Where There's Smoke There's a Vintage Cigarette Lighter

April 15th, 2009

Urban Cummings talks about collecting vintage cigarette lighters, noting the history and evolution of lighters, the various types and manufacturers, and trends in the hobby in general. Urban has written two books on Ronson lighters.

Ronson Touch-Tip with Cigarette Box 1939

Ronson Touch-Tip with Cigarette Box 1939

At the very beginning, my interest in lighters was about the mechanism. I had my first lighter when I was 14. I saved up my nickels and dimes. I grew up in Oakland, and bought my first cigarette lighter because I thought it was way cool. I didn’t smoke and I didn’t set fire to things. I just thought the lighter was really a beautiful piece of equipment and the whole idea of being able to push down your thumb and get a flame just really caught my fancy.

I was attracted to the function of it. For example, up until Ronson invented the one-motion lighter, all the lighters, including the ones they made, were all strike lighters. You had a flint and you had a wand with a hard-metal tip on it, and you had a wick with fluid on it, and you scratched the flint with your wand. It created sparks, of course, and they ignited the fluid that’s on the wick. In a way it’s like a match.

Collectors Weekly: Who was Ronson?

Bakelite Ellis Lighter Corp. U.S.

Bakelite Ellis Lighter Corp. U.S.

Cummings: The name Ronson comes from the inventor’s name, Louis V. Aronson. The Ronson name was first used in 1909 for automobile wrenches that Mr. Aronson manufactured. This guy was an inventor. The name of the company from the very beginning was not Ronson; it was Art Metal Works.

Louis Aronson graduated from metallurgical school when he was 17, and his first patent was for a gold-like metal that he used on lots of lighters and other things he made. He sold the patent for $5,000 and retained the right to use it himself. He took the $5,000 and started his company. He actually started in New York City, where he grew up and went to school.

Within a couple of years, he moved Art Metal Works to Newark, New Jersey, and that’s where it remained until the 1960s. They finally closed the plant there and moved to a different location, still in New Jersey. In 1913, they made their first lighter. It was a strike lighter and they called it the Wonder Lighter.

Collectors Weekly: Was Ronson the earliest mechanical lighter produced?

Cummings: No. Let’s backtrack a bit to the invention of the flint. The flint is what makes the sparks. In a Zippo lighter, you have a wheel that you spin and there’s a spring that’s holding a flint up against the wheel, which creates sparks. Once again, the lighter fluid that’s in the wick ignites and you get a flame. The flint really revolutionized the world of lighters. Back then they were called cigar lighters. Ready-made cigarettes really didn’t become popular until around the time of World War I.

The flint was invented by an Austrian man who was an inventor and some kind of scientist. That really created a whole new market for cigarette lighters because now it was a whole lot easier to make all kinds. But as I said, most of the early lighters were what’s commonly called a strike lighter, which is the wand with the metal tip and the wick at the end.

“I also said I would never collect matchbooks. Well, guess what?”

Most all lighters worked in that manner until Louis Aronson, who had over a hundred patents for cigarette lighters and related items, invented what was called a one-motion lighter. Dunhill predates the Ronson one-motion lighter. Dunhill was making lighters back in the ‘20s, but it required that you put your thumb up against the wheel and spin it, and that creates sparks which ignited the wick

Aronson was a smoker, and on a trip to England, he got tired of his thumb being sore from spinning the flint wheel to get a spark. So he said, “I’m going to invent a device which will give me a spark without having to spin a flint wheel.”

So he did that, and called it the one-motion lighter. You push down on a thing called the thumb piece, and when you get it pushed all the way down, it does two things. On the way down, it starts spinning the wheel, which creates a spark, and when you push down on the thumb piece, it lifts up the cover over the wick. The wick goes down inside the lighter, and there’s a reservoir of fluid inside, so the wick is wet. If you didn’t cover up the wick, the fuel would evaporate way too quickly, so they have a cover called the snuffer cap. So you push down on the thumb piece, the snuffer cap lifts up, and the flint wheel spins to give you a spark to light the wick – all in one motion.

Collectors Weekly: How many different designs are there?

Cummings: Hundreds, probably. I’m in touch with a lot of collectors all over the world. There are two lighter clubs in the United States, and there’s a lighter club in Great Britain which is very good. There are lighter clubs in Japan and Italy and all over the world, and I’m in touch with a lot of them. Collectors often specialize. I have a friend in England. He belongs to the Lighter Club of Great Britain. His favorite thing to collect is lighters with unusual mechanisms, and believe me, there are lots of them out there.

For example, the original Calibri had a very unusual mechanism. It had a lever on the side of the lighter that you pushed down, and that created the spark, as compared to a thumb piece on the top of the lighter that you pushed down. The idea of the whole thing is to create a spark, and the actual way that the spark is made varies a lot.

Zippo, Evans, and Ronson are the three primary cigarette lighters made in the United States although there were lots and lots of them. For example, early electric lighters were little ceramic things, and some of them plugged into a house current, and it would have a heating element on the bottom that gets hot enough to light the end of your cigarette. They plug into the wall, and you push the button. The car lighter runs on a 12-volt automobile battery. These other ones run on house current, which is 115 volts.

General Electric continued to make an electric lighter. Most of those ones with the heating element fell out of favor by the time the one-motion lighter and the flint wheel and things like that came along. People stopped using the electric ones, but General Electric actually continued to make an electric lighter.

Collectors Weekly: Are there electric lighters today?

Cummings: Yes. Today I would say 90 percent, maybe even 98 percent of all cigarettes and other things are lit with these cheap throwaway plastic BICs, and they’re made by other brands. I don’t know anybody in the lighter clubs that collect BICs because they’re everywhere. Why would you want to bother collecting them?

