Q: I have a collection of little cloth pictures like this one that I'd like to know more about. They are about 100 years old and they used to come in cigarette packages. I think they are made of silk. I have dozens of them, including a few duplicates. I would appreciate any information you can give me about the value of these items.
A. These are sometimes called "cigarette silks" or "tobacco silks," although the material is more likely to be satin. They were inserted in packs of cigarettes or could be obtained by sending in coupons stuffed in the packs. The designs came in sets and were meant to appeal to women. The silks came in different sizes and could be sewn together to make quilts or larger pictures. Popular subjects included actors and actresses, animals, baseball players, college mascots and seals, flags, generals, Indians, kings and queens, U.S. presidents, and Hamilton King girls. Some look like little rugs. Most were printed on satin, although some were woven. Coupons or "gift slips" that could be sent in for silks were available in packs of expensive brands of cigarettes or small cigars from about 1912 to 1915. Your Spanish dancer is a premium from Nebo cigarettes. This brand was originally made by a New York City company. Your silk indicates it was made at a factory in New Jersey, so it was probably made after Nebo became part of the P. Lorillard Co. in 1911. These silks usually sell for less than $5.