What Makes One Vintage Cigarette Lighter More Valuable Than Another?

A recent question in the comments section below an article here at DependableFlame.com got me thinking about the major elements that make one lighter more valuable than others. Some of these answers may surprise you while others may seem like common sense. All of them a major factors however, in determining what makes one vintage cigarette lighter more valuable than another.


Rare, scarce, unusual and limited are all terms that are seen often in Ebay listings and other places you can find vintage petrol lighters listed for sale. This sort of nomenclature is sometimes warranted

A Zippo Limited To 75 Pieces Produced

but seldom justified in the manner it is employed. A seller throws the word in there to influence the interest shown to their listing. Maybe the seller actually believes it, maybe not but due diligence must follow. I would never take the word at face value of a seller who uses these sort of terms for the lighters they are looking to sell.

Limited is a term that many Zippos could rightly fit in. There are plenty of examples over the yrs that are actually numbered as such(I.e., 1 of 75 or sequentially #3/25) and I have no qualms with

A Chariz Lighter In Sterling Silver

these assignments.

Unusual is somewhat of a subjective term and accordingly I don’t have much of a problem with its usage. I wouldn’t place much weight behind it though without vetting the author’s background and experience.

Scarce and rare are the real offenders though and misapplied so often to almost be rendered meaningless. Truly rare or scarce lighters do bring a premium though and can most definitely make one lighter more valuable than another.

In today’s market, it is simple enough through “sold” Ebay listings to get a pretty good idea of how many of a certain lighter have at

A Sterling Dunhill Unique Sport

least recently been sold. A website like WorthPoint tracks sold listings back practically as far as Ebay goes, so a subscription to this site can be quite valuable itself.

Just because a lighter is not rare or scarce however, does not mean it doesn’t have great value!


Demand, in my estimation, plays the biggest role in what makes any given lighter valuable. Demand is obvious when an auction listing goes up and gets many bids or a Buy It Now sells quickly. Demand for a particular lighter

A Common 3 Barrel WWII Black Crackle Zippo

can prove undeniable.

Demand can overcome a given lighter’s real or perceived lack of scarcity. Take the World War II Zippo black crackle for example. There’s legitimate wartime crackles laying all over the place, from painted steel beaters clinging to the remnants of their crackle to perfect boxed examples which obviously draw a premium.

Condition plays a role in the question at hand as well and will certainly affect demand. One would not expect a scratched up finish or non-working example of any lighter to get the same attention as one in perfect, mint condition.

But there is no scarcity of WWII black crackle Zippos and there’s nothing rare about them at all. Yet folks line up and clamor to get an opportunity to shell out a minimum of $200 in order to own one. It’s an iconic lighter

A Less Common 4 Barrel Black Crackle

though and the demand is clearly tremendous to purchase them.

Advertising graphics and other embellishments can also play a large role in the demand for a specific lighter. Some prefer plain, brushed chrome models but many are after the specific or eye appealing advertisements just as much as the lighter itself.

Brand Name Appeal

Some people believe that Zippo is the only name that matters when it comes to collecting old lighters. Nothing could be further from

Ronson Debonair In Rhodium Plate

the truth.

Thorens, Dunhill, Ronson, Dubsky, Imco, just to name a few, are all lighter brands with tremendous appeal that rival that of even the most popular name in all of lighterdom. Make no mistake, all these brands together probably don’t have the same following as the total number of Zippo collectors, fans and users but that doesn’t mean

Sterling Silver Dunhill Rollalite

their lighters don’t have tremendous appeal in the vintage lighter market.

There are varied facets within each of these vintage brands that should be discussed. For example, old Ronson lighters are littered across the landscape but truly well-made, artistic examples are somewhat scarce in comparison to the commonly produced weakly enameled specimens that fill many collections.


Variations can exist within a certain yr or era’s production and also take place over time within a particular brand as adjustments or improvements are made to a design. This creates differences that

3 Barrel Zippo Hinge

can be appealing to accumulate for many collectors and enthusiasts.

The multiple hinges that have adorned Zippo lighters over time are one such variation. The five barrel hinge having been employed by Zippo for so long makes any of its predecessors(or modern day replica variants) more desirable than that same hinge you see on the vast majority of Zippos being pumped out of the Bradford, PA factory today. Alas, there are variations within the realm of five barrel Zippo hinges that have been employed over the yrs as well!

Dunhill lift-arms can be found with single or double wheel, telescoping pipe chimney, sport model windscreen as well as the ultimate variation of precious metal construction. Most of the other brands had similar or corresponding variations, to catalog them all would take a lifetime but when they’re discovered they tend to stand out.

