Mint cigarettes fire up collectors

A tobacconist in Reading is about to sell some cigarettes which are at least 100 years past their sell-by date. Paul Gilmour, who owns Shave and Coster in Harris Arcade, was given a pack of five Paymaster cigarettes which he said dated back to somewhere between 1897 and 1913. He said: “An elderly couple came into the shop and asked me to find a good home for these cigarettes. “The woman said they had belonged to her mother and she had had them in a drawer for years.

Paymaster cigarettes dated back to somewhere between 1897 and 1913.

Paymaster cigarettes dated back to somewhere between 1897 and 1913.

“I wasn’t familiar with the brand but I told her that some specialist museums took things like this so she gave them to me.”

Mr Gilmour looked up the Paymaster brand and discovered they were made by Cohen Weenen and Co of London. He said he believed the company started up in 1897 and had closed down by the beginning of the First World War.

He added: “What is absolutely amazing is that the packet is intact with all five cigarettes inside.

“These were the days when practically everybody smoked, so it is extraordinary that no-one smoked them in all that time.

“You wouldn’t want to smoke them now of course.”

Mr Gilmour made further inquiries and found the Cigarette Packet Collectors’ Club of Great Britain. He said: “I contacted them and discovered that the cigarette pack was extremely rare.

“They have offered me £120 and I expect they will auction it among their members.”

He has not been able to get in contact with the original owner and will be donating the money when he gets it to the Berkshire Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre in West Reading.

He said: “I believe I have discharged my duty in finding a good home for them.”

Barry Russell, secretary of the Cigarette Packet Collectors’ Club of Great Britain, said the puffs could be even older than Mr Gilmour believes.

He told the Reading Post Cohen Weenen was in fact founded in 1864 and converted into a limited company in 1927. It produced popular cigarette cards from 1891 until 1923.

He said of the Reading find: “It’s a very uncommon pack and doesn’t turn up very often, although I have one.”

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