Biggest Bulgarian cigarette pack collector considers opening museum

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Many think collecting is a hobby for rich or famous people who collect artwork, weapons, expensive old cars, and more. This passion, of course, requires big spending. But the truth is that not every collector needs a lot of money. Most often collections have sentimental value and consists of favorite items that people started collecting when they were children. Valuable exhibits in a child's collection can be glass beads, plastic soldiers, packs of various goodies, photographs of athletes, or characters from different films. But some discover the passion of collecting certain items when they grow up.

The possibilities for choosing what to collect are endless – beer cans, glasses, bottles, hats, phones, lighters. An interesting and popular hobby around the world is collecting cigarette packets, which also has fans in this country. Dimitar Georgiev form Silistra is one of these people. His collection includes nearly 700 packets of Bulgarian cigarettes produced in the period 1904-1989. The oldest one, dating from 1904, is “Assen II” pack of cigarettes, produced by the “Dimitar Mardas” tobacco factory in Plovdiv. The collection is very impressive, keeping in mind the fact that Dimitar has been engaged in this hobby for just six years.

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"It all started by accident while browsing one of the trading sites. I saw some old packs of cigarettes and I was curious because I had never seen them before. I think they were from the 40's. The first box was from a factory in Plovdiv that produced ‘President’ cigarettes. The packet is unopened with the cigarettes still in it. I think it is from 1943. They were manufactured at the Tyutyundzhiyan Tobacco Factory. The Garabedyan – Tyutyundzhiyan family was one of the first, together with Tomasyans, to open factories in Plovdiv. Initially, they cut tobacco by hand, but then bought gasoline cutters and gradually became one of the largest cigarette manufacturers in the city in the 1920s and 1930s."

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Some of the packets that are valuable for Dimitar are anniversary editions or ones produced for important occasions, official forums, etc. Among them are congresses of the Bulgarian Communist Party, various meetings, and holidays. Dimitar admits that he is still looking for a packet of cigarettes on the occasion of the flight of the first Bulgarian cosmonaut Georgi Ivanov back in 1979:

“I have interesting packets dating before 1944, including cigarette brands ‘Skier’, ‘Pilot’, ‘Sport’ and others. I also have cigarettes branded "Asthma", as well as cigarettes aimed at helping people quit smoking,” the collector says and adds he also has packets decorated with caricatures. Their authors remain unknown, but most often the drawings are related to the advertising of the brand. Over the years, packets of cigarettes advertising Bulgarian cities, towns and historic sites, have also been produced and they can also be seen in Dimitar’s collection.

Collecting is a passion that broadens knowledge about the world, creates new contacts, enriches life and makes it even more interesting. Collector Dimitar Georgiev has even been thinking of opening a museum. However, there are obstacles that exist. According to Dimitar, they are both financial and purely historical, as the town of Silistra has never been associated with tobacco industry in this country. This is not the case in Plovdiv, which is its historical tobacco center in Bulgaria. According to Dimitar, Plovdiv is the place where a museum dedicated to the tobacco industry in Bulgaria should be created. So far, a temporary exhibition called "Smoke. The history of Tobacco” was organized in the framework of the program of Plovdiv – European Capital of Culture 2019.

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: private library

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