Collecting Vintage Cygnus Petrol Lighters: A Rabbit Hole To Disappear Down

With its unique thumb roller flint spring tension mechanism, the Penguin Cygnus petrol lighter stands out not only in the under-rated realm of Japanese made vintage lighters but in the vintage cigarette lighter world at large.

Estate Sale Find

The first Cygnus petrol lighter I recall seeing was in an online estate auction being offered with a group of four or five other items, one of the other items being a Thorens Single Claw. I was pretty green at identifying cigarette lighters at the time and it did remind me of the Dunhill Rollalite(I can’t recall if I’d actually owned a Rollalite at the time) but I noticed the novel thumb roller to the back and was intrigued.

This listing may or may not have also contained the first Thorens that I owned, definitely within the first couple of them. I was very interested in Thorens lighters of any kind so for the price I was able to buy this listing, it was a no-brainer and the Cygnus was more a curiosity than anything. I have since sold three of the items including the Cygnus and Thorens but still have the other three knocking around here somewhere.

I made my money back sufficiently enough on the Thorens to wait and not fret too much about the knife and Cygnus, just price them a little high and wait until they sell for that or almost the ask. I think I ended up holding that lighter in my inventory for well over a year before I let it go for about $35.

Roller, Small & Table Models

Like most petrol lighters that were manufactured in the middle of the last century, the Cygnus was available in a few different models, regular or standard(men’s), small or petite(lady’s) and table. That first Cygnus that I owned was of the regular variety standing 2 7/16″ or just under two and a half inches.

The small version is 1 15/16″ tall or just short of two inches. I have been looking at and collecting these lighters for a while now and it is still very difficult for me to tell the difference between the regular and small versions if they are not sitting beside each other or a ruler. The small version, however, would never be confused with the regular in your hand as its short stature makes it much more difficult to manipulate and ignite one-handed.

Table versions are much taller and thicker in general, these came with bases that were round or horseshoe shaped. I have seen listings or stories about Cygnus table lighters in the shape of at least two different buildings, as well. There are also standard size lighters that were affixed to a rectangular base, making them a table lighter.

Advertising and Enameled Examples

The front spine of that first Cygnus was engraved Remington Rand INC. As I said earlier, I was pretty new to all of this at the time and the advertising confused me and kind of turned me off.

I wasn’t used to aluminum block lighters being marked and now here was one with markings all over it and some of it was for a company I didn’t care anything about. Anyway, I have matured a little in my appreciation for vintage advertising on old lighters. Hell, I’ll buy a Cygnus today precisely because there is advertising on it that I haven’t previously encountered.

Besides engravings and emblems for advertising purposes, Cygnus lighters were also embellished with enameled Japanese imagery. I have one such lighter that is painted on both sides.

I have also seen at least two with painted or otherwise embellished tiles that run the length of one side of the lighter. One of those however, a gold example with an Egyptian motif that I own, is marked CORNWALL SLIMLINE, not Cygnus. I call that Cygnus-adjacent.

Anodized Color Variations

Cygnus petrol lighters are aluminum block lighters and therefore anodized. From what I can gather, anodizing is a process similar to plating in that it uses chemicals and electric current to treat the surface of the metal. This apparently gives the aluminum a more durable finish and perhaps has some other benefits as well.

Anodizing also allows aluminum to be finished in a variety of colors. My ignorance of the process aside, I am a huge fan of anodized aluminum lighters. Some colors produced by the process are absolutely stunning.

As an example I have included photos of this rich green and gold Cygnus that sits right at the top of my collection. I bought that lighter unidentified in a group of about ten lighters and that emerald green anodized color had me transfixed!

I have seen Cygnus in silver, gold, green, blue and black anodizing. I also own a lighter marked Prince with a different patent but looks just like a Cygnus that is a rose gold tone. Again, Cygnus-Adjacent.

Happy Collecting!

That first Remington Rand advertising lighter is responsible for the love I have for all things Cygnus today. It introduced me to that beautiful flint mechanism, the spare flint compartment in the fill screw and a handsome roller lighter that’s affordable enough for anyone to use or collect. I wish I still had it now that I have begun to collect these curious little lighters.

At the time though, I wasn’t a collector. I was just trying to pay the bills.