Collectors Weekly: When you’re looking for lighters, what do you look for?

Cummings: Lighters is a small part of what my wife and I collect. We are very enthusiastic about the 1930s and into the 1940s, the Art Deco period. From the beginning of the 1930s right up to World War II, Art Deco was a very specific way to design and make things. There are lots of books about it. We collect all kinds of things from the Art Deco period, so I look for cigarette lighters which reflect that design.

By the way, you should realize that Art Metal Works made a huge variety of metal things which were incredibly beautiful Art Deco pieces. I have figural pieces, statues, that are so Art Deco, it’ll blow your mind. They’re just gorgeous. Going back to the early 1900s when people’s houses had gas lamps which really smelled the house up, everybody had incense burners to try to cancel the smell from the gas flames. Before everybody had electric light bulbs, people burned gas lights.

Ronson made some incredibly beautiful incense burners. I’ve got a lot of those. Another thing that people collect is incense burners. Another friend of mine collects Ronson bookends, some very Art Deco pieces. My collection runs from the very beginnings of Ronson Corporation, which was started in 1896 or 1897. In 1895, Aronson resigned his teaching position to devote full time to his business. 1896 is the date that Art Metal Works (Ronson) was incorporated and moved to Newark, New Jersey.

Collectors Weekly: Are there specific lighter models you look for?

Colibri (Swiss) 1950's

Colibri (Swiss) 1950′s

Cummings: This year’s lighter show is in Cleveland. Every other year it’s in Las Vegas. I always have my eye open for something interesting or unusual, but I have so many thousands of lighters. I know I have at least 5,000. I’m really trying to sell them now. I’ve got too many of them. But if I find something really neat, I’ll buy it.

As far as what I collect now, it’s not really guided so much by the mechanism as it is the overall design. I also collect lighters made in the United States and lighters that have American companies on them. For instance, I like the Zippos that have the business logo of companies that are in the United States that did business for the last hundred years.

Some of the best lighters around were made in places other than the United States. For example, every cigarette lighter collector who’s worth his weight knows about Dunhill. It’s an English company. The Dunhill Aquarium was a table model lighter that had little fish built in to the acrylic. It’s a very desirable lighter and they go for thousands of dollars.

Collectors Weekly: What’s a table model lighter?

Cummings: There are two basic kinds of lighters – table models and pocket models. Pocket models obviously are intended to be kept in your pocket, but some pocket models are lighters and cigarette case combinations. The Ronson Master Pack was very popular in the ’30s, ‘40s, and they continued to make it up into the ‘50s. They would combine the lighter with the cigarette case and a watch, and those are very collectible.

Ronson targeted females. Once smoking was okay for women in the 1930s, Ronson really catered to the female market, and there are some absolutely gorgeous Ronson cigarette cases and lighters. They’d combine a lady’s compact. They’re so beautiful. They’d put rhinestones on the front of them. The lighter pack would have beautiful enameled designs, very Art Deco, very colorful. Sometimes it would be a lighter and a cigarette case. Sometimes they would combine the lighter-cigarette case and the lady’s compact all in one piece.

There’re 417 different models that Ronson made between 1913 and the year 2000, and they’re all in my second book. There’s this whole section there about strike lighters. There’s a section about the lady’s compact lighters, the lighter pack, the lighter case. It just goes on and on.

In order to write authoritatively about Ronson lighters you need to understand all the things they made. There’s another book that comes from Holland, Amsterdam, written by a friend of mine. It’s called “The Legend of the Lighter.” It is an absolutely gorgeous book and it gives a real European slant on lighters.

In terms of other makers, a lot of people collect Zippos. Well, if you’ve seen one Zippo, you’ve seen them all. Zippo does have some table models, but they don’t make table models at all like they used to. I would say 95 percent of all Zippos are pocket models, and they’re all the same. The only difference is there’s a smaller one made for ladies, called the Slim, and then there’s the standard size. It’s the graphics on the front of the Zippo that people collect.

They take a metal lighter and put a design on it. It’s usually done by a machine, so it’s very reflective. Then they’ll cover it with glass with a color on it, and that hard glass covering amplifies the design. The French call it guilloche. They’re absolutely beautiful. I have a couple of them. They go for hundreds of dollars.

Collectors Weekly: Did lighter designs tend to mimic the styles of the times?

Ronson Standard with Cigarette Case

Ronson Standard with Cigarette Case

Cummings: In general, yes. But people that made cigarette lighters did them in so many different ways, and it’s not the lighter itself but the base. For example, I’ve been in communication with a lady in Germany who sent me a picture of a Ronson lighter, but it was specially made for a company that made pumps. So here’s a model of a pump, and on top of it, there’s a lighter. I have literally dozens and dozens of different lighters that were put onto things.

The people in Japan were making lighters in a shape of ladies’ lipstick cases or in the shape of typewriters. In the 1950s, the Japanese made lighters that looked like little typewriters, microphones, outboard motors, TV sets.

Ronson, especially during their butane period, made some absolutely gorgeous designs that looked like a little tabletop. Ronson aimed their sales at a market which was really upscale. For example, I have several examples of Lalique glass with a Ronson lighter inside. The very best china made in the world, like Lenox, had lighters built into them.

Collectors Weekly: What’s been one of your most exciting lighter finds?

Cummings: Back when I was totally eager beaver back in the 1980s and ‘90s, I would go to every flea market, every antique store, every swap meet, garage sale, everything. I was out on the hunt every weekend. I spent an enormous amount of time. On my honeymoon with my wife, we went to New Jersey to visit her mom, and we spent a lot of time going to antique stores. I found some great things.

