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In that case it was horse-racing tokens but recent sales have also included a huge collection of vesta cases, aka early matchboxes, at Lawrences at Crewkerne, for example.

On February 17 at Hansons of Etwall, Derbyshire, another once everyday item is on offer: a snuff box estimated at £100-150.

The brass oval box discovered in a collection of brassware at a valuation day dates to the time of Charles II c.1680. It is engraved with figures in Carolean dress. One side depicts a gentleman and the other a lady within draped chased borders.

Inhaling snuff or tobacco was first witnessed by a European in 1493 in Haiti and it quickly spread to Europe in the 1500s. In the 16th and 17th centuries ornate boxes like this one were being produced to keep the precious powder dry. Tobacco was a luxury and a costly commodity in this period but the boxes grew in size in the 18th century as the price of tobacco was reduced.

Snuff took over from smoking clay pipes as the most popular form of tobacco in Europe by the early 1700s. In the 19th century, the fashion for snuff declined sharply as tobacco pipes evolved and came into wider use.

While in the 18th century snuff taking was reserved for the rich, by the early 19th century it had trickled downwards through all classes of society.


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