Vintage cigarette packets

Collection of vintage cigarette packets: Wills Woodbine, Wills Gold Flake, Players Navy, Wills Capstan, Lambert and Butler Rhodian, Craven A, Black Cat and Ogden's Robin

Collecting vintage cigarette packets is a guilt-free way to enjoy the smoking culture of the twentieth century. Smoking was a huge part of life in Britain, the US and Europe. Cigarette packets represent an important source of social, cultural and marketing history.

There were a huge variety of brands, each with a particular personality portrayed in the packaging and advertising of the time. The evolution of pack design shows both changes in marketing technique and period graphic style.

Cigarette packets from the 1920s and 1930s

Pictured right above, is a collection of cigarette packets from the 20s and 30s. On the top row are two of the most popular cigarette brands of all time: Player's Medium (or Player's Navy) and Wills Wild Woodbine. Woodbines were cheap cigarettes targeted at the working man. Strangely, Woodbine was named after a wild flower. The intricate nineteenth century packet design remained current until the mid 1960s. When Wills changed the packaging, the public were having none of it and Woodbine sales continued to head south.  Those in the trade knew this rebranding as 'the rape of the Woodbine pack'.

The star of the Player's Medium packet was bearded sailor known as 'Hero'.  The original design, featuring the sailor a lifebelt and the sea, was used until the 1960s. Also in the top row is Wills Gold Flake, which was Wills' premium brand. Wills Capstan was an attempt to compete with Player's Medium. On the bottom row, Carreras Black Cat was heavily promoted in the interwar period and was one of the first brands to offer cigarette coupons which could be exchanged for free gifts. Craven 'A' was an early tipped or filter brand aimed initially at women smokers.

Market leading cigarettes from the 60s: Rothmans King Size, Benson and Hedges Special Filter, Embassy Tipped, Players Navy, Players No6 and Woodbine

Cigarette packets from the 1950s and 1960s

Wills Woodbine and Player's Medium continued to dominate the UK market in the 50s. However, change was on its way. Filter or tipped cigarettes were becoming more popular both for health reasons and for economy. They used less tobacco, so the duty payable was less. Also cigarette coupons, which were dropped in the 30s following a 'coupon war', returned. J Wix successfully introduced coupons to its Kensitas brand in 1956.

In the sixties the two established market leaders, Player's Medium and Wills Woodbine lost out to two new brands. The most popular cigarette brands of the 60s were Embassy Filter and Player's No6.

The prestigious cigarette to be seen with in the late 50s was the new king size. The most successful king size brand of the late 50s and early 60s was Rothmans King Size. However, Gallaher's Benson and Hedges Special Filter, with its distinctive gold packaging, was number one by the end of the 60s.

Read more about 60s smoking culture

Cigarette packets from the 70s

Cigarette packets from the 70s

Illustrated left is a collection of cigarette packets from the 70s that shows how smoking habits changed in the face of health issues and changes in the market. The old favourites are still there: Player's No6 and Embassy. However, they were joined by mild versions: Embassy Extra Mild and Player's No6 Extra Mild. The rise of the mild cigarette was a 70s' phenomenon. Benson and Hedges Silk Cut, pictured bottom middle, started this trend.

Which? Magazine named Silk Cut as the mildest UK cigarette in 1972. Although, the Which report was intended to convince people to stop smoking, it gave an enormous boost to Silk Cut sales. (In fact there is no evidence to suggest mild cigarettes are any better for you.).

The other big trend ran in the opposite direction. King size cigarettes were increasingly popular. John Player Special, with its distinctive black packaging, was a rival for Benson and Hedges.

King size cigarettes also went down market and were available in the cheaper brands. Both Player's No6 and Embassy had king size versions. You could buy cigarettes in a bewildering number of different sizes: international, king size, regular, intermediate, mini and sub-mini. Collectors of cigarette packets from the 70s should look out for different sizes in all the popular brands, for example, Silk Cut, Silk Cut King Size, Silk Cut No1, Silk Cut No5, Silk Cut No3, as well as Silk Cut Extra Mild.

At the same time competition from US cigarette manufacturers started in earnest in the 70s. The famous Marlboro brand with is cowboy print advertising campaign started to take sales away from the home grown brands.