As I was writing this article, the mailman walked across my yard and deposited today’s mail into my box. There’s another Penguin Cygnus petrol lighter in one of those packages and it’s been all I could do not to drop what I’m doing and go tear that package open. There are two more that should arrive(separately) by the end of the week. There seems to be no bottom to this rabbit hole I’ve dropped down but I’m not complaining.

For many collectors, that’s what fuels them, finding that special lighter they lost or always wanted or once prized but was stolen or perhaps they never owned it at all, just always dreamed it theirs. It would be cool to run across another one and you can bet when that listing appears, I’ll be right there buying or placing my bid.

You can find me on YouTube every weekday morning, demonstrating how to repair petrol lighters, showing them off for potential Ebay customers or generally promulgating their existence along with some ashtrays, tobacciana and other useful mechanisms.

I try to answer all emails but am forgetful sometimes so don’t hesitate to email again, the squeaky wheel gets the grease! Just rememeber, I DO NOT WORK ON BUTANE LIGHTERS! YouTube comments get easily lost in their anti-spam system. If I don’t respond to a YouTube comment, post it on the DependableFlame Facebook page or email.

We are currently up to forty-something Ebay listings that you can access through the Current Ebay Listings page here at We earn a commission when you make a purchase on Ebay by clicking those links but your price will not be affected regardless how you arrive there to make your purchase.

This is also the time of year for The TEAM HOPE Walks, in support of HDSA-Huntington’s Disease Society of America, to take place across the country. This is a cause that my family has been involved with since my father’s diagnosis in 2010 and has supported through charitable auctions from our inception. If you are able, check out and support a walk in your area.

Until next time…✌️

Author: Joseph

Be cautious when anyone tells you what you need or have to do...

14 thoughts on “Collecting Vintage Cygnus Petrol Lighters: A Rabbit Hole To Disappear Down”

  1. Hey, I found your website extremely informational and great on the subject of vintage petrol lighters. I liked how you described each lighter in depth and what it is good for. Also, I like how you embedded your YouTube videos into the body of each article, this will help to grow the community with your audience. One thing I will suggest is that you continue to focus not just on the instructional repair articles but also the historical and review write-ups for old cigarette lighters. 

    1. Thank you Mustafa, I am incredibly appreciative for you reading the article and I am happy that you enjoyed the format of the website.

      The YouTube channel is an integral part of our operation and a key way we disseminate information for the old lighters we deal with here.

      I am publishing a new article every Monday and Thursday so rest assured, I will keep the same kind of content coming your way on a regular basis and I hope you will continue to enjoy and share them with likeminded enthusiasts.

  2. Hello, lighter enthusiasts!

    I just read an article about collecting vintage Cygnus petrol lighters, and let me tell you, it’s a fascinating read. The author, Joseph, talks about his collection and how he fell down the rabbit hole of collecting these beautiful lighters. As someone who doesn’t collect lighters, it was eye-opening to read about the intricacies and nuances of this hobby.

    The article raises some interesting questions. What is it about collecting vintage lighters that draws people in? Is it the thrill of the hunt, the nostalgia, or simply the love of a beautiful object?

    I can only imagine the joy of finding that one perfect piece to add to your collection. It must be a satisfying feeling to see your collection grow and evolve over time.

    I just wanted to take a moment to thank Joseph for sharing his passion with us. It’s always interesting to learn about new hobbies and the people who pursue them.

    So, to all you collectors out there, keep on pursuing your passions and expanding your collections. And to those of us who don’t collect lighters, maybe it’s time to start exploring new hobbies and discovering the joy of collecting beautiful objects.

    Thank you, Joseph, for sharing your journey with us. Keep on collecting those Cygnus petrol lighters and spreading the joy of vintage lighters to the world!

    1. Thank you Bob, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment with such nice words about the website and the work we are doing here.

      I think all three aspects you mention are present and contribute to collecting these little machines being so much fun and such a rewarding experience. You just don’t run across these little treasures every day. The hunt can be exhilarating, the nostalgia emotional and the lighters themselves cool.

  3. I have some questions you might be able to help out with… What is the history and significance of the thumb roller flint spring tension mechanism used in the Penguin Cygnus petrol lighter?  Also, I wonder what is the history and significance of Cygnus petrol lighters, and what are some of the variations collectors can look out for? Hope you can be able to help me out here.

