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Buying snuffboxes..

AbraxasAbraxas Member
edited April 2012 in Snuff Accessories
can cost you a lot of wasted cash because for every genuine antique or used snuff box for sale on line there is a pill box, soap dish, pocket-ashtray or cosmetics case, sold as a snuff box. The question of what makes a good snuff box is maybe more complicated than it seems to someone new to this hobby. A few brief points, of many; beware the pill box; they are often posted as pill/snuff boxes, that's because the vendor doesn't know or isn't being honest. A pill box is rarely up to snuff - although there are exceptions, making it even more difficult to spot. Watch out for the dimensions; easy to miss but very important; sometimes a seemingly great snuff is an old tobacco box - too big and leaky for our purposes. Looks can decieve, and often do so don't be dazzled by an artfully taken snapshot that shows just the lid, you must see the hinge and inside. The list goes on...

There are some real experts on this site (not me, I just know enough to not go wrong too often) I am sure they would all be happy to have a look at any link.

There have been a few people saying they are on the look out for a first snuff box, so I'll keep this as sticky for a few days and if it's used maybe it can stay. (my personal view is, if it's a first snuffbox you are looking for, that you can't go far wrong with one of the new ones from our supporter sites)

Serious collector's out there are very welcome to post away with general tips.


  • Nice one man! With the recent rash of decent people getting screwed over and/or misinformed, this is a great idea!
  • Thanks, I need the experts to get on here and put some tips on.
  • I'm a member of the camp who bought a pill box as a snuff box. There were plenty of pictures to have made the distinction had I known what I was doing, but I don't. How is the hinge different on a snuff box vs a pill or other small box? The one I bought, snuff collects in the hinge and prevents the lid closing fully.
  • FischTixFischTix Member
    edited February 2011 PM
    Man I spent the better part of yesterday looking for sites with helpful antique snuff box buying tips...NOTHING...if you can get this going, it will be pretty exclusive. I hope it takes off...I'm interested to read some expert opinions!! @at ddavelarsen...the one thing i've noticed about hinged boxes...they seem to be on the top, outside of the box as opposed to the side.
  • Thanks Fischy, I was looking at snuff boxes on vendor sites this morning and came to the same conclusion. Now I know better! :) The silver pill box I got is really nice, small and plain. Don't know what to do with it, but it's too nice to not use for something. I'll figure it out I'm sure.
  • not a prob dave...i know nothing, really, about them...i just happened to notice it the other day while comparing boxes that were questionable as opposed to ones from reputable sites that i KNEW where snuff boxes. i'd love to learn more about them though!
  • Another thing to watch for is how well the box closes. See the rim under the lid. Pill boxes ofcause don't need to be as close fitting.
  • insufflatorinsufflator Member
    edited February 2011 PM
    @Snuffster - To echo your wise words on the pill/snuff boxes issue.
    They are pill boxes made in the style of snuff boxes for purely aesthetic reasons, and the vendor is frequently quite ignorant of the difference.
  • AbraxasAbraxas Member
    edited February 2013 PM
    I can tell you now that there is no definitive guide anywhere, the best guidance is from people who have built up some knowledge; the principles are very simple; was the box made for snuff or if wasn't would it serve. Various tins and containers work out quite well but it's hard to give definite advice about containers not designed for snuff; they are a case by case subject.

    The seal and the hinge are the main issues, basically a snuff box hinge must be placed so that it has no or minimal contact with the snuff, so the best are the ones that when the box is closed the inside of the box is an un-broken cube or rectangle. In simple terms, most good hinges run along the length of the lid. Pill box hinges are usually small ones in the middle of the lid; sometimes called a hinge that 'shows shoulders'. The average pill box, however nice it looks, will tend to jam once it has been filled with snuff and the snuff has worked it's way into the hinge.

    The style is important too; remember snuff boxes have not been made in large amounts for many years, although there has always been a small trickle of them available. So, if you have something with a steam liner or commemoration of some sort depicted, - post the early 1900's - you are not usually looking at a snuffbox. There are masses of boxes like this on the net. Like anything, the best out there cost good money - bargains are usually strokes of luck or because the purchaser knows what they are looking for. If a box is on sale for £/$10, that should tell you something!

    The best thing you can do is not to buy simply because it looks like it would work out and the lid is nice - and to get some advice, unless you actually want a pill box of course.

    A final point; there are silver pill boxes being sold as snuffs at the moment by people who should know a lot better; just look at the dimensions and the hinge of any purported NEW silver snuffbox. I was very disappointed recently in a purchase and also surprised that this particular vendor was selling pill boxes - but ultimately it was my fault for not checking the dimensions I guess. Buyer beware when it comes to snuff boxes.

    As far as I can tell, there are only two genuine silver snuff boxes still in production: the ones sold by the London firm Ari D Norman and the others by the Regnas snuff box company - both in various lid styles. The Normans are very good but are now very expensive new and ebay may be the better option. My day to day snuffbox is one of these and after you have squeezed the odd leak off they are superb and I wouldn't be without mine. I have not tried the Regnas and would appreciate any feedback on these.
  • PhilipSPhilipS Member
    edited February 2011 PM
    Good advice, Snuffster.

    Probably the easiest solution is to post a picture of an intended purchase for scrutiny from other members. One tip is to avoid anything circular with a raised lid. (The ashtray bought by one member had a domed lid resembling the rotunda of Rome’s Pantheon.) Gold, silver and pewter are the main metals. Silver boxes with a gold wash are bona fide boxes although modern ones lack this refinement. Brass and tin are sometimes used, but should be treated as suspicious. Ebony, rosewood, burl or Madagascar are common materials for wooden boxes. Tortoiseshell, horn and papier mache are also frequent resources. Anything larger than a 25gram tin or smaller than a 10 gram tin is likewise suspicious. A common dimension for rectangular boxes is 85x45x20 mm.

