The 19th century saw a widespread usage of cigarettes. As a result, several lighter designs were quickly granted patents in Europe and the US. So naturally, collectors are drawn to a particular product when it offers a lot of creativity and variety.
There have always been obsessive collectors looking for old lighters to add to their collection. Zippo is undoubtedly the most well-known among early manufacturers. Every antique lighter enthusiast aspires to own a vintage Zippo lighter with a distinctive design.
But are vintage Zippo lighters worthwhile collecting? Where can you locate one, and how much should you spend on one? Continue reading if you want the answers to these questions.
History of the Zippo Manufacturing Company
The zippo multipurpose lighter, which was a shift from the traditional cigarette lighters, characteristic “click,” its lifetime guarantee, and the Zippo windproof lighter are all trademarks of the Zippo Manufacturing Company.
Before concentrating on lighters, Zippo’s founder, George Blaisdell, had a troubled commercial history. Nevertheless, he kept the company operating through government contracts throughout World War I.
Mr. George Blaisdell decided to refurbish the Austrian lighter in late 1932. This discovery led him to create a little rectangular case and hinged its cover. He maintained the flame-protecting vent design. The end product was a stylish light that could operate with just one hand. Mr. Blaisdell invented the moniker “Zippo.”
In Bradford, Pennsylvania, in 1932, George Grant Blaisdell founded the Zippo Manufacturing Company.
He came up with several versions of the term “zipper” because he loved the way it sounded before settling on “Zippo,” which he thought had a more “contemporary” feel. The Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford has the first 1933 Zippo portable lighter on display.
World War II profoundly affected the Zippos. When America entered the war in 1941, Zippo stopped making lighters for the general market and focused all of its production on the American military. Due to this initiative, the steel-case Zippo lighter with a black crackle finish entered the market.
The Zippo’s status as an American icon was further cemented by some wartime tales, like the one about how it stopped a bullet, heated soup in helmets, and lit the instrument panel of a downed Army plane to assist the pilot land safely.
Additionally, Zippos started appearing more frequently in Hollywood films, notably war pictures, like Casablanca (1942), but film noir boosted their legendary stature.
Meanwhile, three million Zippos were produced at the height of wartime manufacturing in 1945.
Zippo received its second patent, serial 2517191, on August 1st, 1950. The Zippo lighter’s design has mostly remained unchanged with a few minor updates.
Bottom stamp date codes started for every Zippo lighter in the mid-1950s. Then, the date codes were to serve for quality control, but nowadays, the date code has since become a priceless resource for Zippo collectors.
The company stamped the word “Zippo” in block letters from 1933 through the mid-1950s. In the late 1940s, they created the Zippo script logo, and by 1955, it had gradually replaced the lighter’s bottom stamp. They revamped the logo in the late 1970s and added it to the bottom stamp in 1980.
To continue giving a better experience, Zippo manufactured the Slim lighter in 1956, which marked a significant turning point. To Zippo’s surprise, men also found this somewhat smaller Zippo lighter created with ladies in mind appealing.
This “trench art” can dramatically raise the value of a Zippo lighter. By the 1950s, Zippo had established itself as an aesthetic symbol and produced lighters with unique designs for various businesses, organizations, and sports teams for promotional purposes.
Businesses celebrate the service of their employees or retirement by giving staff personalized lighters. The Zippo Slim was slimmer than other Zippos, and they added a more streamlined lighter to the company’s portfolio in 1956.
When soldiers began carrying Zippo lighters with engraved personal messages on them frequently during the Vietnam War, Zippo lighters also became highly popular.
Any antique Zippo lighter collector highly values these vintage Zippo lighters from the Vietnam era.
The New Zippo Lighter Era
The proprietors of Zippo have grown the business in recent years, mainly since the 2000s, and have acquired several other brands, including rival Ronson Consumer Products Corporation.
The company has expanded its production to include various consumer goods in response to the decline of smokers and the decline in sales of new Zippo lighters.
Zippo-branded items, including watches, sunglasses, and casual apparel, are now available. In addition, Zippo patented their lighter’s distinctive click in 2018, making it one of the most known sounds in the world.