The greatest find I ever had was this: I would go every month to the Foothill College flea market, and ask people, “Do you have any old cigarette lighters?” There was one lady with a camper shell on a pickup truck, and she sold stuff out of her camper shell at the flea market. She said, “Yes, I have this cigar box of old lighters. Let me get it for you.” So she goes back in and brings it out, and it’s full of flint dust because flints deteriorate over a period of time and they get powdery. Most of it was what I consider junk, but there in the midst was an example of Zippo’s very first lighter. It’s called an outside hinge.

When Zippo first started making lighters, they had the hinge on the outside. Within a year or two, they put it on the inside. So outside hinge Zippos are very rare and hard to find and worth thousands of dollars, depending on the condition and what’s on them. I said to the lady, “What do you want for the box?” because I wasn’t going to tell her I just wanted that one. She said, “How about $10?” So I found at least a thousand-dollar lighter for 10 bucks. Now, that will light your fire.

I think people are born with a collecting instinct, because as an 8- or 9-year-old boy, I used to go to my dad and borrow 50 cents so I could go down to the bank on Saturday morning and go up to the teller’s cage and get a roll of pennies. I would look through all these pennies and find the ones that I didn’t have because I had one of those little blue coin collectible books that had little slots that you can push your coins in. I really liked collecting things when I was a little boy, and it’s been that way ever since.

Collectors Weekly: Is there a difference between cigarette lighters and cigar lighters?

Early 1920's Electric Lighter (U.S.)

Early 1920′s Electric Lighter (U.S.)

Cummings: None. Today’s cigar smokers, by and large, do not want to use wick lighters because they claim that the lighter fluid, when it burns, spoils the taste of their cigar. Today’s cigar lighters insist on butane. I don’t believe it, but then I’m not a cigar smoker.

From the early days on, a lot of the patents say cigar lighter. Cigarettes didn’t really become popular until the ‘20s, but if you look at those advertisements, they don’t even refer to cigars anymore. It’s all about Chesterfield or Pall Mall or whatever cigarettes. So as far as differentiating between cigar lighters and cigarette lighters, no, not really, because a flame is a flame and you can use it to light a candle or whatever you want. I think it was just in their advertising that they’re differentiated. I’d have to really search my memory to think about a lighter which is made exclusively for cigars.

There are, however, lighters made specifically for pipe smokers. Zippo made one at one time. Also, there’s a very clever one by Beattie Jet that shoots out a one-inch long flame.

Collectors Weekly: Why aren’t lighters made with the same craftsmanship anymore?

Cummings: I think it’s the throwaway generation. People don’t value things like a cigarette lighter anymore, so that’s why the plastic BIC throwaways appeal to them. Up into the 1950s – it all changed in the ‘70s and ‘80s – people’s personal items were important. Nowadays, I guess an expensive watch is a big deal or if you got a Jaguar or a fancy car or if you’re getting really pricey clothes. But back in the ‘30s, if you had a really expensive fountain pen, you were important. If you had very expensive cufflinks, you were important. They were called personal accessories, and your cigarette lighter was one too.

Back then, everybody smoked. I used to smoke. My parents didn’t, but I used to smoke from the time I was 18 until I was about 38.  Your cigarette lighter was a personal accessory. Not only did people stop smoking, but what people value for accessories has totally changed. That’s what made the lighter fall out of favor.

Collectors Weekly: Do you collect any other type of tobacciana?

Zippo Table Lighter

Zippo Table Lighter

Cummings: Yes. I never collected the bands that go around cigars, but I collected ashtrays. There are some absolutely gorgeous ashtrays out there. I have one ashtray from the Ile de France, which was a famous luxury liner from the ‘30s, and I don’t know when it went out of business.

There are collectible books on ashtrays. There’s so much variety. There’s metal, there’s ceramic, there’s glass. In fact, some of the Lalique pieces include an ashtray with it. So I have collected ashtrays. I said I’d never do this, but I did it anyway.

I also said I would never collect matchbooks. Well, guess what? A man called me many years ago and said, “I’d sure like to have a copy of your book,” and he had a book on matchbooks, so we traded – my lighter book for his matchbook book – and that got me started. All of a sudden, I would run into people with these matchbooks that had stuff on the covers that really interested me like World War II airplanes and companies from the ‘30s and locations like the Waldorf Astoria hotel. You name it. They all go back to the time when everybody smoked. They needed matches, so matchbook covers were a big way of advertising, and I ended up collecting those.

I even collected packs of old cigarettes, foreign cigarettes. Marlboro used to make a women’s cigarette that had a red band on the part she puts in her mouth because otherwise, if the white paper showed up your lipstick, it looked ugly. So I have a pack of cigarettes for women. That’s cool.

Collectors Weekly: Are BIC throwaways an American thing or did lighters change around the world, too?

Cummings: I think throwaway lighters are worldwide. Ronson had a branch in England, going back into the ‘50s that lasted until the ‘80s or maybe ‘90s, and they made throwaway Ronsons. I have an advertising thing for them. It was a great ad because it was a beautiful array of different-colored plastics, but it was a disposable lighter. But Ronson made them refillable. Ronson today is still in business because because they sell lighter fluid. They sell butane fuel. So they would make it refillable so they could sell more butane.

Zippo today has not changed much from its early beginnings. For a period there, Zippo was having butane lighters made in Japan, and they were very, very well made. They had a great valve that didn’t leak. I had a number of those in my collection; now I just keep a few for reference. Today Zippo is still just selling fluid and flints and wick lighters. Zippo has not made a butane lighter for a long time. China and Japan are Zippo’s biggest markets now, and all they make is their same old standard lighter. No change.

