For as long as humans have found things to smoke, humans have smoked. Although in the last fifty years a lot of emphasis has been placed on the negative effects of smoking, many people still choose to smoke, whether it be cigarettes or e-cigarettes. Despite the fact smoking has existed as a pastime for centuries, ashtrays and other smoking accessories as we know them today only came about in the early 20th century.
Primitive ashtrays existed for hundreds of years before the 1900s, and familiar ashtrays existed in the 1800s, but ashtrays truly became an art form at the turn of the century. This is largely attributed to the advent of women openly smoking being socially acceptable around this time. With women smoking, both at public venues and in their own homes, ashtrays had crossed the line from being purely practical into becoming something like art. Its ashtrays from this era onwards that can still hold value today if they’re in the right condition.
Examples of ashtrays that can be purchased and owned that carry a hefty price tag can be found in many corners of the internet, although much effort is poured into not promoting the act of smoking today.
Renowned luxury brand, Hermès, offered an entire crockery collection that included an ashtray. Made with 24ct gold, porcelain, and velvet goatskin, the ashtray took a traditional, rectangular form, featuring a mosaic design in gold and silver tones. Resembling everything luxury and designer, it’s no surprise that the ashtray pulled in a heavy £585 price tag.
If you think nearly £600 is a lot to pay for an ashtray, however, prepare to have your socks blown off. The Presidential Ashtray, courtesy of Californian cannabis brand Sherbinskis in collaboration with designer clothing brand B A N A Los Angeles, offers the buyer a choice between 18ct or 24ct yellow gold, and is embellished with real diamonds around its circumference. Designed to resemble the face of a luxury watch, it is no coincidence that the hands of the watchface in this ashtray sit at 4:20. What could this cost the buyer, you ask? How does £3,660.00 grab you?
Our last entrant into the ashtray contest is certainly a peculiar one. Albeit its history is somewhat unclear, it certainly is luxurious. Dubai is known for being a wealthy and luxurious place, and so it makes sense that the luxury hotels in Dubai go the extra mile. The Burj Al Arab hotel not only looks like a spacecraft from the year 3035, but it supposedly takes luxury to the furthest extremes for its wealthy elite guests. An online luxury goods trader is selling ashtrays with the Burj Al Arab insignia present on them, embellished with diamonds, and priced at £5,500. Whether this is a case of the goods trader bumping up the price or it is an accurate representation of the value of the ashtray remains to be seen…
Who Invented the Ashtray?
It can’t be said that any one person invented the ashtray, per se. The potential myth suggests that King Henry V commissioned an ashtray of sorts to be made to accompany the cigars gifted to him from the King of Spain in the 1400s. Whether there is any truth to this is difficult to discern, but given the general popularity of smoking across all cultures, continents, and civilisations throughout history, it seems difficult to suggest that an individual is responsible for the invention of the ashtray.
Are Old Ashtrays Worth Anything?
There may not necessarily be a huge market for ashtrays, but they a certainly a collector’s piece with their own following of loyal buyers.
Certain brands and materials are desired, but the biggest selling point of an older ashtray is its condition. Since many ashtrays were made from things like porcelain, crystal, and etched glass, the ones that sell today are without chips and scratches, making them top notch examples of their kind.
The most valuable ashtrays are usually made from materials like sterling silver, crystal, and cut glass. Examples of these ashtrays that are still in excellent condition today can fetch a fair price. Furthermore, ashtrays with certain brands on them are collectable today. Memorabilia like old diner and restaurant-themed ashtrays have a certain appeal that brings in buyers.
What Can I Do with Vintage Ashtrays?
Repurposing vintage ashtrays is important for those of us who inherit ashtrays or finally kick that bad habit and want something to show for it. One use for vintage ashtrays today is as trinket dishes. Anything from jewellery, to keys, to loose buttons can be used to occupy an ashtray, keeping it relevant and contemporary.
Sweets and candies also make excellent uses for vintage ashtrays. If you have an ashtray with a particularly nice design that appeals to you, consider hanging it on the wall – a selection of them could make a nice collage. Equally, unique and interesting ashtrays are nice décor in and of themselves, and don’t necessarily need to be repurposed to be kept in the home.
Add one to a shelf for a touch of vintage style, or use one as a coaster of sorts for your desk, and you’ll soon find that there are endless possibilities for the vintage ashtrays in your life.
Bethany Massey – Digital Assistant (Content Creator)
Having graduated university with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing Bethany then joined the AC Silver team as a content creator. Bethany spends her days writing content for the AC Silver blog and other luxury goods/antique blogs.