Notable Models and Most Valuable Zippo Lighters to Spark Your Collection
Zippo lighters have been the go-to for avid smokers, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone who frequently needs to start something on fire in challenging settings for over 50 years.
Even though some people now prefer butane lighters, Zippo still sold the most expensive Zippo lighter in its history in 2007 to commemorate its 75th anniversary.
In early 1933, the Zippo Manufacturing Company sold its first lighters after being established in 1932. Zippo vintage lighters stand out for mixing a naphtha-soaked wick with the flint-wheel igniting common of contemporary disposable lighters.
Due to their design, lighters are more reliable than butane lighters in cold weather and are particularly windproof.
There is a vintage Zippo lighter for everyone, whether you prefer the exposed lighting of industrial design or the grungy vibe of 1970s punk. The most recognizable vintage Zippo lighters ever produced are seen here.
In 1933, over 25,000 lighters were made. While the first Zippos were simple, the firm started experimenting with intricate designs that first year, even if they were plain at the beginning.
This custom is still practiced today, and the metal Zippo has been adorned with thousands of different designs.
12. Vietnam War Zippo Lighter
Due to their uniqueness and historical relevance, Zippo lighters from the Vietnam War era are immensely rare today.
These early models of the Zippo lighters were the first to be personalized by specific soldiers yet had the basic Zippo design.
As a result, there are wide distinct varieties, some embellished with military emblems, pinup beauties, or biblical verses.
These rare antique Zippo lighters each have a unique tale to share about the soldier who formerly possessed them, which makes them extremely valuable to collectors.
Zippos are, in actuality, much more than just basic metal cigarette lighters. The locally engraved ubiquitous Zippo became ingrained in the memory of the Vietnam War.
11. First Patent Zippo Vintage Lighters
The early Zippo lighters are pretty collectible due to their original patent design; therefore, you won’t commonly find them for sale. Compared to the traditional Zippo lighter that most people picture, these variants look to be a bit thinner and longer.
They were available in a range of casing designs, including brass, chrome, and gunmetal. Fans of the sleek, Art Deco style will love these Zippos.
Since they are very rare, you can agree that the price will definitely be high.
10. Mid-Century Zippo Lighter
The second patent from 1950 allowed Zippo to mass-manufacture their lighters after the war. As a result, these lighters resemble contemporary lighters in terms of style quite a bit.
The mid-century Zippo lighters’ straightforward form also made them the ideal medium for advertising.
Several businesses decided to exploit Zippo’s notoriety to promote their logo and attract new customers.
The most well-known partnerships have been with Playboy and Harley Davidson. Notwithstanding their widespread use, it’s frequently not simple to obtain these lighters.
9. Black Crackle Zippo Lighters
The Black Crackle Zippo lighter is far more similar to the modern Zippo than its rivals from the 1930s, and it was this model that helped Zippo become the recognizable American brand it is today.
The alleged motive for the namesake black crackle paint was to coat these rounder, sturdier lighters to deter enemy snipers. Their finishing was with either chrome or nickel.
Due to the high demand for World War II collectibles, these historic lighters are no less challenging to locate than the 1934 Patent Zippo lighters.
8. Marlboro Zippo Collection
The Zippo is the ideal everyday carry because it is dependable, adaptable, and elegant.
This Zippo was made exclusively for the Dutch market in 2000 and was a part of the “Marlboro Collection.”
In 2002, its limited production ceased. The four Zippos in the collection are all “Vintage appearance” models, which have flat tops, bottoms, and square corners similar to the Zippos made in 1937. The “Come To Where The Flavour Is” solid brass Zippo is very sought-after.
This Zippo lighter model is quite rare and expensive among vintage lighter collectors. They can value up to $150.
7. Vintage Windproof Chrome Zippo Lighter
A Genuine Vintage piece, this Chrome Zippo Windproof Lighter is stamped with a 1950 Zippo Date Code and comes with the original casing.
It is decorated with the original, iconic International Trucks Logo, which has been beautifully engraved and enamel-filled the traditional way.