I do have a plastic throwaway lighter that I saved. It was from the 1980-something Winter Olympics that was in Moscow. Jimmy Carter, getting even with the Russians, decided to cancel our participation in the Moscow Olympics that year, and they had already made the lighters. I found one of them at a flea market, and I collected it because it was an Olympics that the United States never participated in. I think it’s one of the few throwaway lighters that I’ve collected.

Collectors Weekly: Are there lighter shows?

Pistolighter, Austria

Pistolighter, Austria

Cummings: Yes. The two clubs in the United States each put on a couple of lighter shows a year. To me, that’s the best place to find lighters, because out in the public domain, really nice, old lighters have just about evaporated. People have been collecting them, so they’re pretty much gone. So the lighter shows are the place I go nowadays to find great lighters. The lighter club shows are a great place not only to get to hang with your friends, but to find great, old pieces, because buying from other collectors is where you get some really great things. People are still finding great things on eBay, so it really is a great resource, no doubt about that.

Going to a lighter show or participating in a lighter club with other collectors is going to be your best resource in the long run because you can see exactly what you’re getting. I’m a great believer in that.

The lighter clubs and the lighter shows are also a great way to network with your fellow collectors. It’s just really a great resource. I have friends all over the world because of it. That’s another thing about collecting that’s worthy of mention: collecting allows you to make friends all over the world that collect the same things you do. I have friends in Japan and Italy and England and Europe and all over the United States all because of my collecting. I really believe that collecting enhances your quality of life.

Collectors Weekly: Why did you write a book about Ronson lighters?

Cummings: My wife and I went to hundreds of flea markets, garage sales, and antique/collectible stores in search of old lighters. I would usually ask, “Do you have any old cigarette lighters?” At some point, I began asking, “Do you have any old Ronsons?” After a number of dealers under 30-35 years old said, “What’s a Ronson?” I realized a big part of America’s history was rapidly fading away. I wanted to record and preserve this small piece of our past. Hence, the book.

Collectors Weekly: Do you have anything else that you’d like to add?

Cummings: My wife and I collect anything from the Art Deco period. There was a World’s Fair in Chicago in the early 1930s called Chicago World’s Fair Century of Progress. That was the most Art Deco time period, so if you like Art Deco, the Chicago World’s Fair Century of Progress was just the most beautiful thing you can imagine. They don’t do things like that anymore. So my wife and I love to collect things from that World’s Fair. There’s just an enormous amount of incredible things. In fact, there’s a Ronson pipe holder, and on the top of it is a 1933 Century of Progress emblem, logo. Once you get hooked on something, you’re hooked for life, I’m afraid.

We don’t go as far as furniture. The Deco things we collect are what they call smalls. I don’t have a house big enough to allow me to collect furniture, although I have some friends that have the most beautiful Art Deco furniture. But the smalls are really enjoyable.

All images in this article courtesy of Urban Cummings. The second edition of his “Ronson Book” is available from Nosnor Lighter Books, P.O. Box 1482, Palo Alto, CA  94302

71 comments so far

  1. Susan Pahnke Says:

    I have inherited a collection of lighters. The original owner passed away in the early 80′s and was in his late 60′s then. Anyway I don’t have any use for them and do not know their value or where to start to sell them. Could you please provide me with the info I need to get started?

    Thank you advance.

  2. Andy Figueroa Says:

    I enyoyed the artical on ronson very much.I too have an interest in gadgets.

  3. Jerry Begue' Says:

    Hello, I have a beautiful Ronson “LITE – TIME” butane purse lighter with watch [in base] combinatiion all in the original felt case. The watch runs perfect and when pulled out of base the re-fill for flint and gas is there. I assume if I install a flint and butane it should work. Can you give me an approximate value?
    Regards, Jerry

  4. Frank Zawacki Says:

    Going through my Dad’s things, I have found a cigarette lighter: Brass plated; approximately 1.5″x1.5″ with a 1″x1″ glass window on the side showing a circular storage tank for lighter fluid; flint chamber mounted horizontally on top facing a wheel striker; adjacent wick has a oval snuffer for the wick; Has a white “cheesecloth” bag; Guessing that it is WWII vintage. Would like any information you can provide. Thank you in advance. FRANK

  5. julianne Says:

    Please help me! I have a vintage green marble base ronson table lighter that I have been able to get to produce a spark 1 out of every 4 or 5 strikes. I have gotten it to light maybe 4 or 5 times in the hours I have spent on it. I also have a pink ceramic? pitcher shaped evans lighter that is part of a set, with cigarette holder and ashtray. It has a wick (fuzzy thing) and I oiled it enough to get it to open when you push the button. But, no spark. I filled it via the bottom, the cottony stuff inside, and the wick does not get wet. So spark or not, it wouldn’t light. I would love to be able to display and use these in my home, but I am totally stuck on what to do next. The green one I have taken apart multiple times, and replaced the flint, etc. but to no avail. Boy, is it hard to get back together! What I did with it apart got me to the point I am at now, but it isn’t quite good enough. The pink one I can’t even figure out how to get it apart. I think it would probably use a flint, from what I have been able to find on the lighter’s mechanisms, but it is very difficult to find info on the mechanism that I can apply to my situationd. Thanks hope to hear from someone soon!

  6. Sandy and Phil Kordish Says:

    We have a round based brown, plastic table lighter. A metal hula girl stands on it on a metal half dome with a green skirt which has clips on the back that you can squeeze and the skirt opens in the front where it is slit down the middle…the skirt is green. The lighter extends out at the front of the base and a metal, art deco arc is over the lighter extension at the base. On the bottom it says “Made by the Arrow Products Mfg Co., Cleveland, Ohio”. Can you tell us the value of this novelty item and some of it’s history? Thank you.