Read more about Smoking and the 70s

How to collect cigarette packets

There are several ways to collect cigarette packets. You can buy complete unopened packs, empty packets, slides from the hull and slide packs or fronts only. eBay is the best place to source vintage cigarette packets.

Packet fronts or sleeves

In the early days of collecting cigarette packets, collectors kept the front only, cutting out the rest of the pack and discarding it. This method makes for the most compact collection, but is frowned upon by collectors today. It is also the cheapest way to get into the hobby. You can buy a whole collection of fronts for only a few pounds.

With the older hull and slide type packs some collectors kept only the sleeve. This was slightly better than keeping the front of the pack only. Sleeves are a bit more expensive than fronts. They can also be worth buying if you have a scruffy sleeve and a good slide, especially if the pack is rare.

Look for

Empty packets

Another way to collect cigarette packets is to buy empty packets. They are cheaper than full ones and you can amass a larger collection more quickly as they are more common.

Very rare packets can go for £100, but expect to pay between £1 and £5 for an empty cigarette packet from the 30s to the 70s.

Full packets

Full packets are rarer and consequently expect to pay more. However, prices of £5 to £10 for post-war packs are still common.

Expect to pay more for packs with contents and original cellophane wrapping. There is an increasing interest in packets from the 50s, 60s and 70s. So don't hang around!

Resources for cigarette packet collectors

The official website for the Cigarette Packet Collectors Club of Great Britain -

See also which has a number of links to other cigarette packet and cigarette card collecting sites.

Add your comments on vintage cigarette packets

"Hi, I recently discovered around 10 packs of 200 boxed (and full) Silk cut cigarettes from the 1970's.Is it worth trying to sell them or should I just hang on to them?Thanks:)" Dawn 21/04/2013
"You could try one on eBay and see how it goes. Full or 'live' packs are always worth more than empty ones." Steve 23/04/2013
"I would like to buy empty cigarette packs all over the world.

I`m very interesting in camel packs too." Esteban Gimenez 27/09/2013
"hi i have a ogdens robin cigarette packet empty and a marlboro mini packet full and sealed ,could you give me some idea on value many thanks leroy" leroy lucas 28/10/2013
"Hi there I have a box of 5 wild woodbine apparently from 1915 is there any value in them
Regards mick" mick 15/12/2013
"I have found a empty pkt of wild woodbine cigarettes. Is there any value please - thanks." PAULINE PLAYFORD 08/02/2014
"Hi Pauline, It is probably worth around £2 to £5 depending on condition. Woodbine was the most popular brand of cigarettes from the early 1900s to the 1950s so there a quite a few around. Best regards" Steven 09/02/2014
"I have a complete packet of woodbine which containing 3 cigaretts is there any value please. thanks" Donald Arblaster 09/03/2014
"Hi Donald, Full packs are generally worth a lot more, although having just 3 cigarettes will probably not make that much difference. Condition of the pack is more important." Steven 10/03/2014
"I have an empty package of Ogden's Fine Cut (tobacco?). Package says patented 1923 10 cents - It's a green paper package that I can't find a photo of online. Any ideas?" Sabrina 24/03/2014
"Hi Sabrina, There are quite a few tins on Google images. I also saw that famous album cover by the Small Faces, Ogden's Nut Gone, but you're right there don't seem to be any packets. There is a picture of an Ogden's Juggler Fine Cut Tobacco on flickr.
best regards Steven" Steven 24/03/2014
"I have a 1930s empty packet of carreras club Virginia cigarettes 10 cigarette size is this of any value?" jane 20/04/2014
"I have a empty packet of Carreras club Virginia cigarettes is this of any value?" jane 20/04/2014
"I have a full packet of three wild woodbines cigarettes could somebody give me a value and the year? Thanks!" Phil 01/05/2014
"Hi I have a packet of 3 Embassy Regal cigarettes with the 3 cigarettes in the box. The pack has been opened. Is this a collectors piece? I have never seen a 3 pack before" Di 04/05/2014
"Embassy Regal in a 3 pack would have probably been a marketing give-away, possibly from 1969 when Regal was introduced. Probably not great value (around £5), but certainly interesting.
best regards" Steven 04/05/2014

