When a person first becomes acquainted with Zippo Windproof Lighters, they may initially be enamored with the requisites necessary to their proper function or devote all their attention to gathering examples that fit a certain theme by which Zippo lighters have been embellished via a number of
methods and processes but eventually(and usually sooner rather than later) their questions come around to determining the actual age of the Zippos in their collection. This article will delineate the most useful resources(and especially charts that include photos for comparison) that I have discovered on the web for dating a Zippo lighter.
What About The Charts At Zippo.com?
It seems to me that for anyone asking the question, “How to date a Zippo lighter?” that sound reason would dictate the expectation that the clearest source of such information would be the website for the company that produced the lighters in the first place. Navigating to the Zippo website and specifically the page titled “Date Codes“, enthusiasts will find three visual charts(one each for Regular Full Size, Slim and Logo dates) along with one explanatory video describing how codes have been included on the bottom of every Zippo case since the mid 1950s.
This may seem like good news and if your particular lighter is properly identified in its respective chart then perhaps Zippo’s effort was good enough. There are glaring holes or oversimplifications, however, in the Regular and Slim lighter date code charts provided by Zippo as well as possible misunderstandings of the logo chart considering that some of the outdated logos have been reused on certain later Japanese market releases.
For instance, there are two valid date codes that were used on Slim lighters made in 1960 but Zippo’s Slim chart only references one of them. Zippo’s Regular Full Size lighter chart also grossly misrepresents or ambiguates the identification of models produced from 1937-1950 by lumping them all together under the patent number 2032695 when there were other markings and characteristics that made most years individually identifiable.
Zippo also confounds the identification of lighters produced from 1950-1957 by indicating that “patent pending” is a delineating factor without giving any explanation for exactly where those lines are drawn. A collector can glean valuable information from Zippo’s date code charts but can easily be led astray as well which is why I would urge the use of other, more well documented charts to rely on when dating Zippo lighters.
The Passionate Wick is one of my favorite Zippo websites and has many photos and write-ups that can be invaluable in gaining insights into any number of Zippo lighters that a collector may acquire. The page for Town & Country paint process Zippos was especially helpful to me in familiarizing myself with exactly what Town & Country meant and when they were produced.
The Passionate Wick website has a page which shows the bottom stamps for every year beginning in 1933 and going all the way up to 1992, including some years which had multiple bottom stamps for reasons such as commemorative and replica lighters. The chart definitely has some holes as well though considering that 1956 and 1957 are lumped in with those marked with the patent 2517191 and the registered symbol in the middle.
Some of these stamps are also very difficult to make out as a result of poorly lit photography. The poor photos in conjunction with some areas of misinformation(some duly noted in the margins of the chart as in error) make it difficult to commend this chart to any collector as their final source of Zippo Date Code information, so we press on!
While this site does not appear to have been updated in any way since the year 2007, there is a wealth of documented information here going so far as to examine inserts, hinges, file wheels and other characteristics to more precisely identify the year of manufacture of some of the more difficult lighters to date. There are many isolated or magnified photos which aid in documenting differentiating nuances between one lighter and another, often within the same year of production.
The charts provided along with copious explanatory notes can be somewhat cumbersome and difficult to wade through, however, especially concerning the earliest lighters produced and the nuances which indicate the exact year they were made. My mind seems to be easily distracted when trying to juggle several pieces of info in my head and I have to admit that some of the charts on the Glen Zippo page are confusing to me as my haggard mind prefers a straight-forward linear type chart over a written narrative littered with supporting photographs.
To his credit, Glen has rightly identified the multiple stamp situation of 1979 that was caused by the removing of a slash on the left side of the Zippo logo instead of the right as it should have been and apparently was corrected during that same year. This is one detail that most other Zippo Date Code charts get wrong but the failure to provide dating information for Slim Zippos along with these pages being a little tough to decipher kept me looking for a more concise option.