    All the best,


    1. Of course Fred, I appreciate you stopping by and for asking such good questions! The thumb roller flint tension mechanism is unique to the Penguin Cygnus as no other vintage petrol lighter has exactly the same as the Cygnus though the Cupid and Viscount did employ similar but somewhat different rollers. The history of the Penguin Cygnus is shrouded in mystery as many other Japanese made lighters of the same era but the were available in many colors thanks thanks to the anodizing process on aluminum. You can read more about the Cygnus here

  4. Such a fascinating article on old-school lighters, particularily ones I’ve never heard about before until today. 

    The Cygnus lighters look rather durable and slightly modified from todays zippo brands I still frequently see every now and again. I like the styles of them, and dag-nabbit, now you have me intrigued into getting into a new hobby. 

    Thanks for read! 


    1. It is quite a hobby Jeremy and plenty of room left for you to join in on all the fun. Vintage Penguin Cygnus Petrol lighters are actually quite a bit different from Zippos you may be used to but they still function off the same principles. It’s pretty amazing once you get immersed into the world of vintage petrol lighters to see just how many different and various designs there are available to collect while all still functioning the same way. I hope you will continue to check back and delve deeper into all the world of vintage lighters has to offer!✌️

  5. Thanks for your interesting post on Vintage Cygnus Petrel lighters. 

    The anodized aluminum finish is particularly stunning. This piques my interest as my niche is balance bikes, and they now have some fantastic products available on the market made from anodized aluminum. The finish is stunning, and durable. 

    Do these lighters still function, that is, have they been fully restored? I am also curious as to where these are made in Japan, and if they are still being made?

    Best of wishes to your fundraiser walk, what a great cause. Thank you!

    1. Hello Dale, terrific to talk to you. Yes, aluminum is a fantastic material and the colors possible with the anodizing process only make it more versatile does aesthetic purposes.

      Interesting note inspired by your bicycle comment, my son is an electric lineman and he recently told me that aluminum is the go to material for electricity lines being employed nowadays. I wouldn’t have thought it would conduct sufficiently but what do I know?

      I am not sure where in Japan these lighters were produced but I don’t think they have been made since the 1960s.✌️

  6. I found your vintage petrol lighter page very informative. I enjoyed how you detailed each lighter’s use. Your YouTube videos embedded into each article will assist in building your audience’s community. Focus on repair articles and history and review articles for vintage cigarette lighters.

    I used to have a nice lighter in the past when I used to smoke. Now I don’t smoke anymore I still have all my lighters and don’t want to get rid of them. I am a bit sentimental.

    Thanks for Sharing


    1. Hello Ingrid, I appreciate you stopping by and am glad to hear you still have all your lighters! If you decide you would like to get them cleaned up so that you or someone else can use them again, let me know and I will point you toward the right video or article to help. There are many folks who don’t smoke but still collect old lighters, some still use them but only for another purpose. You never know, you might want to hand your lighters down to your children or grandchildren.✌️

  7. Farther down the rabbit hole. Hello Joe. I was just looking around after watching one of your videos that you did on a cygnus lighter. Found one that didn’t really thrill me because it was a table lighter but added it to my watch list anyway. It was engraved with 65-66. South Korea and an airman rank and name. Also had a badge on each side. One is missing unfortunately. The first thing that entered my mind is..No Way. Probably a fake. It also had a couple of cigar boxes,2 metal ashtrays with elephants on them, something called a Cadillac flare, 2 vintage like postcard cigarette adds, and a game that’s a pack of cigarettes with loose cigarettes (in a case filled with water?) You try and get the cigarettes in the case. Anyway the guy later sends me an offer for this at $10. I couldn’t resist. All this boils down to is.. Do they make fakes of this? The only markings I can find is Cygnus and a patent # on the bottom. Sorry so long winded.
    Thanks Gary

    1. Long winded comments are always welcome Gary, they’re actually the best kind!😜 I have seen plenty of Cygnus lighters, especially table models with engravings like “NCO MESS” with various locations especially Asian locales which makes sense because Cygnus lighters were manufactured in Japan. Anyway, I’ve seen plenty with military medallions as well, I would bet yours is authentic.✌️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.