An authentic box of Cubans should have the green and white Havana Seal label, which reads, “Republica de Cuba. Sello de garantia nacional de procedencia” (Cuban Government’s warranty for cigars exported from Havana). The box will also have an oval stamp on the bottom that reads: “HECHO EN CUBA” (“Made in Cuba) with the words “Totalamente a mano” (“Entirely by hand”) underneath, a factory code and the words “Habanos s.a.” Cubans made between 1961 and 1989 will only have the HECHO EN CUBA stamp with post-1985 boxes also featuring the factory code. The Habanos, S.A. stamp didn’t appear until 1994. If you’re lucky enough to find a box of pre-Revolutionary Havanas, the stamp will read “MADE IN HAVANA-CUBA,” with the factory name stamped below, a lot number below that and the word “HABANA” stamped below that. Be wary of a box that has “Envuelto a mano” on the bottom. This only means “hand-packed.”
A good “pre-purchase” solution is to familiarize yourself with the “legal” and phony Cuban cigar bands. There are several cigar websites that have this information. Again, there’s a good chance you’ll hit pay dirt if you buy the cigars in a good tobacco store, not a trinket shop. You’re also more likely to find “legal” Cubans in Europe and Canada where the demand is much higher.