces from the 1920s and 30s are highly sought by collectors. Wedgewood’s Jasperware ashtrays in cobalt, pink, black and purple are a good find. Royal Winton’s stacking ashtrays with colorful scenes on black backgrounds are collected in groups of four, some of which will have a matching cigarette holder. Limoge from France, Delftware from Holland and Noritake from Japan are other quality marks to watch for.
Many thanks to Karin W. from Franklin, Indiana for her e-mail this week asking for information on ashtrays as a collectible. If you have a question, I would love to hear from you. Until next time…Linda
Linda Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-258-7835 or firstname.lastname@example.org