  7. Michael Batty Says:

    I need a new wick for a Beattie Jet lighter. Does anyone know where I can get one? OE is not important, anything that works will work for me! Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Mike Batty. mikeatcodys@rock.com

  8. Dale Hemphill Says:

    I recently purchased a lighter at an estate auction. The lid is not hinged, it just pulls off. The bottom portion has a seal soldered to it which states “Ministere des Finances”. The case is brass with vertical lines on the top and bottom portion, measuring 2 7/8 in. long by 1 1/8 wide. The lighter is 5/16 thick. Any info which could be provided would be greatly appreciated. Haven’t found much on the internet about it. Thanks, Dale

  9. GREG Says:

    HELLO THERE…..I STUMBLED APON YOUR E MAIL ADRESS WHEN I WAS RESEARCHIN CHAMP LIGHTERS AND THE CHAMP LIGHTER COMPANY……I RECENTLY BOUGHT A CHAMP LIGHTER AT A FLEA MARKET…WANTING A ZIPPO…….I SAW THAT THE CHAMP LIGHTER LOOKED OLD AND WAS MADE IN AUSTRIA…..SO I PAYED THE MAN 10.00 FOR IT….IT LOOKS LIKE IT WAS MADE YESTERDAY…BUT I RESEARCHED THE PATENT WICH IS 2809511…AND IT SAID 1957……I AM NOW FOR SOME REASON GOT A BUG TO COLLECT LIGHTERS……I CANT FIND HARDLEY ANY INFO ON THE CHAMP COMPANY…..I SEARCH AUSTRIA AND MOSTLY IMCO COMES UP….CAN U GIVE ME MORE INFO ON THESE LIGHTERS……YES ZIPPOS ARE COOL, BUT VINTAGE AUSTRIAN STUFF SEEMS COOL TOO….CAN U HELP ME…….

  10. Al Mc Allister Says:

    I read the article above and very interesting, I am a small lighter collector
    about 150 lighters and I doing talk in September at the Chesapeake Pipe Club
    (where I am a member) I would like to get information on the operation of the
    the old striker lighters and on the touch tips to use in my talk and any thing
    you could tell me would most helpful….Thank You Very Much

    Al

  11. Al K. Says:

    I have a mechanical lighter (brass or copper) that has a lever on the side that when pushed down a cap comes off of the wick and at the same time a wheel is rolled on a flint. This mechanism is located over a one inch cylinder about three inches long. It was made by the Capitol lighter company and has a patent date of “SEPT.17.’12″. Do you have any idea of value or any other info on it? Thanks Al K.

  12. Jerre Fitzpatrick Says:

    I have a Ronson lighter with US, Canada and England pat pending numbers. It is a small chrome lighter with a German flying Eagle atop a swastika. I have tried to findout if Ronson sold to Germany during WWII. Would you please provide me with any information you have about this most interesting piece of memorabilia. Thank you, JF

  13. Pamela Elkin Says:

    I have a lighter that is very art deco in shape called the Imperial Ready Flame. It is a Butane type and is in the original box it came in with the full tank of butane,..it is cream and gold and quite large for a lighter 5 3/4″ long and 2 1/2 wide and tapers to 1 1/4″ wide at the bottom. I’ve been an antique dealer for over 30 years and not seen another one of these. I was hoping you could tell me something about it since neither ebay or googling it did any good. Also where to look for more info and a buyer. Thank you.

  14. paul Says:

    Urban..the heck with lighters. I want another pair of Furry Feet..where can I get them….please. I bought these from you for years at the Hayward Art Wine…..where are your urban !!!!!! email me paul@allgordon.com

  15. Jonathan Stein Says:

    I just purchased a Ronson Standard of unknown (to me) vintage. On one side is a Chevrolet “bow Tie” emblem, brass in appearence with a blue background. The opposite side bears the inscription “To My Good Friend Everett Swing From Joe Carpenter”. I thought it was an interesting piece so I bought it.

  16. Jonathan Stein Says:

    Oops sorry…if anyne has any info on this lighter or the two names on it contact me at flightsim7@hotmail.com. I have just started collecting lighters.

  17. scott hudson Says:

    I inherited a Erie cigar lighter that has a patent date of April 24,1877 and a U.S. patent number of 189879.I discovered in my research that it was invented by George Seldon an early automobile pioneer, it has what would appear to be the original wick and the mechanism still functions.I know that things are only as valuable as a buyer is willing to pay, however what would an interested collector be willing to pay for such an item?

  18. rundilphurd Says:

    I inherited a General electric cigarett lighter that looks like a zippobefore you open it.When you push the top down it exposes a coil heater element to light your cigarette.The bottom has two slitts (charger connection) I cannot find any information about this lighter .please let me know if you are familliar with this make/modle…
    thank you , rundilphurd

  19. Bruce Wallin Says:

    I have been collecting 30s and 40s automobile cat’s eye cigarette lighters and have been searching for a source of replacement parts for the cat’s eyes themselves (the colored glass “eyes” and the little chrome bezels which surround them) -

    Can you help me with a name or two to contact?

    Thanks!

    Bruce Wallin

  20. A Crowther Says:

    I have a metal desk lighter in the shape of a Mercedes car grill (black and silver) with the Mercedes logo on the front. You twist the radiator cap above the mercedes logo and the lighter peace pops up. The only markings on it apart from the logo is ‘made in Japan’ on the bottom. Can anyone assist with any information on this item please.

