You've been smoking cigars on a regular basis for a while now and it's become a passion. Time to buy a humidor for your cigars. Like most cigar accessories, cigar humidors run from "el cheapo" to "el rico." Fortunately, you don't have to spend a fortune to get a good, reliable box. Regardless of your budget, there are certain "appointments" your humidor should come with to ensure that your cigars will stay fresh and age properly over time.
First, you want to make sure that the cigar humidor you buy will accommodate the number of cigars you plan to keep on-hand. Someone once told me, the one thing boat owners have in common is, they're always looking for a bigger boat. The same can be said for cigar humidors. All too often cigar smokers will buy a humidor only to find out several months later that they need another humidor because their cigar collection is growing faster than they can smoke. If you think you need a 50-cigar humidor, it may be to your advantage to invest in a 75 or 100 ct. humidor. Moreover, you can often find cigar humidors on sale and pick up a 100 cigar box for less than a 75 ct. box. Don't let your budget limit you to a humidor that will only get you so far, only to find out that if you had gone the distance in the first place, you wouldn't be spending more money a lot sooner than you expected. Finally, you don't want to have to squeeze all your cigars into a cramped space. Cigars need air flow to age properly, too.
Veneer vs. Solid wood
Most modestly-priced humidors use wood veneer rather than solid wood. Solid wood is more aesthetic, but you will pay more, and many of the better veneered models are virtually indistinguishable from the solid wood models.
Check the seal
A well-made humidor should have tight seal. Obviously, this is not easy to do if you're ordering a humidor online. One of the "traditional" methods for checking the seal is to close the lid, take a fresh, crisp bill (any denomination) and try to slide the bill in the space between the lid and the base of the humidor. If you have trouble trying to get the bill between the crack, the seal is excellent.
Another way to check the integrity of the seal is to raise the lid of the humidor about 3 inches and let it drop. You should hear a crisp "whoosh" sound. That's the sound of the air escaping. If the lid drops like a barbell, chances are there may be some leakage. Realistically speaking, no humidor is going to be air-tight. At the very least, you want a seal that's tight. Don’t forget that wood expands and contracts, too.
Brass hardware is also important for long life, and with regard to the hinges, quadrant hinges, which have arcs that connect the top and bottom of the hinge. The hinges ride on these arcs which keep the lid stable and prevent the hinges from loosening over time. The other preferable form of hinge is a "piano" or "continuous hinge." This type of hinge runs along the entire length of the back of the base rather than the more common "butterfly" type hinges that you would find on a cabinet, for example.
Deck the halls with bows of cedar
Most cigar humidors are lined with Spanish cedar. It's a wonderfully fragrant wood that lends a nice character to cigars, and should not be confused with the cedar used for souvenirs or for lining your closet. Spanish cedar also resists cracking as the wood expands and contracts over time.
Some humidors have a Spanish cedar plank covering the floor of the humidor with Spanish cedar panels that line the walls. Some humidors have panels that are removable and extend above the top of the base. In other words, when the lid closes, it closes over the panels. Other humidor models have panels that rest flush with the top of the base with extended panels in the lid section which close inside the base. One isn't any better than the other, but you should be able to remove the panels for maintenance purposes.
Finally, the thicker the walls, the better the insulation, and the more stable your cigars will be in the long run.
Most humidors today come with a humidifier and a hygrometer, but don't assume the humidification system is going to do the job just because it came with the humidor. The better manufactures generally include the right size humidifier, but sometimes they don't. If you've done everything right in terms of setting up your humidor (seasoning it), and your cigars tend to be dry, chances are the humidifier is not up to snuff.
Green "oasis" foam humidifiers will do the job, but over time can get flaky or clogged from using too much 50/50 solution. The way to go these days is with the crystal-based humidifiers. They're much more reliable, last longer, are easier to maintain and absorb up to four times more the amount of distilled water (or solution) than the foam models. The Boveda pack system is also a smart and reliable way to go, but you have to replace the packs about every three months. There are some cigar smokers who swear by the Boveda method, while others would rather save the room for more cigars.
Some humidors still come with analog hygrometers, but digital hygrometers are considered more reliable and accurate. Until recently, you couldn't calibrate a digital hygrometer, but that problem's been solved with some of the newer digital hygrometers which have a calibration button. The other advantage to having a digital model is it also gives you a temperature reading.
Other things to look for when buying a new cigar humidor are dividers for separating your cigars, and top trays, which allow you to stack cigars above the cigars in the base section. Even though many humidors come with dividers and top trays, some cigar smokers opt out of using them, as they can take up valuable space. That's a call you have to make.
Now that you know everything you need to know before purchasing a new cigar humidor, the key things to keep in mind are size, seal, wall thickness and overall integrity of the box. Remember, just like shopping for cigars, as long as you know what to look for, you can find a good humidor in most any size that will do the job at an affordable price. If your decision comes down to spending a little more for a better-made box, go for it - your cigars are worth it.