Zippo date stamp differences or variations can be appealing as well. Who wouldn’t like to own an example of each stamp style or even

Late ’30s-early ’40s Zippo Bottom Stamp

the few yrs where there’s more than one date code legitimate to that yr’s production? I haven’t even mentioned the existence of red bottom felt or solid foam fuel cells that can be discovered in Zippos from the 1960s.

Whatever Floats Your Boat…

This has only been a cursory overview of the factors and

Sterling 3 Barrel Late 1940s Zippo

expectations that affect what makes any given lighter valuable in comparison to another.

There are countless other considerations that could be enumerated if time and space would allow it.

Please leave any comments, questions, corrections or any other communication in the comment section below the article. I would love to continue this discussion there and eagerly look forward to your interaction!

Please check out the DependableFlame.com YouTube channel as

Sterling Engine-Turned Dunhill Rollalite

well. There is great camaraderie and discussion taking place there and I would like to invite all vintage lighter enthusiasts to come along and be a part of the community. We meet @10am on Tuesday mornings for our YouTube stream Coffee And Lighters Live! We also regularly publish show and tell video for the lighters we sell and instructional repair demonstration

videos for the lighters we put back into service after yrs or decades of neglect.

Until next time…✌️

Author: Joseph

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

20 thoughts on “What Makes One Vintage Cigarette Lighter More Valuable Than Another?”

  1. One of those things that have drawn my attention to buying a lighter at one point or the other is the brand name. I agree that words like limited number available could have also helped my buying decision. But in most cases, I buy based on my brand. And I will want to believe it applies to many other folks.

    1. Thank you Parameter, I appreciate you sharing your insight here in the comment section! I agree that most folks who have experience with a brand they trust and know to make quality products will probably rely heavily on that same brand when the time comes to replace their lighter or even for consideration of collecting them. We like what we are familiar with so it just makes logical sense. I think limited numbers would have more relevance when a purchase is being made for collecting purposes than an actual lighter that will get used.✌️

  2. Hey thanks for this post!

    It explains as well as answers many questions about how a cigarette holds value. My grandad abroad has quite a few similarly designed lighters which I can’t believe he was considering throwing them away. What a waste of these old classics!

    This would be great to share across to him, thanks again!

    Have a great day!

    1. For sure Sariyah, don’t let him throw them in the rubbish bin, you never know what kind of gold mine he might be sitting on! There’s a man named Ted Ballard who owns the National Lighter Museum in Guthrie, Oklahoma who line to say, “there’s no such thing as an insignificant lighter.” I disagree with that s little because I’ve seen many, many, especially plastic pieces of junk but I agree with the spirit of the idea of what he said. It’s always worth investigating a bit and seeing what your grandfather has.

  3. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article on what makes one vintage cigarette lighter more valuable than another. I appreciate the points you made about scarcity, demand, brand name appeal, and variations. It’s interesting to note that while scarcity and rarity can certainly make a lighter more valuable, demand plays an even bigger role in determining value. This is particularly true when it comes to iconic lighters like the WWII Zippo black crackle. I also appreciate your point about brand name appeal and how other brands like Thorens, Dunhill, Ronson, and Dubsky can have tremendous appeal in the vintage lighter market. Finally, I find it fascinating to learn about the variations that can exist within a particular brand or era’s production and how these differences can be appealing to collectors and enthusiasts.

    1. Thank you Anoth, I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your insight! I think the variations available from a particular lighter brand are very interesting myself. Think about Zippo today and ask the various finishes they offer, do you think that won’t play a role in which of those finishes ends up being more collectible? They’ve got Fusion, 540 Color Process, brushed chrome, street chrome, solid brass, solid copper, high polish chrome and brass, black ice, and those are just a few examples right off the top of my head. There are actually many more including the cannabis theme lighters got can read about here.✌️

  4. Hey Flame, how you doing I must say that you have a great website. 

    The information is spot on and interesting especially the photos of all the old petrol lighters.

    The images are very captivating and I love the quality of them.

    I will check back in a regular basis to find the articles you publish every Monday and Thursday! I look forward to reading so much more about these wonderful little gadgets that produce flame.

    1. Thank you Andre for coming along for the ride! I appreciate you reading the article and all the nice comments. We have a lot of big plans here at DependableFlame.com and are really thankful for all the support. You can check out our Current Ebay Listings to see the lighters that are available to buy and also check out our YouTube channel where we publish show and tell and instructional repair demonstration lighter videos. We also do a weekly live stream @10am central every Tuesday!✌️

  5. Wow! This is such an interesting article. I too would not take the word of a seller without first doing my own research, like I am doing now. Cigarette lighters crossed my mind because my grandfather had a bunch thrown in an old box. I am going to have to take a look at them and see if they are worth anything. I love the way you explain the difference here. I am going to book mark your website so I can revisit it when I have the lighters with me. 

