State Express London Mixture Tin Dating

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arno665

Senior Member
Apr 3, 2013
350
10
Hello all, I just won an auction on ebay for a sealed tin of the fabled State Express London Mixture. But I was wondering about the age of the tin. On the seal it says "US Distributors Faber, Coe, & Gregg Inc. Newark, New Jersey 07108". I have 1 other State Express London Mixture tin but it lacks the large sticker on the bottom and no whole oriental tobacco leaf on the tobacco. Also another importer. Below pictures of the tin I won. Can someone please help me?





 

clickklick

Preferred Member
May 5, 2014
1,677
1
Arno I have a sealed tin at home from the early 1990s. I will check it to see if my label matches yours. If it does, it is around 1990, if it doesn't it is earlier.

 

jguss

Preferred Member
Jul 7, 2013
676
16
Hi Arno,
First off and most importantly congratulations! State Express London Mixture (SELM) is an amazing smoke, and I'm confident you're going to enjoy it. By coincidence I scored a tin earlier this month, and was very impressed. My only regret is that it's decidedly in the class of unobtainium tobaccos.
Now for the age of your tin. There are two key indicators that enable me to date it to within a relatively narrow span: the measurement of the weight of the contents, and the reference to a Newark address.
-When first released (about 1967) SELM tins were denominated in ounces; sometime over the course of 1972-73 this was switched to 50 grams (listed as 1 3/4 oz in the States).
-As for Faber Coe's location, their NJ headquarters address changed from Newark to Clifton in the second half of 1978.
Your tin therefore dates from 1972-78. That could be narrowed a bit further by consulting RTDA annuals for 1972 and 1973, neither of which I happen to have handy. But in the scheme of things knowing your tin is forty years old plus or minus a couple of years is a pretty good outcome.
I hope you enjoy your SELM as much as I did!
Best,

Jon

 

jguss

Preferred Member
Jul 7, 2013
676
16
By the way, in the earlier tins there are two whole tobacco leaves layered on top in the form of an "x", as well as a small leaflet that talks about the blend.

 

clickklick

Preferred Member
May 5, 2014
1,677
1
Thank you guys! This information is definitely rewarding for us budding collectors!

 

klause

Preferred Member
Jul 9, 2012
554
0
Arno,
I have a very old tin of this at the very back of the sock draw, so, I'd be very interested in your thoughts on this tobacco (Future blog post?). I might just have to crack open my tin and take it and a trusty pipe to the greenhouse.
Jon, once again you educate us all. Thank you.

 

arno665

Senior Member
Apr 3, 2013
350
10
I have a very old tin of this at the very back of the sock draw, so, I'd be very interested in your thoughts on this tobacco (Future blog post?).
I hope so! :)
@Jon: Woww!! A 70's tin! :D Thank you very much for the information! I smoked SELM before from the tin I mentioned in the first post. A truly great mixture with all those orientals. Wish someone could do a recreation of it. But getting those orientals plus the Syrian latakia.. *phewww*

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,608
31
I used to smoke this blend almost exclusively. LOVED the stuff, and kept a stash for years.
During a conversation one evening, a friend of mine mentioned that he had tasted SELM a handful of times in his youth and wondered out loud how well it might have aged, so I mailbombed him with a tin. Then, when the tin got lost in his office clutter after opening and dried out a bit, he used the occasion as an experimental and educational opportunity. (Also known as: how pros recover with grace when they space things. :lol: )
http://glpease.com/BriarAndLeaf/?p=49

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
9,726
391
I am indebted to Jon for sharing his bounty with me. This was a delicious smoke! The latakia fading down probably helped it, for what I tasted was a harmonious blend of orientals with a smokey latakia accompaniment which together made for a richly flavored smoke. When you open that bad boy, be prepared to smoke it, as these older blends are less stable once they hit the oxygen, and can curl up and die. This portion from Jon lasted me through several days of great smokes.

