Collectible Vintage Lighters: Are They Worth Using?

A brief sampling of very old lighters that still get the job done.

A Warning.

If you have come to the conclusion that using collectible vintage lighters to make

Ronson Standard
Ronson Standard Chromium Butler

fire is the path you’re going to follow, then I want to say be careful. Any time you are working with any kind of fuel you need to make certain that your workspace is properly vented.

I’ve been doing this for a while and fortunately I haven’t had any catastrophic events. I have however, had a fire or two that if I hadn’t been prepared could have led to something really bad.

If fluid leaks or spills wipe it up and give it time to let fumes dissipate. Working on these old lighters can be a lot of fun but remember playing with fire is not a joke.

Butane Fuel Lighters

There are many vintage lighters out there that require butane to fuel them. Some of these butane lighters produce a jet type torch flame while others produce a flame more akin to that of a wicked oil lighter.

One key advantage with these butane lighters is the fuel tanks are fully sealed. This will result in much better fuel economy because your fuel can not evaporate.

Ronson Varaflame
Varaflame by Ronson

One of the major negative aspects of vintage butane lighters is the plumbing. If you go to pump some fuel in and you end up spraying butane all over the room, I wouldn’t try to put any more in it. Better to leave that to a professional because some of them can’t be fixed anyway.

Zippo Fuel, Ronsonol, etc.

You can surf about the web and find folks who laud one brand of fuel over all others. I don’t know if I really favor one over the others, I can’t remember ever getting a can of fuel and thinking, “that fuel really sucked.” That being said, I tend to use Zippo fuel because I have discovered some clever uses for their metal cans. And it’s available pretty much everywhere.

But I have used some of the others from time to time and they all seem about the same to me. Worse comes to worst you can always dry out your wick lighters or purge your butane lighters if you don’t like the way they behave when set aflame.

And possibly the greatest advantage of all with using a refillable(new or used) lighter is that a multitude of fuels could be used.

I was just thinking back to when I said earlier that I don’t remember buying bad fluid. Do you remember that? And that is the truth but I just thought to myself, “how many times have you bought a disposable lighter that sucked at doing the job you bought it to do?”

Happens all the time doesn’t it? Yet another reason to stop buying those plastic products and start using a real tool that was intended to make fire by someone who knew how important that is. Sorry, I’m getting off the soapbox now.

The Zippo or the Dunhill?

This article is not intended to be comprehensive but rather a first conversation if

Zippo
Zippo

you’ve never used vintage or refillable cigarette lighters but are intrigued by the idea.

As such, I will highlight two lighters that are not only dependable but incredibly simple in design and easy to maintain.

First is the Zippo. To be such an American Icon very few people seem to understand how a Zippo actually works. They get pissed off about having to add fuel all the time. If you use a Zippo(or any wick lighter for that matter) regularly that lighter tends to work better and more smoothly than a lighter that sits around with no fuel in it most of the time. So, give the Zippo a chance but make sure that you keep up your end of the bargain by keeping it fueled.

If you like to personalize then Zippo is the perfect choice for you because there’s a gazillion of ’em out there.

The World War II Era Dunhill Service Lighter is another very simple design that is ultra-reliable. Also known as a “trench” lighter, the example you see on this page was without a doubt the most reliable lighter I have ever owned.

It is a little odd looking, especially to young folks today who don’t remember what it was like to have to get up and walk to the television just to change the channel. But I believe that’s one reason we need to continue to use these sorts of products.

Dunhill
Dunhill Service Lighter

To remember what it is like to accomplish things with our own hands.

An Expectation a Product Would Last

These are just a couple of examples of products that were manufactured at a time in history when people cared about workmanship that can still be found relatively inexpensive.

There’s a whole wide world out there if you decide that vintage lighters are the way to go but you can’t go wrong starting with something simple.

I’d like to invite you to leave all comments below. I am eager to hear topics that readers would like to know more about or products that you’d like to see discussed.

You can also email: bossman@dependableflame.com if you have any questions or inquiries regarding lighters that you might have for sale or even just want to get rid of.

You can join our email list to the right on any page at DependableFlame.com.

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Author: Joseph

After 25 yrs working for the government, I couldn't be more happy than I am working on old lighters. Be cautious when anyone tells you what you need or have to do...

4 thoughts on “Collectible Vintage Lighters: Are They Worth Using?”

  1. I have some vintage lighters and zippos that I collect. I do not use them but I keep them because they are vintage. I like a lot of the style of them. always hated the smells of zippos though. great article very interesting stuff here thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Crystal. And please let me know any particular lighter or aspect of needing fire that you would be interested in knowing more about. Also, tell your smoking friends. I have a lot of cool ideas on the way.

  2. You only live once (unless you believe in Reincarnation, but even if that’s true, you still won’t get your lighter back!) so I say light’em up and screw “vintage”. When the word vintage is used, it usually means someone else besides yourself will enjoy it, but you’ll just worship it on a shelf. 😉

    Forget Zippo, though (unless you’re collecting lighters from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which case you need an Elsa Lucky Lighter 4-leaf clover edition). The ONLY lighter worth buying and actually putting on a shelf (right next to a Maltese Falcon replica) is the 1936 Ronson Touch Tip wind-up Watch Clock with white Tortoise circular shell. If it was good enough for Bogie and his character Sam Spade then it’s good enough for me! The lighter is a veritable magic trick. Pick up the wand and touch it to the button and PRESTO your wand is now on fire! Oddly, I’m having the darndest time locating one for something even approaching “reasonable.”

    I don’t call 1000 pounds ($1227 on a good day in the US) reasonable for a non-working example (what some guy in England wants for his on Gumtree and is the ONLY one for sale in the whole wide online world as I type this. The same exact model and condition (i.e. not working) sold for about $192 at the beginning of July on eBay (two weeks before I started looking) so there is hope of obtaining one for a home theater display at a price not just shy of getting a man into space, but don’t count on it.

    If they work, you’re probably looking at $800 as long as you don’t buy it from some dude in England that thinks his non-working junk ($400 more) is better than other people’s approaching pristine working models. Oddly, it’s still for sale and will be for some time, I imagine unless some rich guy has a Bogie fetish and has to have one NOW.

    Light it again Sam! (Ok that’s a Casablanca reference, really but Sam I am, said Sam).

    1. I like the way you think, Sam. If I’m not allowed to use it then I likely have no use for it. The Ronson Touch Tip with circular clock will be the perfect addition to your home theater display. A quick search of Worthpoint shows a few poor condition examples in the $150 neighborhood in the last fifteen yrs or so ranging up to the highest selling for $848.99 in March 2018.

      Thank you for the comment and if I should find myself in possession of a Ronson Touch Tip with the white round clock, I’ll give you a holler.✌️

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