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Collecting Zippo Lighters - A Hobby

Collecting Zippo Lighters - A Hobby

George G. Blaisdell invented the Zippo lighter in 1932. He got his idea after discovering a large and bulky Austrian made pocket lighter. Blaisdell was an oil engineer who saw an audience for a good looking lighter that would function even in windy conditions. That was over 600 million Zippo lighters ago! He produced the first Zippo lighter in Bradford, Pennsylvania, which they categorized as windproof lighters. As Mr. Blaisdell liked the sound of the word “Zipper”; thus, to resonate with that sound, he named the lighter Zippo.

During World War II, Zippo committed all its production to U. S Military. Since brass was needed to make munitions during the war, they created a steel case with a black color coating. As the color would crackle, it was then defined it as the Black Crackle case. Following the war, Zippo restarted its customer market and reverted to the traditional design.

Collecting Zippo Lighters

The older the models have become rare and hard to find! Old Zippo models are likely to be worth more than the newer ones, although it depends on the condition, design, and subject matter as well as the date of manufacture of the Zippo. As it has become a hobby for many, collectors are often willing to pay a premium for Zippo vintage lighters to add to their collection. The rarer, the better. Collectors may or may not form “themes” for themselves seeking out specific kinds of lighters to add to their collection. These can include military, advertisers, iconic brands, sports, art design and more.

Furthermore, where most of the market products have an expiry date or depreciate with the time, the Zippo pocket lighter is supported by a lifetime guarantee. It has been over 85 years, and absolutely no one has spent a single penny to fix the Zippo Lighter’s mechanical parts regardless of its age or condition. Zippo pocket lighters have become a global icon because of its reliability and durability. So, in case if you have a non-working Zippo, it is worth getting it fixed and to check out its potential value.

To determine the age of a Zippo lighter, one should check the bottom stamp codes. The bottom stamp codes are date codes, which depict the manufacturing year of the lighter. It is a myth that the codes on the bottom indicate the quality of the lighter! The embedded information on Zippo is a unique date format that reveals the year, and in recent times the month as well, of its production date. Since the interest in collecting Zippo has increased over the years, so has imitations and counterfeits of this iconic product. Therefore, the unique way of date stamping helps to differentiate Zippo from lookalikes.

At one point in time there was a wild rumor that prisoners manufactured Zippo lighters, and the bottom codes show their crime or length of the sentence. That is entirely untrue. Zippo lighters are mass-produced in Bradford, PA, by employees who are compensated for their service to the company.

Fun Fact- Zippo Lighters Have Starred in More Than 2000 Films [1]

Zippo’s windproof lighters have made screen appearances in over 2,000 films. They appear in every type of film with varying budgets, over and over Zippo lighters have been a perfect prop for actors. This is not limited to the silver screen; Zippo lighters have been part of countless prime-time networks, television shows, and acclaimed streaming content.

Zippo lighters have always been the affordable fancy items for crew gifts and have been used as favors at award parties. Zippo never paid for its “advertisement” on the silver screen as a prop yet earned a role in so many productions. That is the enormity of this product.

COTY - “Collectibles of the Year”

In 1992 Zippo Manufacturing produced the first Zippo especially for the collector. This Zippo was only available during the year of production and was also limited in number. It was received so enthusiastic that Zippo decided to do this every year. It suddenly stopped after 11 years of beautiful Zippo’s known as the COTY’s. After 12 years of not making a COTY, Zippo resumed in 2014.

The pewter emblem on Midnight Chrome marked the first Collectible of the Year 1992 that was honored on Zippo’s 60th anniversary. In 1993, 'Varga Girl' look recalled Zippo’s first national advertisement. Later in 1994, the D-Day Memorial saluted the 50th anniversary of “the longest day” with a black crackle model. In 1995 Mysteries of the Forest introduced a new ‘Technigraphics’ imprinting process. When four lighters put together on canvas creates a puzzle. It is a very desirable collectible to this day and has recently been reimagined by Zippo.

In 1996, Zippo featured its national advertisement of Pinup Girls. Later in 1997, Zippo’s 65th anniversary commemorative lighter presented an emblem made with pewter alloy, to remember the era of Zippo’s establishment. The 1998 collectible celebrated the 1947 Zippo Car with an antiqued symbol on the chrome finish. The 1999 Millennium collectible signaled the dawn of the new millennium. In the year 2000, Keeper of the Flame honored fire, which may have been discovered by prehistoric man but made seamless by Zippo.

They honored the unbreakable bond between Hollywood and Zippo in the year 2001. Hollywood’s Leading Light saluted Zippo with its own Hollywood star on a new gold dust finish. In 2002, the eleventh and the last year, Friends for a Lifetime commemorated Zippo’s 70th Anniversary Collectible of the Year.
Every Zippo lighter has a background story that could be emotional, funny, or heroic. People use these collectibles daily across the world. They carry Zippo lighters to work, to events, even during wars throughout recent history.

Fun Fact- Not All collectors are smokers.

It is surprising to note that not all Zippo collectors are smokers. Almost fifty percent of collectors are non-smokers. Many enjoy collecting new, vintage, or fancy Zippo pocket lighters and are in the Zippo collecting communities. Collectors can even collect Zippos while traveling, as Zippo clubs exist not only in America, but almost globally, like England, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, etc.

To wrap up…

Is it possible for any company to make limited versions of their product, add uniqueness, and slap it with a lifetime guarantee? Well, they could try, but what makes Zippo standout is their “modern factor” where Zippo always remains relevant to current life trends, art, and design. Which they have been doing successfully since the first Zippo Lighter.

When there’s an amalgamation of affordability with many iterations, a long history, the modern factor, a top-notch quality, and a lifetime guarantee, then that product is something that will grow and spur the formation of collectors clubs, which is the exact case of Zippo Lighters.

Today, Mr. Blaisdell would be pleased to learn that millions of Zippo followers worldwide are collecting, purchasing, selling, exchanging, and talking about Zippo lighters daily. Collecting Zippo lighters has become a hobby for many.


[1] Zippo in Movies. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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