When something is as well-known and famous as a Habano, it is not surprising that unscrupulous imitators try to imitate or forge original trademarks and products. Below are the official identifiers that you should always look for to confirm this.
You will always find the best selection and the best qualities of your desired Habanos in recognized cigar stores or in verified cigar online shops.
A guarantee seal was first used in 1889 by order of the King of Spain (Cuba was a Spanish colony from 1763 to 1898). Later, in 1912, the government of Cuba, which became independent in 1902, passed a law that allowed the use of a new design for the seal (Sello de Garantia de la Republica de Cuba), similar to the one used today. It underwent another slight change in 1931; in 1999, as part of a major revision, it was given a red serial number and (for security reasons) an emblem that can only be seen under ultraviolet light.
This seal appears on all packaging for tobacco products manufactured in Cuba.
Since 1994 all cigar boxes have carried the Habanos seal, a worldwide protected designation of origin for Havana cigars. No box of Havana cigars leaves Cuba without this seal.
In addition to the official Habanos seal with which Havana cigars are exported from Cuba, officially approved national or regional general importers may, under their own responsibility, affix additional individual seals to protect against counterfeiting and other manipulation.
Since 1960, all Habanos crates have had a brand on the bottom (Hecho en Cuba, made in Cuba; previously: Made in Cuba). Since 1994, a brand has also been branded on the bottom of the box (Habanos S.A., the name of the state trading company that distributes Havana cigars worldwide). Between 1985 and 1994 this company was called Cubatabaco.
Totalmente a Mano Tripa Larga
Since 1989, boxes of classic Havana cigars (Habanos) and long leaf inlays (Tripa arga) have had a burned-in stamp on the underside of the box with the designation Totalmente a mano (made entirely by hand).
Totalmente a Mano - Tripa Corta
Havana cigars with a short-leaf wrapper (Tripa Corta) also have a branded stamp with the words Totalmente a mano on the bottom of the box; since 2002, the type of wrapper has also been indicated by the designation TC (Tripa Corta)
Hecho en Cuba
The boxes of machine-made Habanos bear a burnt-in stamp with the indications Habanos S.A. and Hecho en Cuba.
Factory code and packing date of the cigars
On the bottoms of Habanos boxes there are also two ink stamps: one is an encrypted code indicating which factory produced these cigars; the other, in a simple code, indicates the year and month when the Habanos were packed into the box (Boxing Date).
These dates are not secret. The system was started in 2000 with "00", followed by "01" (and so on).
The following abbreviations are used for the months:
ENE (January) / FEB (February) / MAR (March) / ABR (April) / MAY (May) / JUN (June) / JUL (July) / AGO (August) / SEP (September) / OCT (October) / NOV (November) / DIC (December)
A Habano, if properly stored, can continue its maturing process; it therefore gains in quality over time. This is why the date is important for connoisseurs.
Note: Ink stamps on the box bottoms, indicating the factory and date of manufacture, were first used for Havana cigars in 1985 (at that time both were encrypted).
If you want to check the date of manufacture of Habanos produced between 1985 and 1999, we will be happy to help you.
Concluding remarks from personal experience
Most fake Cuban cigars actually come from Cuba and are purchased by trustful tourists as travel souvenirs. Everything that is possible is faked: from the belly band, to the box, to the seals and stamps. Some fakes are easily recognizable with the naked eye, others are almost perfect imitations.
Therefore a well-intentioned advice: If you want to buy cigars in Cuba, do so only directly in the factory and there only at the official sales point and not with a person who works "somewhere" in the factory and makes you a "really cheap" offer.
Also note the fact that Cuban cigars are produced in different quality grades and the best quality, which is exported to only a few other countries besides Germany, is hard to get in Cuba. Most likely you will get the quality grade for Cuban domestic consumption, which can be very different from export cigars.