Even though the lighter is almost 70 years old, it still looks fantastic and functions well.
According to the seller, this particular one had been cleaned and serviced, with new Zippo replacements for the wick, flint, and batting.
However, it will still cost a little above $130 to have your hand on this piece of history.
6. Vintage Zippo Horse-Themed Lighter
These are among the 1970s Zippo collections, and they have a magnificent and vibrant enamel horse theme that adorns the front of the lighter.
If you find any of these models, they may fetch you a lot of money due to their rarity.
On several internet marketplaces, you can find a 1970 Stamp Dated Zippo brushed chrome in mint condition with no scratch and has never been fired, carried, or used.
It would make the ideal present for you or the equestrian in your life. Along with the lighter are the original Zippo box and guarantee.
Fortunately, despite being over many years old, the Zippo lighter is still covered by Zippo’s lifetime guarantee, so if you find one, buy this vintage lighter from the past with assurance.
5. Disneyland Collection Zippo Lighters
An early rendition of Disney’s Magic Castle emblem is seen on this 1964 Zippo, hiding the famous castle behind a huge stylized “D.”
The Zippo may have been sold as a memento at the 1955-opened Disneyland, or it could have been handed to staff members as a prize or retiring present.
The lighter has a powerful spark and a steady flame and is in fine functioning condition. Since it doesn’t have the copper wires that Zippo put to its wicks in the 1980s, I think it still has the original wick.
Although it is undoubtedly aging, it is in good cosmetic condition. It has a matte, brushed chrome appearance with numerous significant surface dents and scratches.
4. Niagara Falls Vintage Zippo Lighters
Another luxury lighter on our list of most valuable zippo lighters is this Zippo lighter, a 1991 model made in Niagara Falls, Canada, and is highly polished. It has a bottom stamp date code E-VII.
This Souvenir Zippo made in Niagara Falls at the Ontario Zippo facility is extremely rare and difficult to get.
The Niagara Falls Zippo Factory produces genuine Zippo products and prints them. It is supplied with its original box and instructions.
3. Limited Edition Zippo Lighters
Next is this beautiful 1994 limited edition vintage zippo, created for the Harley Davidson engines that are incredibly sought-after. The lighter is nearly brand new, immaculate, and in excellent functioning order.
It has a brass-patinated spherical metal sculpture insignia showing Harley Davidson’s original V-Twin engine. In addition, the Harley -Engine Series-Davidson symbol is etched on the cap.
The V-twin motor form and the limited edition number #2849 of 4000 are engraved in gold tone on the opposite side, respectively. Many individuals favor old objects in their original condition.
2. Windproof Special Anniversary Zippo Lighter
The 75th Anniversary Zippo, Zippo’s most costly lighter in company history, was launched in 2007. They didn’t just create the lighter solely for the event, though; it is actually a genuine 1933 lighter that sold for $37,000.
This lighter set a record for Zippo’s most expensive fighter ever made and currently ranks as the fifth most expensive lighter in the world. This water- and windproof lighter remains one of the most valuable and prestigious in the world today.
1. Zippo 007 Bond Lighter
We present the James Bond Solid Gold Zippo Lighter, the most exclusive piece of jewelry for any Bond lover. This engraved and uniquely numbered windproof lighter has been handcrafted in solid 18k gold to order specifically for Zippo in a run of 007 pieces.
This pure gold lighter from Zippo commemorates the company’s association with James Bond.
Zippo’s iconic windproof lighter is given the ultimate luxury treatment with a case made of solid 18k gold and a lighter insert that is gold-flashed.
In Zippo’s Pennsylvania manufacturing facility, skilled artisans employ their craftsmanship and expertise to harness the brilliance of gold, a reputedly smooth metal, to carefully create each 18k gold lighter by hand.
The Goldfinger quotation is etched on the front, and the 007 logo and serial number are engraved on the back. It is then hand-buffed to a gorgeous reflective finish. A certificate of authenticity is included with the lighter.
