Collecting vitolas or rings, the paper band that surrounds one end of a cigar, is known as Vitolfilia, an activity that some smokers and cigar lovers engage in, who keep these interesting pieces of paper as a priceless treasure.
Actually, the term vitola is somewhat confusing since in Cuba it is used to identify the size and shape of a Habano, while in Spain it is used to refer to the rings that surround the cigars. It is evident that vitola was the term that prevailed when it came to identifying the collecting of cigar rings, so that will be the name we will use to refer to those small bands of paper.
In the vitolas, the format of the cigar is indicated and the brand of the factory that made it is identified. Although there are countless stories about its origin, today and for more than a century, its function is to identify the manufacturer and give a luxurious and striking touch to the cigar.
It is thought that Vitolfilia must have started around the second half of the 19th century, precisely when the first vitolas appeared, since it is very likely that the beauty and luxury of those first pieces, as well as the perfection of the lithographic technique, have attracted the first individual collectors.
However, Vitolfilia organized in the form of small groups or associations emerged for the first time in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, and from there it spread to Canada, reaching its maximum splendor until a little more than the middle of the century, when it started to decline. Precisely in the 50s of the last century, the first collector's associations began to be created in Cuba and some European countries such as Belgium, Holland, Spain and Germany, where they grew very quickly.
That decade is the golden period of the activity in those countries since the collections are enriched both in quality and quantity. Some of the great and remarkable collections that were first shown at that time, probably started decades ago, have survived to this day, but most of them have been lost track of and are possibly lost forever.
In general, most of the collections were organized by themes, among which the vitolas of portraits of famous people (mainly kings and heads of State), heraldry, flags, fauna, flora, sports, trademarks, transportation, buildings and many others related to activities such as fashion, music and painting. The image that accompanies this article is a collection of American presidents that we found on the website of Grupo Vitolfilico of Barcelona, ??Spain.
Today, collectors have almost completely disappeared in the United States and Canada, although apparently there are those who are dedicated to collecting the so called habilitaciones, which are the sets of labels on the boxes where the cigars come. In Europe it is also a very run-down activity, but there are still groups and associations that fight to keep the hobby afloat and try to attract new generations. However, it is surprising to see how much prices have fallen, which suggests that the trend is for them to disappear completely.