Moonlight Zippo’s “Dating” page may be the most thorough and easy to read of all the more detailed charts for dating Zippos that I have come across. Not only is there a page for Regular Full Size lighters but also dedicated pages to date your Zippo Slim, Canada, table lighters, boxes and fuel cans.
There is some missing info like the dual stamp of 1979 but the layout of the charts is very easy to read with photos for each year and considerable explanatory notes where they are necessary or helpful. The Moonlight Zippo site Regular and Slim lighter dating charts are presented in a linear grid type format that seems to me like the best of most of the other charts that I have encountered.
Moonlight is the only chart that I have found which properly identifies the two bottom stamps possible for a Zippo Slim Lighter in 1960. I might even go so far as to say that the Slim dating chart provided by Moonlight is the gold standard for Zippo Slim lighters but missing info on the Regular Full Size chart along with my personal preference for a more concisely constructed chart kept me searching.
Frank Dutton’s VCL Site Hosted By Toledo-Bend.com
The Vintage Cigarette Lighter site put together by Frank Dutton and hosted at Toledo-Bend.com is without question the best vintage petrol lighter identification resource available on the web today. It is somewhat sparse in regard to Zippo content however, though it does provide some key Zippo info in a very simple format that others have neglected.
I discovered the Toledo-Bend.com VCL site very early in my vintage petrol lighter journey and grew to depend on it rather quickly though my efforts were thwarted a couple years in when the site suddenly became unavailable through some sort of hosting problem that resulted in most pages loading in error. I believe the site has been navigable again since some time in the fall of 2020 and can only hope that it remains available.
I don’t think there’s a single picture of a Zippo or any component thereof on the entire site save for one Niagra Falls bottom stamp but there is a reproduction of a Zippo dating chart from the old Warman’s Zippo Lighters Field Guide(though mirroring the inadequacies of the Zippo website chart. There are some helpful outlines for when specific hinges, chimneys and base metals were used but overall I was still looking for a better Zippo Date Code chart.
For the sake of clarity, we will call this site We Love Zippo though I am not certain that the site actually has a name. I discovered this site while trying to chase down the origin of a particular Zippo Dating chart that I have seen circulating around the various Facebook lighter groups like Zippo Addicts and also seen posted on Reddit.
The bottom right-hand corner of the chart has text giving special thanks to a fellow named Hiroshi Kito who has apparently passed away seeing that one of the few pages on the We Love Zippo site is a memorial to Mr. Kito. The chart which I have found so valuable is a one-page rendering of most bottom stamps for every year from 1933 through 2001 and is available on the We Love Zippo site as a PDF download.
The We Love Zippo site also contains a more detailed grid chart that provides not only photos of the bottom stamps but explanatory notes similar to the setup of the Moonlight Zippo Dating page and states that it was created under the supervision of Hiroshi Kito. This particular chart does not contain the information about the dual bottom stamps possible for 1979 nor is there any specific dating information for Zippo Slim lighters.
I do consider this the most concise and useful of all the charts that I have come across even considering the information that it does not possess. I suppose that when it comes to precisely dating a Zippo lighter it may be a little too much to ask for any one resource to contain every piece of information that a collector could need but am also satisfied with the breadth of relevant information included in this one. If I am stumped after trying Mr. Kito’s chart on the We Love Zippo site, then I can always do the more difficult work of checking the other charts!
How Do You Date Your Zippos?
I am acquainted with an individual or two from the Facebook lighter groups who could probably answer any dating question that I have ever run into just by consulting their own memory but reserve those communications for when I am absolutely stumped or too confused to figure it out on my own. There is a wealth of information available though by simply checking any lighter against the information provided by all the terrific sites that we have mentioned in this article.
I would love to hear any comments, questions or discussion on how you date your Zippo Windproof lighters and what resources you have marshaled for these purposes. Please leave your insights in the comments section below this article or if you would like to post video or photos to illustrate your contribution to this discussion then please consider posting in the DependableFlame.com Facebook group where supporting media is allowed.
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Until next time…✌️