    Thanks

    A

  21. mike Says:

    My grandfather gave me what i think is a old cigar lighter, posibly from a car or limo. the best way i can describe it looks like a old icecream float glass “the shape” it has a crome top and bottom and a thick wood looking plastic middle with a black butten near the top. its about 4″ tall and 2″ at the base. they is a round ceramic peice that the coil sits in it. I can send you pics if you will let me know were. I would just like to know the story behind it so that i can share it with my grandfather.
    thanks for your time.

  22. Jeremy Thompson Says:

    My grandmother gave me a Beattie Jet Lighter that belonged to my grandfather. He has dementia and cannot tell me much about the piece. It has a patent number of 1894300. I have tried to verify the age of this, I believe it may have been made in the 30′s, but not for sure. Can you tell me more about the company, and the time that they started in the business. And maybe what the first patent number was? I could not find a web site just for the Beattie Jet Company, just mostly on other sites containing all brands of lighters. Anyone who may have information please email me at lebmxxx07@yahoo.com. Thanks so much for you time. JET

  23. Linda Says:

    We have a CYMA minx lighter from an Aunt who lived in Japan approximately 1962 . It has never been lit and still in package never had fluid in it. What can you tell me about it? It seems to be ornate in design

  24. Ryan Says:

    Restoring a 1949 Mercury Truck and we found an automobile lighter. The end of the lighter has a Schnauzer Dog (Aftermarket?) as the handpiece. Do you know where it may have come from, how old it might be, or it’s value. Just curious about it’s origins.

  25. jason Says:

    i have a “reuge ste. croix” music box/lighter combo that i know nothing about. anyone that can help me out please e-mail me at jasonkuehn77@yahoo.com

  26. Maelyn Says:

    I have a beautiful silver Mylflam table lighter. I am having trouble finding helpful info on Mylflam, outside of the actual website,in which I see similar lighters, but not mine. Is this because there is just not alot of interest in the Mylflam brand? I live in Idaho and don’t have any real resources outside of the internet to turn to, so please help if you can, email: maelyn.diaz@msucougar.org

  27. Janet Says:

    I have a Ross Electronics battery operated (still has old Ross batteries with it) cigarette lighter in form of a book about the size of a small prayer book. There is a story printed on paper inside re Christopher Columbus and the origin of tobacco. Each side has one page (made of paper) in the “book”. Says it was made in Japan. Also has Ross Electronics on back along with zip code indicating it probably was made in late 1960′s. Has leatherette “boards on it and center is gold colored metal. Never seen one like it and can’t find one either. Have you ever seen one like this?

  28. Roger Says:

    In the early 60s I bought a new Champ lighter for around a dollar. It has the US patent #2809511. The lid leaf spring recently broke and I want to know how to repair the spring. If repaired does the lighter have any collectable value?

  29. TONY TUREK Says:

    HI!
    I WAS WONDERING IF YOU HAVE EVER COME ACROSS A MINIATURE CYLINDRICAL LIGHTER…1 1/2″ IN HEIGHT…IT LOOKS TO BE STERLING, AND IS MARKED EVERYWHERE. THE BOTTOM IS MARKED WALDORF ASTORIA, THE TOP IS ENGRAVED WITH A PICTURE OF THE HOTEL, AND INSIDE THE CAP IS ENGRAVED:WESTON INT’L. CORP.
    N.Y.C. MADE IN U.S.A….IT IS A TINY LITTLE FLINT LIGHTER, NEVER USED…ANY CLUES?
    THANK YOU SO MUCH!

  30. maria Says:

    I have a lighter with an old style Mickey Mouse (with the long tail) on the front of it, oval,about 2 inches tall. I have never seen another lighter with Mickey of any kind. Can you tell me anything about it?

  31. Chuck Says:

    I recently purchased an unusual coil type lighter. It has a hand holding a hood over the element. It is attached to a very ornate scrolled piece. It has been modified with a transformer to allow a 110 plug in setup to be used.

    It was supposed to be out of a car and is 12 volt.

    Help?????

  32. beth Says:

    We recently purchased some Mylflam sterling lighters at auction and need to purchase flints. We are unable to locate any on-line dealers of parts for this brand.

    Thanks so much!

  33. penny colwell Says:

    I have just come across a Tiffany and Co. Sterling lighter. It has a basket weave design for the case and is very slim. I think it might be a lighter for a woman possibly art deco???? Could you provide any information on this lighter.
    Thanks
    Penny

  34. Joy Atkins Says:

    I was gave a porcelain cigarette table set. It has on the bottom a sticker that says (Genuine Iman)made in Japan and also has the words PAR design on it. It is from the 1940′s when my aunt lived in Japan. Her husband was a pilot and was shot down in action.It is colbalt blue/gold with flowers on it. I have the cigarette holder,lighter and two ashtrays. Can you tell me anything about this?

  35. Cindy Hower Says:

    I have a double sided, flat, silver metal cigarette case with the attached lighter. A map of the United States is inscribed on one side and a map of Europe is inscribed on the other. I think this is from the late 1940′s or early 1950′s, and possibly from Germany (??) Can you tell me anything about this? Thanks!

  36. Joan Davis Says:

    Enjoyed the site very much! Have a world globe cigarette lighter and world globe cigarette holder; both with music box on bottoms that play theme from movie “Around the World in 80 Days” I think. No mfg. marks on either one. Can anyone share any information? Thank you.

