Since the 1970s, Curtis has amassed more than 1,000 cigar bands, paper or foil loops attached to cigars to denote brand or variety. But the bands aren’t for or from your average stogie.
Cigar bands were sold as collectors’ items with historical themes. Curtis has volumes of cigar bands representing themes such as U.S. presidents , government agencies , United Nations topics , the history of flight and European history .
Collectors abound in Europe, Curtis said, and the following in America isn’t as robust.
Curtis was introduced to the hobby by his brother-in-law, who scoured, bought and traded the bands wildly in his native Amsterdam.
Cigar bands’ origin is wrapped in some controversy. Most historians pinpoint their beginnings to a Dutch cigar maker who invented rings with his signature emblazoned on paper in the 1830s . His move might have been one of the first examples of label branding.
Curtis’ trading got heavy between 1975 and 1978, when he was stationed in Spain with the U.S. Air Force . While his fellow servicemen busied themselves collecting Lladró porcelain figurines and alabaster pieces, Curtis built his cigar band collection.
An Air Force newspaper even wrote about Curtis’ hobby in a 1976 article.
“You’d think a guy who collects cigar bands would smoke cigars, right? Wrong,” the article stated.
Curtis continued his collection when he returned to the United States. He ventured again to Spain a few times to make trades.
“Guys gather over there all the time in towns to trade bands,” he said. “You sit there and haggle and swear and trade.”
Curtis’ favorite bands are in his four volumes of U.S. history. His wife has helped keep the volumes in good condition, he said. He is unsure of his collection’s total worth.
“It’s enjoyable for my husband because not too many people deal in cigar bands,” said his wife, Sylvia Curtis.
Curtis’ collection almost took a devastating blow in the 1980s when his son was a toddler. The tot grew fond of a cigar band depicting President John F. Kennedy . He removed the band from its page and damaged it slightly, Curtis said.
“If you lose one of these bands, it’s (bad),” Curtis said.
The cigar band volumes are bound in leather and have tissue paper between pages to protect the bands.
Curtis, 70 , said his collection may stay at its current numbers due to ailing health.
“I’m running out of rungs on the ladder,” he said.