DIY: Repurposing Old Advertising Ashtrays

Retro Staff Comments

It’s hard to imagine (or remember, if you’re old enough) how pervasive smoking was in our society not so many years ago. I mean, people smoking in places where if it happened today they would be arrested. Theaters, planes, restaurants, laundromats, and grocery stores all were perfectly ordinary places to light up. And with all that smoking going on, you needed lots of ash trays. So someone figured out that those ashtrays where a great place on which to place advertising.

Array of vintage branded ashtrays

Ashtrays became popular promotional items.

We are not talking just cigarette ads here, but lots of major corporations used this vehicle to get their products and brands in front of people. Brands like Wonder Bread, Heinz, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Six Flags, Arby’s and Coca-Cola, just to name a few.

So it stands to reason that’s why there are tons of these ashtrays still around just waiting to be repurposed. They can easily be found on eBay, at flea markets and at antiques stores. Most are still very reasonably priced. Restaurants, hotels and casinos seem to be the most common designs, but you will easily find many others advertising, airlines, autos, taxis, beer and soda.

Once you start looking for them, you’ll find very clean examples and some that look like they’ve never been used. There are many styles and colors available and some of them stack, which is convenient.

Before the suggestions on how you might reuse them, just remember these are made of glass. Once thoroughly cleaned, they’re fine for food items if you choose. So how and what to use them for?


Ashtrays as Candy Dishes

Candy dishes!

Ashtrays as Coasters and Serving Pieces

Serving pieces

Ashtrays as Bottle & Drink Coasters

Bottle & Drink Coasters

Vintage Ashtrays as Spoon Rests & Servers

Chopstick / spoon rests and ramekins.

Vintage Ashtrays Filled with Nuts

Nut servers.

Cherries for cocktails in vintage ashtray

Cocktail garnishes.

Decorative Coasters from Old Ashtrays

Decorative coasters and such.

Ashtrays as Coasters for Bottles


Lime wedges in vintage ashtray


Ashtrays filled with sewing buttons

Sewing station!

And what about using vintage ashtrays for:

  • soap dishes
  • spoon rests
  • jewelry
  • sponge dishes
  • change holders
  • paper clips
  • . . . and so much more!

So check them out on eBay and see if they’re something you might want to collect, repurpose and give a second life to. If you come up with ideas on how they can be used, blog in and feel free to send us your photos.


 —Contributed by Keith Kennelly

Last updated: Jul 08, 2014
Filed under: DIY & Upcycling Tagged with: collecting, DIY, unique bar stools