  37. Jessica Sorensen Says:

    Hello,

    My mom and I ran across your site and it so happens we have the exact lighter mentioned in question 11, The Capitol Lighter Patent Sept. 17.12

    Do you know the history and the value. Thank you very much.
    Jessica Sorensen & Holly Clayton

  38. Carolyn D. Baird Says:

    I have 2 very old cig. lighter and don’t know what to do with them.
    One is A Unique Dunhill–Made in Switzerland-USA Patent 1022140 It is approx. 1 1/2 long”x1 1/4 high–Silver, the other one is 14/16 in length x 3/4″ in high–very small -silver plated-can’t read Name. Any suggestions as to value or what to do with them? Thanks , Carolyn D. Baird

  39. ED HOLLAND Says:

    YOUR WEBSITE IS INTERESTING,I NEVER WOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT LIGHTERS WERE VARY COLLECTABLE. QUESTION ? I WAS GIVEN A LIGHTER BY WWII VETERAN THAT HE WAS ISSUED BY THE MILITARY IN 1939 THAT HE NEVER USED. ITS A ZIPPO DESIGN BUT WAS MADE BY COBID AND HAS A VICEROY CIGARETTE EMBLEM INSCIBED ON IT AND THE ORIGINAL BOX, I SEARCHED THE INTERNET BUT DIDNOT FIND ANYTHING LIKE THIS ONE, MAYBE YOU WOULD KNOW SOME HISTORY AND THE WORTH OF THIS MYSTERY LIGHTER. THANKS ED

  40. john dupre Says:

    I have an old hand painted lighter and stamped on the bottom it says
    perky high class .

  41. marinel hayes Says:

    my son brought me a pack of marlboro cigarettes with the marlboro man on them in 1999, of course i put them up and did not open them, are they worth anything?

  42. ray miller Says:

    I recently bought an old sterling silver lighter marked on the base, R&G lighter, patent pending, sterling case. The lighter is in great condition and appears to be in working order, has a gold winged foot on lid. Would appreciate any information anyone has as to age, value, etc. thank you

  43. shirley shugar Says:

    Hi I have an old lighter very heavy metal in the shape of a suit of armor it has a flint and wick and I know it is at least 60 years old it stands on a wooden base and is approx. 12 inches high it is grey metal of some sort and has a screw in the back to fill it , I was wondering if you could give me any information on this lighter, value maker etc. thank you very much!

  44. Jan Gentry Says:

    I recently came across a brass electric lighter from my grandfather (deceased since 1972) it is roundish in shape with 4 leafs vertically from base to top. The cord is original an in very good condition and it works quite well. As a child it reminded me of a baseball. I would imagine it is from the 1920′s or ’30′s because my dad said he remember it from his youth. Would anyone have information on this item and possibly know what it would be worth today?

  45. Anthony Says:

    I have an antique electric cigar/cigarette lighter that no one I have checked with has seen. It is a Mapacuba advertising piece that lights up in the front. Please view my listing for it in the Show & Tell gallery on Collectors Weekly for further details and any information on it would be greatly appreciated. I look forward to your response. Thank you very much my friend and have a blessed day! : )

  46. Robert Lietz Says:

    I have a lighter that slides over a pack of cigarettes. It has a door you would open to retrieve the cigarette and then a lighter on top to light the cigarette. It has a stamp on it that say’s cigtop lighter and pat pending. I have searched everywhere and cannot find even one single thing on this. Could you help me with it and the value of it?
    Thanks,
    Bob

  47. Deborah Pierce Says:

    I have a round cigarette lighter, cooper color.
    Don’t know anything about it except it has what seems to have cloipe a la rance on the front of it and 13 with a wheel between the 1 and 3. Could you help me with it as to where and by what company made it and also the value of it.
    Thanks
    Deborah

  48. dave Says:

    my wife bought a box of lighters at a auction, this one is shaped like a gold bar and says 1000 grams on side of it,
    has anyone seen a lighter like this and if so does that means there is 1000 grams of gold in it? thanks for ya help

  49. F J Says:

    my electric cigarette lighter 8 inches high by 4 by4inches and weighs about 3 stone was origionally bolted to a wall i believe in a dance hall in ireland any info would be appreciatedff

  50. Donna Says:

    I have a electric table gas lighter from Ross Electronics Corp . Its called BOOK OF SMOKING and is shaped like a book.There is no date on it and is in a little cardbord folder.

  51. PATRICIA DURSO Says:

    My husband bought me this Dunhill lighter . Gas. Looks like silver or nickle. “Made in Switzerland”. USRE24163 PATENTED
    does the patent # tell anything about its age. Thanks

  52. John Weeks Says:

    I have a lighter in the shape of an old car.If you press a button on the side the hood opens to expose the wick.The underside is stamped “made in occupied japan ” Does anyone know anything about this lighter? It is the size of a matchbox car.

  53. RANDY GAUPER Says:

    WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT PERKY LIGHTERS. 1 1/2 inch tall 1 1/4 across brown w/ big black spotted areas push push down to spin barrel and expose wick on bottom high class perky THANK YOU

  54. debra boriskin Says:

    I have a “VINTAGE ASR GREEN BAKELITE CIGARETTE LIGHTER” It is marked “ASR” & “MADE IN USA”.
    Does anyone know what it might be worth?
    Thanx

  55. Trevor Buchanan Says:

    I was given a lighter as a gift. It was apparently bought in Greece, as to the exact date(late 60′s early 70′s) I’m not entirely sure. There are no dates of any kind on it and the only identifying marks are what appear to be “CSPRING”(with the C connecting to the G on the bottom like an underline) and “Cyma” beside it. It is still in the original box and comes with a flint holder and tiny brush. does anyone have any info on this lighter or an idea if it’s a collectable? Thank you.

  56. Kay Says:

    I have an old Prince lighter with the name Minx on it. Its silver and like a lipstick tube. I know nothing about it and as of yet have found no info on it. ANyone have knowledge on this? Thanks.

