Picture this: as an insurance adjuster a new claim lands on your desk. When you travel to the affluent home of the insured, you quickly realize that there are going to be some highly valuable items that need to be evaluated. Sure enough, the insured is an avid cigar collector whose entire water-damaged basement had been converted to hold an extensive cigar collection of over 300 cigars and various accessories. Are you well-versed enough in cigar evaluation to complete this claim?
What’s inside and outside
A cigar is made up of dried, fermented tobacco leaves called filler and held together by an additional tobacco leaf called a wrapper. Usually, the filler on a cigar matches the wrapper, but there are many cases where different types of tobacco leaves are used in one cigar. Wrappers are distinguished by both their tobacco type and their color, whereas filler is identifiable by tobacco type and, subsequently, flavor. Hand-made cigars are formed when wrapper leaves are shaped by crescent-shaped knives called chavetas that are also used to pack the wrappers full of filler. This is a slow, careful process throughout which the tobacco leaves are kept moist and continually inspected for quality. This process varies when a cigar is machine-made. Filler tobacco is more roughly chopped and wrappers are usually paper made out of tobacco pulp instead of a pure tobacco leaf. Part of what makes hand-rolled cigars so desirable is their careful creation in comparison to machine-made cigars.
More important distinctions to note between cigars are their shape and size. Parejo cigars, also known as coronas, are traditional: circular, straight, and open on one end. The other end of a parejo is a rounded tobacco-leaf cap snipped off so that it can be smoked. There are many different types of parejo cigars, but they all have the same general look. Figurados are any cigars that are irregularly shaped. Figurados are often considered to be more valuable than parejo cigars, and come in countless shapes and sizes. Little cigars are generally cigarette-sized and have filters. Little cigars are smoked like regular cigars, but can be packaged to sell compactly.
All of these cigar traits play a role in determining the value of a cigar, but there is a much more straightforward way to evaluate. Simply look at the cigar band – a decorative paper or foil ring around almost every cigar – to see the manufacturer name and, if available, specific cigar name and country of manufacture. Cigar bands are very helpful in determining the value of a cigar, but cigar boxes are even better. If cigars on a claim are in their proper cigar box, one merely has to reference the manufacturer name, cigar name and country of manufacture in order to properly evaluate.
When delving into the cigar world, there are a few other accessory items that may need evaluation in addition to the cigars themselves.
Cigar cutters are handheld and sharp, used to snip cigar ends. The straight cut cigar cutter has two small handles and a circular hole with one or two blades that can simultaneously cut a cigar end. There are also cigar scissors that will snip the end like a regular pair of scissors. Punch-style cutters come in bullet punch, where a small bullet-shaped device unscrews to show a circular blade that bores a hole in the cigar cap, as well as Havana punch, where the circular blade is push-button operated. Multi-punch cutters offer different blade sizes and V-cut cutters look like straight cutters but only gash the end of the cigar.
Cigar tubes are another valuable accessory. They are used to carry normally anywhere from one to five ‘fingers’ worth of cigars; a ‘finger’ being the term used to describe one cigar worth of space in a cigar tube or case. These tubes are usually stainless steel and can keep valuable cigars at the proper temperature and humidity of an ideal storage environment for a period of up to a few hours.
An alternative to a cigar tube is the cigar case – a carrying case, often leather, used to store cigars efficiently, but not at any exact temperature or humidity. Like cigar tubes, cases can also commonly be found in one to five-finger sizes.
Cigar holders are also called cigar stands and look like small vertical rods with a long, semi-circular tray horizontally attached to the top. A cigar can be rested on the tray, while the stand is perched over an ashtray so that the cigar doesn’t actually have to touch it.
Cigar boxes were traditionally, and often still are, decorated to be small works of art and can hold various amounts of cigars depending on size and style. As previously mentioned, these boxes contain important information in determining the value of a cigar – such as the manufacturer name and location, as well as the specific cigar name.
Finally, humidors store valuable cigars, ensuring freshness before the cigars are smoked. Humidors can range in size from a small cigar box to an entire room in a home. Humidors, along with their built-in humidifiers, keep cigars at the ideal humidity of 68 to 74 percent and at a temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidors usually contain a plastic or metal humidifier case holding a sponge that works to regulate humidity in the box, although newer models may have polymer acryl humidifiers instead. Humidors may also have hygrometers that measure humidity.
As you can see, although evaluating a cigar may simply require you to record the information on the cigar band, there are several aspects to take into account when reviewing their accessories. It’s always helpful to have a cigar band or box handy for specific information. However, the more additional information about cigars and their garnishes, the easier it is to evaluate them under any circumstance.
Key value factors determine the value of any cigar or cigar box:
- Information on the cigar band or box, if available, including the name and manufacturer.
- The place of purchase, if known.
All cigar accessories can be assessed by the following key value factors:
- The type of accessory.
- Material, such as wood or metal type.
- Brand name and model number, if applicable.
- Design of the accessory, including measurements.
- Any special features, such as type of humidifier, cigar capacity, etc.
Parejo or Corona
Parejos are the most common shape of cigars. They have cylindrical bodies with straight sides. One end is left open and the other is closed off with what is called a cap. They come in various lengths and widths, with associated types such as robusto, small panatela, petit corona, carlota, carona gorda, panatela and others. These range in length from about four to six inches. From six inches and above, you have toro, corona grande, lonsdale, churchill, double corona, presidente, gran corona and others.
Figurados are irregularly shaped cigars and are usually a little more expensive due to the difficult nature of rolling a figurado. Most times, figurados are also made along with parejos within the same line of cigars, although sometimes companies produce special figurados that are limited in availability. Also, some companies create cigars that don’t fit into any of the descriptions below. Cigars that are shaped like footballs, baseball bats, chili peppers and other random shapes would be considered figurados. Some of the most popular include:
- Torpedo – Similar to a parejo but has a pointed cap.
- Pyramid – Also has a pointed cap, along with a broad foot.
- Perfecto – A bulge in the middle and narrowing at both ends.
- Presidente/Diadema – Extremely large, but often commonly shaped, cigar.
- Culebras – Three long cigars that are tied or braided together.
- Tuscanian – The typical Italian cigar, is also known as a cheroot. It is one of the most popular cigar shape in the United States.
Another class of smoke are called “Little” cigars and they are just what the name suggests. Little cigars are often called cigarillos and are about the size of a cigarette.
Because of the 1960 Cuban embargo placed by then President John F. Kennedy, it has been illegal for Americans to purchase Cuban cigars even though these are traditionally the most sought after. In 2014, President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro began the process of normalizing relations, and nearly a year later, the two countries agreed to allow over 100 flights per day. As of this writing, Cuban cigars are no longer illegal in the U.S. if they are bought in Cuba and brought home for personal use. There’s a $100 tobacco (and alcohol) purchase restriction which on averages accounts for 4-6 cigars.