Antique Snuff Boxes



2015-06-26 11:17:51

An antique snuff box is a decorative, airtight container used to store tobacco snuff.

Brief history and description

During the 18th and 19th centuries many snuff boxes were crafted to feature elaborate stones and materials such as gold, silver, diamonds, tortoise-shell, mother-of-pearl, while basic snuff boxes were typically made with potato-pulp. Some other popular materials include copper, pewter, iron, bone, wood, horn or even paper mâché.

French snuff boxes were commonly made of wood, steel, paper mâché, horn, tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl, and Louis XV snuff boxes tended to feature a flamboyant, rococo design with scrolls. Snuff boxes which were crafted in England during the reign of George I (circa 1700s) often featured silver, gold and a coat of arms or monogram, while boxes crafted during the reign of George III were decorated with gold panels, floral borders and enamels or miniature portraits.

By the 19th century silver and gold snuff boxes became more common.

Guide for collectors

Smaller boxes with original artwork as well as Chinese snuff containers tend to be preferred among collectors, while rare porcelain snuff boxes often sell for much higher prices at auctions. Snuff boxes that have been damaged are worth much less, and due to this fact should be handled with extreme care; (although to this day many collectors continue to use snuff boxes to store tobacco).

The Snuffbox website offers free appraisals and has an online store as well, and the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society website is another excellent resource for collectors.


Christie's in London set an 18th century German gold snuff box with a secret compartment for a record price of £789,250 in December of 2003.

Sotheby's in London sold a gold and hardstone oval-shaped Zellenmosaik snuff box (circa 1775; 8.6 cm x 3.5") featuring simulated pearls and borders panelled with agates between turquoise forget-me-nots for £72,000 in December of 2003.

Elite Decorative Arts in Boynton Beach, Florida sold an antique continental ivory-carved tobacco snuff box (circa late 18th to early 19th century; 2 1/8" x 2 3/4") featuring a Chinese design, a scroll and rope border with lotus blossoms for $6,750 in February of 2012.

Great Gatsby's Antiques and Auctions in Atlanta, Georgia sold a lot of three Victorian seashell snuff boxes (circa late 19th century; 2.5" x 3.5") for $1,200 in September of 2011.

Schmidt's Antiques Inc. in Ypsilanti, Michigan sold an antique snuff box carved in the shape of a wooden shoe with a sliding cover (circa 19th century; 6" in length) for $600 in April of 2009, and a paper mache shoe-form snuff box (circa late 19th century; 4" in length) for $100 in April of 2009.

Cordier Antiques & Fine Art in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania sold a silver Russian snuff box featuring an oval shape and decorated with cherubs for $160 in November of 2006.

Affiliated Auctions in Tallahassee, Florida sold an antique cow hoof snuff box (2.5" in height) for $20 in June of 2005.


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