Camel collectibles & memorabilia


2015-06-26 11:21:38

Camel collectibles & memorabilia

Camel is a brand of cigarettes introduced in 1913. Advertising memorabilia related to the brand is a popular area of tobacciana collectibles.


Advertising background

The Camel brand of cigarettes were introduced by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco company in 1913. He aimed to revolutionise the market of smokers who preferred to roll their own cigarettes, by selling pre-rolled ‘Camel’ cigarettes using Turkish paper, in imitation of the trend-setting Egyptian cigarettes.

The first marketing campaign used mysterious teasers, stating: ‘The Camels are coming’. The first Camels released came in a soft pack without filters. An early slogan was ‘I’d walk a mile for a Camel’, which continued to be used for decades.

A dromedary Camel is the brand’s logo, to evoke a sense of Middle Eastern exoticism. Most cigarette packs picture the camel standing in a desert with pyramids and palm trees. The original camel was drawn by Kentucky graphic designer Fred Otto Kleesattel in 1913.

From the late 1980s an advertising mascot cartoon character ‘Joe Camel’ was introduced to advertise the brand. The use of the mascot was discontinued in 1997, as the company were criticised for aiming a pro-smoking message at children with a popular cartoon character. Thus Joe Camel items are sought after by collectors.

In the 1980s ‘Camel cash’ was also introduced, providing tokens on packets of Camel cigarettes that coul be exchanged for Camel merchandise. This practice has been discontinued, so these items are becoming collectible.

Collectible items of memorabilia

  • Camel lighters and Zippo lighters
  • Antique & vintage Camel tobacco tins, especially green ones pre-1942
  • Antique & vintage Camel ‘Flat Fifties’, flat cigarette tins, used to house one layer of 50 cigarettes
  • 1950s Camel Pin-up girl advertising posters
  • Camel ashtrays
  • Vintage Camel cigarette packets, especially the green ones pre-1942.
  • Vintage advertising signs (tin, neon, glass, porcelain)
  • Vintage Camel shop displays
  • Camel clocks
  • Camel thermometers
  • Camel cash merchandise such as t-shirts and mugs
  • Joe Camel mascot bobble heads, toys and figurines

Collecting tips

Camel collectibles are widespread and relatively inexpensive.

Adverts that date back to the early days of Camel, and also when it was the top selling US brand of cigarettes in the 1930s, are the most sought after.

Paper and cardboard advertisements are often the subject of reprints, so a collector must be careful when ascertaining if an item is a genuine vintage advertisement.

Vintage cigarette packs are delicate items, and it can be hard to find them in good condition. However, Camel had a great tradition of tin packaging, which is common and less easily damaged. The vintage green tins can be picked up for less than $50-$100.

As a burgeoning Camel collector, it may be worth collecting current cigarette packets and adverts. They will inevitably eventually become vintage, and perhaps collectible.

Notable sales

  • A pencil preliminary design drawing for a 1940 Camel cigarette sign sold for $7,000 at Freeman’s in 2006.
  • A Camel cigarettes advertising sign circa 1915 sold for $600 at Brunk Auctions in 2010.
  • A Camel cigarettes countertop store display sold for $325 at Victorian Casino Antiques in 2010.
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