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Zippo® Lighters as Collectibles

The Zippo® Windproof Lighter, made in Bradford, Pennsylvania, has been called an American Classic. It stands with famous landmarks as a symbol of the U.S.A. and is considered one of the best designed products ever made. Available to the people of the United States since 1933, the Zippo lighter is presently sold in more than 90 countries throughout the world, and has achieved great popularity as a dependable lifetime product. ZIPPO Windproof Lighters enjoy a widespread and enviable reputation as valuable collectibles.

Lighters are a recent addition to the world of collecting. They lend themselves beautifully to the hobby: they're mechanical devices that work; they're compact and come in a wide variety of styles; new models are readily available to start a collection; and older models are easily identified by a date code imprinted on the bottom. Lighters are part of a rich and creative movement that expanded the traditional world of collecting. Art, jewels, cars, rare books, and oriental rugs have recently been joined by household items like sugar cube wrappings, price tags, and cigar bands.

Until now unexploitable, these items are well suited to would-be collectors who want a "little" hobby tailored to their budget. Just as works of art have a history, so do Zippo lighters have a past rich in brand names, emblems and national events. A collectible lighter is any Zippo model that the owner feels is worth keeping. Establishing the price of a Zippo collection is a very casual endeavor. No hard and fast quoted values exist.

The most desirable lighter for most collectors is the original 1933 model with the outside hinge. It sold for just under $2 when it was introduced by Zippo founder, George G. Blaisdell. Military lighters, most of which carry ship designs, were introduced in 1937. The black crackle Zippo lighter that came out in 1943 would cost a collector from $35 - $50 today. It was produced with a painted-black finish during World War II because of shortages of brass and chrome.

Another favorite of collectors is the leather-wrap model from the early '50's. The top and bottom of the case were wrapped in leather -red, blue, black, or deep green- that revealed a narrow band of chrome.

The Zippo lighter has become a popular nostalgia item not only for itself, but also for its surface treatments. Over the years Zippo lighters have been imprinted with illustrations of classic cars, warships, prominent people, current fad items, and famous international landmarks. Many of the early series are hard to complete because of their rarity. Some of these hard-to-find lighters include the very first Sport series, Town and Country, NFL Helmet Set, Denim Look, and Zodiac series. Older gold, silver, or special edition lighters are also difficult to find.

Clubs for collectors of lighters have been organized in England, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, and the U.S. One of the largest is On The Lighter Side International Lighter Collectors (OTLS), based in Quitman, TX. Members of the Lighter Club of Britain, the Pocket Lighter Preservation Guild, Funke und Flamme, the Lighter Club of Japan and Club Italia L'Accendino meet regularly to discuss, exchange, sell and buy lighters. In 2003 Zippo formed the Zippo Click Collectors Club for Zippo lighter enthusiasts worldwide.

Fueling interest in Zippo collectibles was a series of five Zippo Manuals published by World Photo Press in Tokyo. These manuals for lighter collectors feature large, glossy pages of full-color photos, with text in English and Japanese. The five volumes document Zippo history and the lighters themselves.

Zippo produces The Zippo Lighter Collectors Guide that contains illustrations of the lighters and descriptions of the series. It also explains the date code devised by company founder George Blaisdell in the late 1950's. A series of dots and slashes engraved on the bottom of each lighter identify its year of production. Originally planned for internal use, the date code has been an infallible favorite among collectors. More than 250,000 Zippo collectors guides have been printed and distributed over the last five years. containing this valuable tool.

Zippo Manufacturing Company has produced more than 400 million Windproof Lighters since its founding in 1932. Each carries the company's Lifetime Guarantee. In addition to Windproof Lighters, the firm makes premium business gift items such as fine writing instruments, several styles of pocket knives, a rainbow of Greenskeeper™ Golf Tools, Money Clips and Tape Measures and, the newest addition to the Zippo product family, the MPL utility lighter.

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