    1. I’m glad you found us Miguel, thank you for reading the article and the nice comment! Chances are there are at least some interesting pieces in your grandfather’s box and if you are really blessed, maybe even a hidden gem or two. I would be glad to answer any questions you may have as you seek to determine exactly what you have on your hands. If nothing else, I bet looking through the old items will stir heartwarming and nostalgic memories of your grandad.✌️ 

  6. I think that your article on what makes one vintage cigarette lighter more valuable than another is a great example of how complex and nuanced the world of vintage collecting can be.

    One question I have is whether there are any other factors or considerations that should be taken into account when evaluating the value of a vintage cigarette lighter. For example, are there any particular trends or preferences in the vintage market that can influence the value of different types of lighters or other vintage items?

    1. Hello Ronnie and thanks again for your support, it really means the world to me. The biggest trend affecting the value of old cigarette lighters over the last few yrs has been the proliferation of Asian buyers flooding online markets like Ebay.

      This is evident by the clearinghouse type re-mailers that have appeared in places like Oregon and California. These Asian buyer don’t have a US address they live at to ship to so contract with an individual here in the states. These buyers have many longtime collectors flustered as prices often exceed what some consider to be reasonable.

  7. I am really glad I came across this post as well.  Sometimes I just go off how ‘cool’ I think a lighter looks to determine the value, but ultimately, many are more collectible and better quality than others.  The scarcer, the more expensive, like anything in life.  It would be so cool to own one of these really scarce lighters one day.. I am so excited to get started on this journey!  

    Brand name is important too, but some of the coolest lighters I have found are actually off the cuff, no name type creations.  They are some of my favorites, no matter if they hold value to anyone else or on the market!  Also, some of my lighters have sentimental value to me and no one can put a value on that!

    Yippee. I look forward to looking through your site to gain some more insight into the intriguing world of antique flames.  Glad to have found a you.  

    Thanks again.

    1. Thank you Ashley, I am pleased that you enjoyed the article and thankful for your insight.

      Sentimental value is something I didn’t really think about or mention when writing the article but you make a very good point. That is one of the major reasons I have made many of the purchase of lighters that ended up in my personal collection as I don’t really collect around specific themes but rather collect what interests me or is somehow relate to another interest of mine.

      Thanks again for stopping by and I hope you become a regular contributor!

  8. I really agree that we have to be very careful when buying items like lighters. I recall that I once bought a gas lighter from a sales guy at a mini-fair. What got me was his pitch that I could easily refill the lighter when it ran out, I had never been able to do that! Guess I had always bought low-quality lighters or just never got the hang of it. Anyway, this guy made it look so easy and I eventually bought both the lighter and a refill. As you might have guessed already, when the lighter needed a refill, I tried but couldn’t get it to work so I ended up throwing both away. 

    Your caution to buyers is so apt.

    1. Thank you Oluseyi, I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your experience. I have had it happen more often than I can count. Butane Lighter works great, everything adjusts perfectly, you would swear it’s the perfect lighter and then it runs out of gas! It’s like every cheap plastic butane torch lighter has to be perfectly tuned from the factory to be usable at all. I need to just invest in a quality butane lighter that may cost a bit more and see if my results are any better.

  9. I have never really understood why some lighters are worth more than others, for me, it was like a lighter is a lighter, why should one be worth more than the other? But thanks to this post, now I know, I will show my friends and family this post if they wonder why one lighter can be worth more than another. Thanks for letting me know!

    1. You bet Jonathan! One thing to keep in mind about what makes one lighter more valuable than another is to consider when it was made. They are still making Zippo Windproof lighters today but they can not go back and remake more of the 1933 production lighters. All the original model Zippos that are every going to exist already exist today. It’s a lot harder to find those 1930s Zippos than it is to order a new model off their website. So, there are many factors that figure into the value of a lighter other than its sheer value as a tool to make fire.

  10. This was a great article.  I really enjoyed learning about the different terms used by sellers and collectors.  I have some old lighters that were given to me growing up.  I never really thought about their value until I read your article.  I am curious to find out now.  I have kept them simply because of sentiment.  Thank you.

    1. Hey Tammy, no problem and I am glad that you found the article useful. It is hard for many folks to believe just how valuable most old cigarette lighters really are. Mind condition and new, old stock are obviously valued more highly as are those that are in working, functional condition. There are many collectors that don’t care whether they work or not but I would not be counted among those because for me the most important factor is that they work. Thank you for stopping by!

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