    Finally, not all genuine snuffboxes are good snuffboxes. Some new ones have a raised hinge, allowing air to enter and snuff to exit. When closed the hinge must be flush with the lid.

  • Thanks for the great post. I was looking at eBay just simply typing "snuff box" and all these great antique units came up. Glad I read this post before I bit. I think I'll eventually just go for the tripple tech box. I know that was made for the sole purpose of snuff.
  • AbraxasAbraxas Member
    edited February 2013 PM
    PC boxes are great but don't let all this put you off looking for old snuff boxes; there are NO modern boxes that equal the best of the old snuffs in build quality and getting a good example is a massive compliment to anyone's snuff habit, ya just have to go slow, show the box off before you buy and get some decent advice. I recently got a continental silver snuff; the tolerances, design and sheer practical capacity of the thing leaves any modern snuff box standing a long way away. The only problem I have with it is the tempation to hoard and not use it because its so superb and would cost a lot to replace (some problem!).
  • Nice discussion snuffster. And I need it ;)
  • AbraxasAbraxas Member
    edited February 2011 PM
    Well, I guess your recent purchases gave me the idea, if it helps anyone not waste their money then its worth doing.
  • re ebay a little tip
    i just won ha ha i know a nice little wooden snuff box it looks like its a inlayed patrick collin's one in mahogany.
    but heres the good bit it wos listed as [ new exotic wood box with hidden commpartment] in the personal security pages.
    so use key words and some times you git lucky i did $10 thats with p&p to the uk for a brand new snuff box ,as not all salers know wot they are saleing ..
  • edited February 2011 PM
    removed, double post.
  • PhilipSPhilipS Member
    edited February 2011 PM
    Now that, Micheltn, is a not a ladies’ compact case, ashtray, soap dish or small wardrobe but a real snuffbox.

    It’s an example of a decent sized French tabatière with zinc and nickel maillechort. The dark colour suggests good quality. All of them (as far I am aware) were made in the Jura region of France in several workshops including St. Claude. Every tobacconist in Paris had a variety these boxes for sale and it was fun to examine them in great detail before making a decision.

    They last a lifetime if handled with care. Never attempt to open using thumb and forefinger. Hold in the palm with the hinge alongside the thumb and slide the fingers under the lip. Flex the fingers and the box will open.

    As well as providing support the metal ends enable the box to be placed upright on a level surface. Snuff compacts inside the box keeping it fresher.

    I’m examining mine (which is very similar). The most notable difference is that the very hard ebony-like wood still has a shiny gloss that reflects the light. Yours looks like it could do with a damn good clean using a very soft cloth. The metal ends could be buffed up with a small amount of metal polish. Open up the box and check that the hinge has not become fouled up.

  • edited February 2011 PM
    Thanks @PhilipS! Especially for your tip:

    As well as providing support the metal ends enable the box to be placed upright on a level surface. Snuff compacts inside the box keeping it fresher.

    I never thought of that :) You would have any idea on when this is made, year wise ?

  • PhilipSPhilipS Member
    edited February 2011 PM
    I’d say sometime between 1930 and 1980, but there is no way of determining precise age with these boxes. When the domestic market collapsed in the 1980s boxes exported to Britain sometimes carry ‘Made in France’ etched into the wood. Have you bought this box?

    The following is a good site:

    It shows how the classic box is made together with a diagram on how to open it.

    Some of the boxes are extremely vulgar - particularly the secouette (shaker) scatological boxes. If you have wearied of a lady friend, but are too cowardly to say so, you could always purchase such a box and use it in her presence. She would leave you in disgust faster than a politician renegades on promises. Disgusting - but potentially useful in solving the problem of unrequited love.
  • Philip, Nice link, thanks!
  • Adding my thanks for the link, what an interesting web site.
  • Ah yes... unrequited love. I suspected there was some reason for the vulgarity.
  • Gimpy1261Gimpy1261 Member
    edited February 2011 PM
    My avatar is of one I found in a flea market for 5.00.
  • I've never purchased or used a snuff box. I generally use a bullet or the original tin, even when I go out.

  • @kidnapper
    There isn't anything wrong with that. Actually that is the way I go most of the time also.
    I can honestly say though using a antique brass snuff box or silver or wood adds to the enjoyment, because I can get a pinch in my puggie little fingers without difficulty, warm the snuff and repeat as needed.
    Plus a snuff box gives people around me a excuse to ask questions, which I answer with much enthusiasm.
  • kidnapperkidnapper Member
    edited February 2011 PM

    Yes, but with all of the problems stated, even in this thread, it makes me hesitant to purchase or use a snuff box. Besides, I've been asked way more questions when actually taking the pinch than the pinching itself.


    Edit: Typo
  • @Phillips great link mate, very interesting, thanks.

  • I've been using the same steel screw-top pill holder I bought a couple years ago, thinking I'd buy a proper snuff box, and I never bothered. It travels well and I can tap out a good amount onto the back of my hand, which I prefer to pinching.
  • matsnuffsmatsnuffs Member
    edited February 2011 PM
    Snuff store re-stocked their silver snuffboxes, for those interested.
    They are quite pricey, but evidently worth the money. They are new and built for snuff!
    I dropped the cash, and I'll report back when I get it.
    Edit: the shipping is very reasonable, under 7 USD according to the conversion on Google, for what that's worth.
  • @matsnuffs
    They are fine snuff boxes if you get the silver ones. The best I have been able to find for the money.
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