Snuff bottles up for auction

March 26, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers (, located just west of the Loop, is in the midst of a very unusual event. Extremely valuable items from China are on the block, including furniture, textiles, porcelain and snuff bottles.

For almost 400 years, snuff bottles were a status symbol in China. The most beautiful and most expensive were owned by the elite.

"Snuff is basically pulverized tobacco. It's in powder form, tan colored," Phyllis Kao, director of Asian works of art, said. "They scoop it up and inhale it through their nose. . . It's a stimulant. A little pick me up."

The bottles even come with tiny serving spoons that are perfect nostril size. Now, there is nothing illegal about this type of sniffing. It's not snorting. It's just sniffing snuff from tiny masterpieces.

"They are works of art aAnd functional mobile items. But they are works of art absolutely," Kao said.

The snuff bottles are only available online at under the "catalogues" tab. The auction closes on Monday.

What does a snuff bottle sell for? Some go for $100 bucks. Others, well, they're nothing to sneeze at.

"That's right. There's one bottle in particular that people are speculating that might bring as much as $100,000," Kao said. Who would pay that for a snuff bottle? "A very serious snuff bottle collector."

Or perhaps a snooty, snobby snuff sniffer.

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