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Collecting Cigar Bands

by Ed Barnes & Joe Hruby's notes


Joe Hruby

People have been collecting cigar bands since they wrapped these little pieces of paper around cigars. Bands over the years have adorned billions of cigars. Unfortunately, as with most cigar art, most of the bands have ended up in the trash.

When I talk to people about cigar bands one person’s name keeps popping up. Joe Hruby is the king of cigar band collecting. He has been collecting cigar bands for about 70 years. Yes, he is in the "Guinness Book of World Records" with a record 165,480 different bands. However, that count is now a bit low. Currently, his collection boasts over 221,000 bands organized neatly in notebooks for easing viewing. If you do wish to look at his collection you probably need several days.

Set Of U.S. States

Cigar band collecting was very popular hobby from about 1900 to about 1915. Joe began collecting in 1920. He chose cigar bands since coins and stamps were too costly to collect. Back then the sidewalks and the lawns of Cleveland were littered with cigar bands. Joe would walk around and pick up cigar boxes full of bands. He would go home and sort his prizes. Next he would paste the bands into a Webster Spelling Notebook. By the time his first notebook was full he was hooked on collecting cigar bands. Later, Joe used stamp hinges. Hinges allowed for easy replacement of torn or poor condition bands.

Prior to 1915 the most beautiful cigar bands were printed in the United States, Cuba, and Germany. Single bands were produced as well as beautiful sets. Real gold gilt was commonly used during this period. The lithography by German artists was the best in the world and was never equaled.

During the 1930’s cigarettes became more popular and were cheaper. It became much harder for Joe to acquire bands. So, Joe advertised and bought collections at very reasonable prices. Many thousands of the bands were duplicates. However, there were many wonderful discoveries.

During the late 1930’s Cuban cigar band sources flourished. In 1940 Joe wrote to the U.S. Ambassador to Cuba with hopes of gaining information on band sources. Joe received a list from "The Protection of the Havana Tobacco Industry" Now Joe wrote these companies asking for cigar bands. Most of these companies were happy to send a few hundred bands at no charge.

In the 1040’s Joe joined the International Cigar Band Society. People from all over the world traded cigar bands. Joe met his friend Louis Vandeuren during this time. The ICBS disbanded in the 1950’s

Most people are amazed with the detail of antique cigar. Modern bands are just plain bland once you see some of the "classics."

Joe recommends this hobby to everyone. One gains knowledge of the arts, history, printing technologies, and appreciation to detail.

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