By Renee Corbino
The opening scene of AMC’s Mad Men introduced us to advertising executive Don Draper, who was writing notes on a napkin while sitting in a bar. He talks to a waiter about his preferred brand of cigarettes, and Don hopes to glean from the conversation why smokers are loyal to one brand over another. The waiter prefers Old Golds, while Don talks about “his Luckies.” Sterling Cooper, as the advertising agency representing Lucky Strike, Don and his colleagues are professed “Lucky Strike Men,” and the brand figures prominently into the series for the first three seasons. In a flash of brilliance, Don comes up with Lucky Strikes iconic slogan “It’s Toasted” to connect Lucky Strike to the fabric of the American family, and traditional agriculture practices.
In reality, the “Its Toasted” slogan came much earlier than the early 1960’s. The slogan was coined in 1917, in order to differentiate Lucky Strike cigarettes from the other brands on the market. Popular throughout the 20th century, Lucky Strike only retains a small United States following, although continues to be popular in Britain.
Although the popularity of Lucky Strikes has waned in the United States, the brand continues to be an iconic symbol of the 20th-century smoker, revived most recently thanks to its inclusion in the Mad Men. As an actual cigarette brand during the 20th century, Lucky Strike advertising memorabilia is readily found on the auction market.
On January 13th, 2013 a large Lucky Strike advertising display is on the block at Meissner’s Auction Service in Lebanon, New York with an estimate of $100-200. A Lucky Strike novelty jack pot slot machine is up for auction on January 20th, 2013 at Victorian Casino Antiques, with an estimate of $400-$4000, with an opening bid of $300. It will be interesting to see how much this piece sells for as vintage slot machines in general can be quite desirable. Also from Victorian Casino Antiques is a group of 4 vintage smoking items, one of which is an unopened Lucky Strike cigarette pack. The deep green of the package indicates that this group dates before 1942, when the dark green package was changed to white, as the company made a key change in its advertising, linking their product with the war effort. They proclaimed that the green used in the distinctive color was made with copper that was now going towards the war effort. In actuality, the green did not use copper, but it was a brilliant way to both modernize the brand as well as link themselves with patriotism.
Finally, from Roland Auction in New York, is a group of eight cigarette advertising tins, complete with one from Lucky Strike. A varied group of tins with an estimate of $100-200 and opening at $50, this would be a great choice for anyone who collects old cigarette tins, advertising memorabilia, or anyone who is looking to start a collection.
Previous sale records show that vintage Lucky Strike collectables, such as tins and unopened cigarette cartons can be had for under $300. The popularity of likey strike avertisements, including posters, such as a Marilyn Monroe from 1950 or an iconic Keith Haring poster from the 1980’s, clearly underscore the continuing importance of this brand in the American consciousness. Other memorabilia advertising Lucky Strike includes clocks, glass humidors, and match vending machines, and with most of the rarer pieces at moderate prices under $1,000, all would be perfect pieces for any advertising collectors looking to add a unique piece to their collection. The highest selling Lucky Strike advertising piece was a 1930’s Doctors Advertisement, proclaiming that Lucky Strikes helped coat the throat, selling for $4200. Although the popularity of Lucky Strikes, and smoking in general has waned, this particular brand has become associated with the American mid 20th-century Golden Age, assuring its place in popular culture. Lucky Strikes collectables are a must have for any smoking memorabilia or advertising collector. The availability and mostly modest price points make a small piece of Americana achievable for almost any budget.