How to Identify Vintage Zippo Lighters
In general, an item is recognized as vintage if it is older than 40 years, and it is an antique if it is older than 100 years. Few old lighters have survived because lighters have only been used for fewer than 200 years.
These vintage lighters also had a wide range in size and shape, making it difficult to identify between them. However, when searching for antique lighters, some general guidelines include looking for ones that are either rectangular or round, have an antique finish, and are about the size of a hand’s palm.
On the other hand, vintage lighters are much simpler to locate. Particularly old Zippo lighters from the 1950s and later are simple to find because they were mass-produced and date-stamped.
Zippo Lighter Dating
A Zippo lighter’s value is frequently impacted by its manufacture date, as with other collectibles. Therefore, every Zippo windproof lighter has helpful information on the bottom that can determine when its production period.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine the actual date of earlier Zippo lighters. However, the ones with the original patent and the black crackling are distinctive and straightforward to tell apart.
Zippo employs a modern date-coding method that consists of a letter and a two-digit number.
Beginning in the middle of the 1950s, the bottom of every Zippo lighter produced had a date code stamped on it. As earlier stated, quality control was the primary goal. Since then, the date code has become a priceless resource for Zippo collectors.
You can also date Zippo lighters by the style. The first slim lighters with a flat bottom and no date code appeared in 1956. In 1957, the first markings were introduced, and they continued through 1958.
The slim lighters’ code configuration differed from that of the standard lighters between 1957 and 1965. However, since 1966, the arrangement has remained unchanged.
The style, model, and patent or patent-pending designations on the majority of lighters produced between 1933 and 1957 can also be a means of identifying them too.
If you’re unsure, you can ask experienced collectors or expert appraisers for assistance in determining the age of your ancient Zippo.
Another dating indicator is the word “Zippo,” which appears on the bottom stamp. As seen below, there have been three significant modifications.
Factors That Influence Zippo lighters’ value
Although incredibly collectible, vintage Zippo lighters aren’t as pricey as you think. This is because Zippo continues to make a number of these lighters in addition to brand-new, limited-edition models. As a result, a collector may focus on collecting contemporary Zippo lighters rather than vintage ones.
Typically, you can get a vintage Zippo lighter for less than $50. However, that doesn’t include the limited edition items, which will be a little more expensive. Additionally, the cost of some special anniversary editions can exceed several hundred dollars.
The value of antique lighters, especially Zippo lighters, is also influenced by a few elements, just like the worth of any antique item. Which are:
Rarity and Age: Naturally, it’s not always simple to find old Zippo lighters. Some things are far more expensive because they are much rarer than others. Their scarcity may be a result of age; older items are often rare to find.
Aside from the commemorative and limited edition models, the rarest Zippo lighters come from the 1930s and 1940s. After that, Zippo started mass-producing their lighters, increasing their accessibility.
Condition: Like any historical thing, the price of vintage Zippo lighters might change based on how well they are kept. A lighter in perfect condition with its original box will be worth more than one that is broken, has significant scratches or marks, or doesn’t have one.
Fortunately, since Zippo lighters are renowned for being durable and dependable, you’ll probably locate one that’s in good condition. Additionally, you might be able to repair a damaged one, thanks to Zippo’s renowned lifetime guarantee.
Date Codes: Zippo lighters’ manufacturing dates can significantly impact their cost because collectors tend to value and collect lighters from particular eras more. Zippo’s date codes are a big help in figuring out how old a Zippo lighter is.
Famous Zippo lighters from the Art Deco and Vietnam eras are only two examples.
Zippo lighters from the past are incredible collectibles. Although being everyday goods, they are some of the most sought-after collectibles because of their legacy and history, which have a broad following worldwide. In addition, they are still applicable today because of their affordability and classic design.
On websites like eBay or Etsy, you can find a ton of vintage Zippo lighters if you want to establish a collection. To avoid being duped, conduct your study and become knowledgeable about each model. Then, for the best performance, use Zippo’s lighter fluid with each Zippo lighter.
In any case, get out and begin assembling your vintage Zippo lighter collection. You never know what kind of hidden gems you might uncover!