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50-cent yard-sale find is more than a century old

By JERRY SAMPSON

Personal Effects

Question: Hi Jerry. What is this? It opens and closes and looks like it’s sharp inside on the edges. At first I thought it was a doll’s purse. It measures about 1 inch long. Marked sterling on the back. I can’t read the initials. I picked it up at a yard sale. Thanks. Hope it’s worth more than the 50 cents I paid for it.

Answer: What you have is a sterling silver watch fob in the shape of a cigar cutter. This was another type of men’s jewelry from the Edwardian era. An era of dandies and leisure, for the wealthy anyway.

It should date to about the late 1890s to the early 1900s. A watch chain stretched across a waistcoat front called for something ornamental. Fobs were an ideal solution. Many fobs were just decorative, like a pendant. However, some fobs were useful and were in the shape of items, like wax seals, stamp holders, match holders or like this one a cigar cutter for a very small cigar called a cheroot.

This was at a time when seven out of 10 men, boys and sometimes women smoked cigars.

Though it’s not marked, because of the sterling mark on the back, I’d wager it’s American in origins.

Its embossing is beautiful. I think that the initials are M H. There is always some conjecture when translating monograms.

You picked up a very collectible piece. Though not as popular as they once were, cigars are still smoked. Collectors are always looking for past relics of a hobby to add to their collections.

I think many collectors would treasure having this piece to wear or add to a cigar smoking section of their home. Because it’s sterling, is very attractive and will display easily; at a fine antiques show it would be priced for about $40. A goodly return on your .50 cent investment. Thanks for sharing it.