i have the full collection of Viscount King Size Carton Packaging in great condition (1970s).. The carton packaging has Australian places and details about places on them, quite interesting to be honest. There is a total of 30 or so different ones. Any idea what they are worth? I have seen nothing on ebay or any other places selling them." Jesse 30/06/2014
"hello was reading comments on this site, i have got packets of unopened cigarettes for example "robin Hood""boy" "Essex" "park Drive Gallaghers. Are these of any intrest or value" mike suffield 30/06/2014
"Hi Mike,
A full 10 pack of Park Drive from the 70s sold on eBay for £15 recently. If these are older packs, which they sound, they could be worth much more, may be £20 to 330 each. best regards" Steven 30/06/2014
"Hi Mike,
A full 10 pack of Park Drive from the 70s sold on eBay for £15 recently. If these are older packs, which they sound, they could be worth much more, may be £20 to £30 each. best regards" Steven 30/06/2014
"Still no info on carton packaging of Viscount Kings, 1970 Australian landmarks packaging." Jesse 06/07/2014
"I have an old cigarette packet that's still sealed and wondered if you could tell me it's approx age and value?
It's a packet of Silk Cut Number 1's with ventilated filter.
I've looked online and think it could be mid 70's but cannot find a photo of the exact packet to verify,just similar ones.
I can enclose a photo,it's in very good condition considering it's age I think." Marc Patrick 10/08/2014
"i have an old 5 woodbine packet with signature does it have any value" steve 09/09/2014
"Looking to start a collection, is there any value in these?" Joe Walsh 21/10/2014
"i have 2 full packets of fan light extra large
cigaretts made by the co-op between 1928 to
1937 they have been in my family from new i have looked on the internet but cannot find any others are they worth anything." kevin jones 31/10/2014
"Hi have an unopened box of Benson and hedges senator cigars, which I believe are from the late 70's any idea on the value of these? Cheers" Stephen 13/11/2014
"Hi We recently found an empty box of lambert and butler wavely medium from when the house was built which would be around 1900

the box has medals of quality dates from 1894, so im assuming its from around that time