  57. LRaymon Says:

    I believe I have an Art Deco piece. “Ronson Ten-A-Case cigarette lighter with cigarette holder in one. The felt pocket and box all in excellent shape. Felt pocket has Ronson stamped on it, as well as the box has the “Ten-A-Case Fashioned by RONSON” stamped on the front, with “WORLD’S GREATEST LIGHTER” on the lower right hand corner. The outside of the lighter has the name of my parent’s friend engraved on it. It was an old friend and her name was Zana which is the name engraved. I’m pretty sure it’s from the 30′s ish, she was born in 1898 and passed away in 1990.
    I’m curious how much the case would be; or since it’s monogrammed is it worth more or less?
    thanks for your help,
    LRaymon

  58. george r. lipponer Says:

    I have a lighter in the shape of a military tank, gold in color and when it’s aerial is flipped, the flint pops us. It is like a recon tank, with simulated rubber tires. It was given to me by a british chap in the fifties. Made in japan. Any idea what it might be worth? george

  59. josh Says:

    Great article. Im 15 years old and my collection is up to around 80 lighters. Your exactly right about the throw away jeneration. My favorite lighter is the 1920′s Thorens with the wind gard.

  60. gary shapiro Says:

    hi there, my father and uncles founded a company called “Electrolite Toronto”…they held the patent for the chrome smoking stands with the lighter attached to the handle that went over the ashtray…patent was from 1951…they also made the beautiful dc3 airplane stands that some of you might be aware of…they used ronson lighters thast were very thin and fit in the handle…nice piece of family history, happy collecting, gary c shapiro toronto

  61. almy j moore Says:

    Have you heard of a Thore ” Lifetimer ” cigarette lighter? It is an all aluminum lighter with no markings. I have one in the original box – otherwise, I wouldn’t have any idea how to identify it. The box also contains the guarantee bond [a certificate with a number specific to this lighter]. It looks art deco. The company address on the guarantee bond is: Thore Manufacturing Co., General Sales Offices, 220 S. State St., Chicago 4, Ill. On the box it states “Made In These United States”. Any information on this lighter would be appreciated. Thanks, Al

  62. Deb Shaffer Says:

    How old is a Scotty dog leaning on a lighter with the word “book” from Occupied Japan and a stamp of a ship on bottom? Maybe bronze.

  63. Michael T.Kistler Says:

    I am trying to discover the manufacturer of a very beautiful combination case and lighter thought to be recovered from a German U-boat officer during the prisoner processing in 1944 or 1945. The case has a bold embosed rendering of the Harbor at Gibralter and the only Id info on the case is on the brass retaining springs clips that is stamped, “hillshenstone” The lighter is a ronson type that has an Id stmping on the bottom that says “Falcon”, Made in England. The lighter/case combo was given to me by my father in law who was a Navey Shore patrol officer. The prisoner who was “Relieved” of the item said that it was taken from a British casualty of a submarine encounter somewhere in the north atlantic. The German officer was being processed at Norfolk Virginia.
    I have tried to locate the origin of the lighter and case but the British folks I spoke to via the internet have been of no help to date. It’s really a beautiful piece of work. I would appriciate any info. Soho Joe.

  64. Bob Louth Says:

    Good evening,I have a old zippo lighter it looks like a 5 barrell lighter patent number 2032695 I actually still have the zippo box it came in.it has the old background which shows the lighter for the flints and the fuel.Do you know what year this lighter would be and because it has been sitting so long what would be the best way to clean the rust off of it?Also do you have any idea what it might be worth?Thank you very much.Have a great evening.Bob Louth

  65. Early Owen Says:

    I have a (Japanese ) Nichika gas lighter jet flame, the patent number is 20610. This lighter has never been used, it is still in the original box, brown pouch and still has the owners manual. The lighter is with gold Japanese symbols. Could you plese tell me if it is worth anything and some history on this lighter?
    Thank you
    Early

  66. Walter Bates Says:

    I have a Hav A Tampa 10k mens ring. All i can find out is that they were not sold in stores, but were given out from the company for years of service. It is in mint condition, made to look just like the cigar lable with red paint all intack. Would like to know if all i know is true and about the age of it? Thank you Walter.

  67. tom cooley Says:

    I have a Frank M. Whiting lighter marked Sterling Pat. Pending about 2 1/2 inch across and 2 1/2 in tall glass base silver rim and silver cone on top you pull up and you have a flint lighter..either a purse or a table lighter..common or scarce???

  68. Da Smoka Says:

    A pipe, cigar, or cigarette lit with the old styled, liquid fueled lighter taste absolutely terrible – you might as well have used a R.R. signal lantern, and have destroyed the pleasure of a fine tobacco/smoke. It’s matches, electric, or butane all the way – you can never go back.

  69. Sue Says:

    Friends of my parents had two foals born with in days of each other on their farm some years ago. Both were palomino coloured. They named one Star and the other Ronson ‘because he was lighter’. It was years before I understood the significance of the name :-).

  70. Cathie Harker Says:

    Greetings from New Zealand…I was left a very attractive lighter in my granddad’s effects when he passed away. I would love to find out more about it and hope you can be of some help. It is a Starlon Valentina-S U.S.A. Pat. 3044504. It has a lovely decoration of mother-of-pearl on the front with paua (abalone?) diamond shaped inserts. It is in very good condition. Can you shed any light (no pun intended) on it’s history or value? Many thanks from Cathie.

  71. Ricky Ty Willard Says:

    I have a Penguin Cigarette lighter and case both with ‘The Ventures’ on them and would like to know how much it’s worth. I’ve looked all over the internet and haven’t found anything at all about it so i figure it’s very rare. My late father Ty Willard was a close friend of Nokie Edwards and played with him during the 60′s and i imagine that’s who he got it from. He was also a session guitarist on Mel Taylor and The Magics in Action’s Drums a-go-go album.


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