Marlboro collectibles & memorabilia
Marlboro neon sign with Marlboro Man cowboy
Marlboro neon sign with Marlboro Man cowboy

Marlboro is the largest brand of cigarettes in the world. Advertising memorabilia related to the brand is a popular area of tobacciana collectibles.

Advertising background

1970s Marlboro Man advert
1970s Marlboro Man advert

Marlboro cigarettes first launched in 1924 by Philip Morris, and were advertised as a woman’s cigarette, being sold with filters which was unusual for the time, and using the slogan ‘Mild as May’.

The earliest Marlboro ads, when the cigarettes marketed themselves as for women, were mostly based on how ladylike the cigarette was.

One campaign in particular, now considered quite outrageous, featured photographs of babies pulling amusing expressions, with speech bubbles saying things like: ‘Gee, Mommy you sure enjoy your Marlboro’, and ‘Just one question, Mom… can you afford not to smoke Marlboro?’ followed by the reply ‘Yes, you need never feel over-smoked, that’s the miracle of Marlboro!’.

This took a complete turnaround in the 1950s to market the cigarettes towards men. A major study that linked lung cancer to smoking meant that men became keen to smoke cigarettes with filters, but didn’t want to appear to be smoking ‘women’s cigarettes’.

To this end, Marlboro advertising became very man focused, and the campaigns for which the brand is now recognised – such as the Marlboro Man and an association with motorsport – took over.

The campaign was designed to focus on a series of manly figures, including a sea captain, weightlifter, war correspondent, construction works and others, the first of which was the cowboy. The cowboy figure was so successful that the others were dropped, and he became the one and only Marlboro Man.

His slogan is often ‘Come to where the flavor is. Come to Marlboro country’.

From 1972, Marlboro has been heavily involved in sponsoring motor racing and in particular Formula One. Items of memorabilia that combine these two collecting areas, such as Marlboro and Ferrari items, are popular.

Collectible items of memorabilia

  • Marlboro lighters and Zippo lighters
  • Marlboro ashtrays
  • Vintage Marlboro cigarette packets
  • Vintage advertising signs (tin, neon, glass, porcelain)
  • Marlboro clocks
  • Marlboro thermometers
  • Vintage Marlboro shop stands
  • Marlboro playing cards

Collecting tips

Marlboro collectibles are widespread and relatively inexpensive. Original poster advertisements featuring the Marlboro Man are harder to come by than vintage neon and porcelain advertising signs.

Adverts that date back to the days when Marlboro was a women’s cigarette are rarer, such as the baby Marlboro ads, which are now quite sought after. These are often the subject of reprints, so a collector must be careful when ascertaining if an item is a genuine vintage advertisement.

Vintage cigarette packs are delicate items, and it can be hard to find them in good condition.

As a Marlboro collector, it may be worth collecting current cigarette packets and adverts. They will inevitably eventually become vintage, and perhaps collectible.

Notable sales

  • Untitled (Cowboy), a 1989 re-photographic artwork by Richard Prince based on the Marlboro cowboy, sold for $1.25 million at Christie’s in 2005.
  • Original artwork for the Marlboro Man by Jim Smith, sold for $2,000 at the Treadway Gallery in 2008.
  • A vintage Marlboro porcelain sign sold for $600 at Dan Morphy Auctions in 2004.

See also

Advertising collectibles
Lucky Strike collectibles & memorabilia
Camel collectibles & memorabilia

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