would that be of any interest to a collector?" Harry Stewart 28/01/2015
"Hi; I have a pack of Philter cigarettes from 1960; It is all white filter with 1" of tobacco; is there any value? Any info would be appreciated; thank you." katalina 01/02/2015
"Hi I have got an old packet of benson and hedges special mild unopened they are in white box with gold around the sides and they have old Bond Street on box under logo. They have low tar written on seal and no health warnings. Are these worth anything and how old are they? Many thanks kelly" Kelly rason 10/02/2015
"Hi there I've got two vintage camel light hard pack's that are both still in their plastic wraps, one is a collector pack and has a c-note!. Just wondering if they are likely to be worth anything?. Thanks and regards Brad." Brad 12/02/2015
"Hi ive got a wild woodbine cigarette box dated 1885 in perfect condition. If you are interested email me and I will send you pictures. Cigarettes not included." conor little 12/02/2015
"Hi Connor,
Do you mean a packet (cardboard) or a box made of wood or metal? Sorry to disappoint, but all Woodbine packs had the date 1885 on the back. It refers to when the cigarettes were first made, not the date of the actual pack. Up until 1916 Woodbines were sold only in packs of 5 with a paper wrapper. best regards" Steven 15/02/2015
"Hi my partner found a full blue pack of embassy regal. From some years ago they were found in the wall cavity whilst at work. Would these be worth anything as they don't sell them. The original building is 100 year old." Nicola 16/02/2015
"Hi Nicola,
Embassy Regal was introduced in the late 60s. If the pack has no health warning it was made before 1971. Full packs can be worth £5 to £10. Best regards" Steven 17/02/2015
"Hi, I found an empty 5 pack of senior service. It's red and white packaging?" Allison 20/02/2015
"I thought I would drop you a line and introduce myself and my web site to you. My web site is where I provide a range of information for collectors of Tobacco Tins and Cigarette packets. Some of the information may be of interest to your membership, in particular the index of English Cigarette manufacturers and the brands that they produced or sold during the period from 1870 -1980. The index details the brands that were sold, the pack sizes that were made and the years that each variant was on sale." john turner 02/04/2015
"Hi, I have an unopened packet of Gallahers De Luxe Medium no health warning still in plastic wrapper. I also have Albany, Players, Kensitas. All unopened and in wrappers. What are they worth?" Helen Convery 20/04/2015
"I have closed and full packs of old Lucky Strike (soft withot filters and hardpack with) and old Barklay. All packs are in top condition and undamaged." Nils 02/05/2015
"Hi, I have a cigarette tin labelled Taddy & Gos. Myrtle Grove cigarettes with picture head and shoulders of a lady wearing a large hat (Ascot style). Would you be able to tell me the age of the item and approximate value,please. Many thanks." Tudor 30/05/2015
"Hello we have found a full, still sealed packet of consulate cigarettes pack of 10 from roughly the 60's would you know if any value? Thanks" Su simpson 12/06/2015
"A full pack from the 60s would be worth about £5 to £10. Best regards" Steven 13/06/2015
"Hi. I have 2 printed sheets of W.D & H.O. Wills cigarette packs. Gold Flake
Has 80 on the sheet. 20 Wild Woodbine Has 72 on it. Are these of any value to someone or is it as pretty much like the rest worth a tenner
& not worth doing anything with them." Arch 17/06/2015
"These are pretty rare. Do you know the age of them? It might be worth a go on eBay. Since I haven't seen one for sale it's hard to give an estimate. The age/era would affect value quite a bit. best regards" Steven 18/06/2015
"Hi I have an empty packet/cardboard of Virginia A cigarettes and also an empty sleeve of wild woodbine cigarettes." Pam Simpson 04/07/2015
"I have found an empty packet of Wills's Star cigarettes cork tipped for 15 cigarettes. Are they rare as we cannot find any on the Internet. Can you give me an approximate value of this. BOU" J richards 17/07/2015
"I have a box of 10 Gallaher's Clubman Filter Tipped still has content and plastic wrapping...never been opened. What are they worth?? And where do I sell them?" Rhys 10/08/2015
"I have a unopened pack of Camel cigs from the 80s are they worth much" Ray 14/08/2015
"Hi i have a packet of benson and hedges king size special filter.the opening tab has the embossed b&h the packet itself has the logo then a blurb "traditionally the name associated with perfection..." special filter in cursive writting red
Then benson and hedges bold black at the bottom.
Special filter on the side is cursive in black. Could you possibly give me an approximate age of them?" vanessajane 21/08/2015
"My husband found a full box of woodbine cigarettes unopened and still in cellophane when sorting his late father's things. There are health warnings on the package tar is 13mg 1.0mg nicotine. Do they hold any value?" Michelle 26/08/2015
"Hi, I have unopened pack from 1880's of Goodwin Guinea Gold, 3 G's. In very good condition. Any known value? Thanks!" Bob 28/08/2015
"i have 2 books of petrol coupons from the 1950s are they worth anything" m a liddle 30/09/2015
"Hi I have recently found an empty 10 packet of star cigarettes is it of any value ?
Cheers Dave" Dave Cullen 17/10/2015
"I found a packet of 4 Wild Woodbine cigarettes , complete with cigs . Light blue & russet colour ,digit 4 ,top left corner , and made in Dublin printed on pack .packet is of thick paper rather than card .
Un-usual quantity packet ?
Any idea of time -line for manufacture ?
Any idea of possible value to collector ?
I cant find any helpful info on the web ?" John Ring 19/10/2015
"Hi, I am just getting into collecting cigarettes, my preferred era is early 20th century including both world wars. Can you please tell me what the blue tax paper seal is? What does it mean, why is it there? It talks about tax having been paid, perhaps you could explain. Thank you, Simon." simon 29/10/2015
"i have a packet of 200 BAIRAM (MILD TURKISH)cigarettes in original brown paper packaging manufacturer THE BALKAN CIGARETTE Co Ltd LONDON ENGLAND.Please advise on price expected or anyone interested." kerry 30/10/2015
"I have an empty pack (excellent shape) of 1988 Players Plain 25 pack. Is it worth anything to anyone?

Bev" Beverley 11/11/2015
"I have a tin cigarettes pack on the can they said been marking off more than 200 yrs it said made by Larrillsrd company,if you can can you give price, Thank you" Ray 19/11/2015
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