Vintage Cigarette Lighters: A Hobby Of Many Arrays

There are lighter collections based on just about any theme you can conjure up, from commercial brands to one’s hometown or state, favorite sport, team, animals, military allegiances, you name it.

Sterling Silver Dunhill Lift-Arm Petrol Lighter

My entrance to the hobby was more expedient(I was really in need of some money!), not as a collector but buying to sell. Some folks can’t resist the perpetual tinkering that bringing old lighters back to life affords them. Whatever brought you here, this article will begin a discussion on the vintage cigarette lighter hobby and the kind of people who engage in such notions in the first place.


The suggestion of a friend that I might benefit from a hobby and my late-night bingeing fascination with the TV show Sons Of Anarchy led me to buy my first Zippo, a regular old brushed chrome model that I was fascinated with, not having any previous experience with a petrol lighter.

This led me to Ebay(and of course, many other sites), looking at older

Not Just Any Pile Of Lighters

lighters which eventually brought the realization there were piles of older lighters out there just waiting to be fixed and sold, if you knew which to buy. There is, of course, way more to it than just buying a pile of lighters. A discerning eye sees dollars where others see trash but you can’t make money off just any ol’ pile of lighters.

It was my mechanical fascination that drove me here and opportunity in the form of money to be made which convinced me to stick around but there are still vast facets of the vintage cigarette lighters hobby that appeal to me, I just haven’t had time to check many of them out yet.

And while I may still consider myself primarily as a seller/repairman, the collecting bug has not escaped me. There is a corner of this hobby for

everyone and for the vast majority of us, spaces we never imagined await our welcome.

“How Handy Of A Fella Are Ya?”

From the time I can remember as a child, my father was working on something in the garage. He was a natural mechanic, a problem solver who never saw a project he wasn’t willing to tackle. As a young man he built and raced drag cars, any night of the week he’d be out there(often with one or more of my uncles) fixing someone’s car. Sometimes for money, sometimes as a favor and sometimes for fun.

Lift-Arm Mechanism

I’m not as handy nor as helpful as my Dad was but I’ve enjoyed working on cars from the time all I could do was hold a light or hand a wrench, up until computers took over and it just wasn’t fun anymore. Point is, I’m handier than most but by no means a prodigy and this hobby is so rife with different and interesting mechanisms that I could devote myself full-time(wink, wink) to learning about, acquiring and tinkering with them and never get bored.

Rather, one could hardly scratch the surface of the breadth of the experience that lay ahead, the heartache and rabbit holes that lie in wait. There are nooks and crannies, mechanisms, brands and entire lines of lighters that nobody seems to no anything about.

“Pics Or It Didn’t Happen”

This is an aspect of the hobby that I really hadn’t considered until it cracked me in the head but is obviously now part of my daily life. And there are some

Made In Japan Pepsi-Cola Advertising Lighter

parts of that job I don’t enjoy but I do it for this reason: collectors care about what they collect. Any original material I can document, including paper boxes, pamphlets, instructions, guarantees, etc. will be valuable to someone, somewhere.

They are also dirty, which gives me the heeby-jeebies but I press onward for the greater good and for the posterity of the hobby that would really benefit from the provenance and historical information missing from most collections, save that of the most popular and commercially produced brands like Zippo, Ronson, Evans, etc.

There is precious little info(original paper or otherwise) out there on

Dirty Paper Box

lighters produced in Japan. So, while I don’t like dealing with the paper and rarely ever include these items as part of my personal collection, I will document them when I find them and include photos in the listings and archives.


I get a lot of satisfaction from fixing an old lighter that was previously useless. I don’t have to share that with anyone else for the project to be worthwhile.

But man, sometimes it is so fun to share the success in repairing a mechanism that you thought might be a lost cause. Just like it’s cool to show other collectors the lighters you accumulate because they know how difficult it is to find or come across one like that.

Vintage Boxed Zippo

This is one of the things I love about Facebook Groups like OTLS-On The Lighter Side and Zippo Addicts. There is great joy to be found in shared experiences and lighters can be that common link. I also see this everyday on my YouTube channel as friends gather to talk about the day’s lighter or project. There is a wonderful sense of community and kinship shared with folks on the other side of the world and also just around the corner.

There is also a Lighter Repair Facebook Group with many good people who love to work on lighters and are just waiting to engage with someone looking to do the same.


The focus of this article has been to highlight just a few aspects of the vintage cigarette lighter hobby that relate to me. I am a documentarian, seems like that’s my main job these days. I am a repairman and I do sell lighters in my Ebay store. I have only in the last yr or so begun to consider myself a collector but I have always set a piece aside here and there so maybe I wasn’t being honest with myself!

Late 1940’s 3 Barrel Sterling Silver Zippo

Whatever your role or niche in the vintage cigarette lighter community, there is room for you and I would love you to share your experiences with me here in the comments below this article, below any of my videos on the YouTube channel or on the wall of our FaceBook page. Just make it a big DIY, Show & Tell party!

Just a reminder, I don’t repair butane lighters. I only use them.

One last thought relating to all of this! The price of an OTLS membership is worth the $35/yr price simply to have access to the old archived newsletters. Browsing them is extremely informational and unbelievably entertaining!

Until next time…

Author: Joseph

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

2 thoughts on “Vintage Cigarette Lighters: A Hobby Of Many Arrays”

  1. Hi Joseph and thank you for sharing with us your passion!

    It is amazing to read about people who simply loose themselves in their daily activities, in your case anything to do with old lighters.

    What is your most favourite part: buying them, repairing them, selling them or collecting them? 🙂

    When a hobby evolves to generate income that can support one’s living expenses, that then becomes the ultimate happiness of life!

    All the best,

    1. Thank you for stopping by Tatiana, I appreciate your comment and compliment! It is indeed a blessing to be able to pay the bills by continuing this work that I enjoy so much.
      To answer your question, I enjoy all aspects of the cigarette lighter hobby but I like repairing them the most. There is something really cool about taking an old lighter that hasn’t sparked in decades and bringing it back to life!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

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