Cigar Boxes Find New Life with Pre-War Collectors
The boxes have become quite popular collectibles and are often used for storage
Cigar boxes have always been collected, I suppose. Rummaging through sections at flea markets, I’ve seen them for as long as I can remember. But I’ve noticed that more and more baseball card collectors seem interested in them these days.
What can a baseball card collector use these for? Really, there are two main purposes. Some prefer to collect them just like they do cards. Others use them for storing cards themselves or for decorative pieces.
The first purpose is an easy one to figure. Collectors love, well, collecting, and that goes way beyond just cards. Collectors love all sorts of things, including even bulkier items like seats from demolished stadiums, equipment, and signage. These are small enough that you can keep several of them without taking up a lot of room.
Plus, some with original baseball or sports artwork labels can be quite expensive and even into the thousands of dollars for ones featuring popular players that sometimes appeared on labels. These are no doubt collectibles.
But the storage function is a lot more intriguing. With many sitting only about two inches tall, that might a problem. My guess is that many collectors of modern cards would look at these and find a hard time seeing them as viable options since newer cards are generally bigger. However, there are several ways to use these for storage for your smaller tobacco and candy cards, especially.
A big ol’ pile
One is by simply laying them flat and just throwing them into a pile. That’s sort of a haphazard way of doing things but that’s actually how I use them. The way I use them is only for temporary storage.
Practically every card I pick up gets scanned before I put it away. Sometimes I’ll skip cards not from a major sport (i.e. do I really need to scan that card of a discus thrower?) but generally, most of my stuff gets scanned in.
Why do I do that? So that I have ready images of most of my collection on my Collector Focus page and on my hard drive. I’ll admit, it’s kind of a pain to do that and sometimes, I can go weeks without scanning a pile of cards in. But it also makes being able to see my cards extremely easy. It’s especially helpful when I’m out and about or looking at auctions when I’m away from my collection as I can tell which cards I need when building sets.
At any rate, I store those simply by tossing them into a box on my desk and the box works perfectly for that and allows me to keep loose cards put away just like ones shown here. And if treating raw cards in this manner really bothers you, feel free to use a toploader or semi-rigid. Works just as well.
This can work for a display piece, too. I mean, I’m not telling you to leave your Ty Cobb green-background card just laying out and about when you have unfamiliar house guests. But a box on a coffee table in a game room with some cheaper tobacco cards is a great conversation piece.
But they can also be used for ‘real storage,’ too.
Small tobacco and candy cards will generally fit inside them if lined up on their sides as is shown in one of the pictures here. I know the thought of that will frighten condition-sensitive collectors and, frankly, this method isn’t for everybody. Trust me. I don’t recommend putting a mid-grade or high-grade collection of cards in here like this. But if you’re dealing with low-grade cards and you’re in an environment where the box is not liable to be knocked over, it makes for a great display.
I suppose you could also stack cards face up in short piles, too. But you’d probably run into cards sliding all over the place that way if you moved the box around.
In terms of accessibility, while you can thumb through these fairly easily, a binder is just more practical. But the advantage to storing cards this way is that they will take up much less room than binders. You can even keep an entire 520-card T206 collection inside of some and most will fit plenty of other complete sets.
Vertical Storage … With Cases, Even
If you like a bit of protection on your cards (and who can blame you), you can obviously choose to lie toploaders or semi-rigid cases down flat in them. But a better option exists if you can get your hands on a bigger cigar box.
The one shown here is a full 3 1/2″ tall and while it won’t allow you to stack up standard-sized toploaders for modern cards, you can easily stack up a few rows of tobacco card-sized holders inside them. Also, if you’re determined to use these for your graded cards or larger toploaders, you can do so if you’re willing to leave the lid open.
The taller ones are a bit harder to find but not terribly so. I’ve generally come across the shorter ones but have seen a good number when out and about. I picked this one up last year.
Besides the cool factor, the great thing about cigar boxes is their affordability. If you try to buy them online, you’ll often see sellers asking $10-$20 for them. But I’ve gotten them for only $2-$3 at flea markets and even older, period ones are usually very affordable.
I probably wouldn’t recommend putting your entire collection into these if you’ve got a decent amount of cards. But it’s a great way to keep some of your better cards or even to use as a display in a gameroom.