 

jguss

Preferred Member
Jul 7, 2013
676
16
Arno: my pleasure!
George: Greg was actually one of the guys in the room when I cracked the tin with Jesse and a handful of others in Vegas.
Jesse: Anytime. My view of vintage tobaccos is simple: they're a helluva lot more fun when shared

 

jguss

Preferred Member
Jul 7, 2013
676
16
And there's actually a lot more to say about SELM.
As papipeguy says, FC&G is indeed still in business, but they got out of tobacco a long time ago; towards the end of its run SELM was handled by G A Georgopulo & Co. The important point is that FC&G was only the U.S. distributor of State Express London Mixture (SELM); it was actually made (theoretically) by Ardath Tobacco.
There is info readily available online about Ardath (much of it wrong or misleading), but in a fairly small nutshell what later became Ardath Tobacco Company, Ltd. was founded by Albert Levy in 1895. He was joined by a partner, Barnett S. Gluckstein, in 1903. In a complex set of transactions apparently triggered by his desire to retire, in January of 1926 Gluckstein sold his shares "to a financial house in the City" and a holding company was created which held all the outstanding shares (Gluckstein's and Levy's) of Ardath. At the time it was coyly announced that British American Tobacco Company Ltd. (BAT) had acquired an "interest" in this new holding entity, and a collaboration in overseas markets was to begin immediately. Levy, who remained as head of the company, announced that despite BAT's interest, the business of Ardath would be "carried on independently, exactly the same as before". Half a year later it became clear that the new holding company ("Universal Tobacco Company") was in reality controlled and managed by BAT, and Ardath had become in essence a subsidiary. The long sad litany of events Ardath suffered under its new master, including the eventual outsourcing of its manufacturing and closure of its factories, is wholly irrelevant to the story of SELM. Likewise the convoluted relationship between BAT, Imperial, and what remained of Ardath's brands and the geographic rights thereto.
More to the point, by the time SELM came on the stage in the late 1960s Ardath had been a creature of BAT for generations, and what remained of the original company was apparently mostly a collection of brand names (along with a distribution function tacked on later). By then State Express, originally a cigarette brand trademarked by Ardath in 1896, was one of the largest assets left over from the Ardath acquisition, and had been exploited over time through a series of brand extensions and entries into international markets. SELM, a new pipe tobacco based on the marque, was developed in the mid-1960s. It was then trademarked in a variety of countries, including Canada (March 20, 1967), Australia (April 21, 1967), the U.S. (April 4, 1968), Germany (March 30, 1969), and Kenya (1970). It was advertised for sale in the US by the end of 1968. Internal company documents make it clear, however, that despite the various international trademark filings the blend was "created largely with the U.S. market in mind".
As far as I can tell SELM was only ever available in 2 ounce (from launch until about 1972-73) and 50 gram (1972-73 onward) rectangular tins. The product was considered to be successful enough that two expansions were considered: a) introduction into the UK (per documents dating to late 1974), and b) development of a cigarette incorporating SELM tobacco. It’s not entirely clear to me whether either ever got off the ground.
SELM was manufactured by the Liverpool branch of BAT. As mentioned the tins included two different varieties of tobacco leaves laid crossways over the mixture; and on top of the gold wrapping protecting the tobacco a small folded booklet describing the blend was enclosed. Each tin also had a British penny affixed to the bottom to be used in opening it. As my dad would have said, packaging is marketing. Luckily the sizzle had a fair amount of steak underneath, and the tobacco was (and is) terrific. The actual “recipe” consisted of 35% Virginia flue cured (i.e. Bright), 25% Orientals (i.e. Turkish), and 40% Latakia. The manufacturing process is also known, but too lengthy to summarize here.
Interestingly enough, the maker of SELM had a more limited view of shelf life then we do. Internal documents state that mixtures in general “Should be smoked as soon as possible for maximum taste. Tendency after three months to noticeable loss of flavour. Loss of colour in ‘Brights’ increasingly noticeable after three months”. All I can say is that I had some from a tin about 44 years old a few weeks ago and it was fantastic. If what I tried was really greatly diminished by the passage of time I can only imagine what this blend was like when fresh.
I should add SELM had a run of a bit over two decades. It was withdrawn from production sometime between 1989-1992: SELM appears in the 1988 RTDA almanac, but the US trademark was allowed to expire on November 3, 1992. It remains possible that the blend continued to be available in other countries thereafter, but given the importance of the US market to the brand that seems unlikely.

 

judcole

Preferred Member
Sep 14, 2011
4,683
41
Detroit
I had a couple of tins of this back in the early 1970s; I remember enjoying it quite a bit. Enjoy!