Winston Churchill’s Personally-Puffed Cigar Is Going to Auction

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

It’s not often that objects masticated by world leaders come up for private sale. But a new auction offered by Hansons Auctioneers in the UK promises an opportunity for the winning bidder to own a cigar thoroughly chewed by former British prime minister Winston Churchill, whose portraits in media often felt incomplete without his trademark tobacco product.

How is it possible to verify the provenance of the stogie? Curiously, it has a well-documented history. In 1953, Churchill and his wife Clementine went to the theater to see the musical Call Me Madam. During the performance, Churchill puffed on a cigar, which eventually tumbled from his mouth and onto the floor. Seeing this, a theater usher named Violet King picked it up and kept it in her possession for more than a half-century.

Of course, anyone could claim to have done that. So King went a step further by writing to the prime minister’s office to verify the authenticity of the cigar and requesting permission to tell her friends about her acquisition (his office replied, confirming the item). Later, she had her niece, who worked for a plastics company that made material for baby incubators, encase her ashy find in a container that likely helped preserve it.

Hansons Auctioneers

Churchill was extremely fond of cigars, so much so that he was often photographed as a veritable walking smokestack. Not even recurring pneumonia would dissuade him from his habit.

Hansons plans to auction the cigar off on December 11 and anticipates a closing price between $6340 and $7609.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]