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|Antique cigarette lighters from the early 1900s are extremely hard to find. In fact, most cigarette lighter collections today are made up of lighters created during the 1920s and onwards.
Many cigarette lighter collectors find the word antique to be a subjective term. There are those who subscribe to the belief that for an item to be considered antique, it must be at least 100 years old. There are others however who have a different set of standards, believing that for an item to be antique, it must be created in the past and sought after by collectors for its uniqueness, rarity, and age.
Those who believe in the 100 year rule follow the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, a US customs law that was enacted in 1930. Those who think otherwise however are also equally firm in their beliefs. It is this disparity in standards which results in the classification of collectible items such as cigarette lighters as being antique when in fact in fact they were made during the middle of the 20th century. Confusion still persists today as to how to correctly categorize a particular item, whether it is antique or vintage as there is no universal rule that is followed by all.
It was in the year 1823, when the first lighter called Dobereiner’s Lamp (named after its inventor Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner) was developed. Early lighters were typically big, bulky and produced a high amount of heat. Also because they used potent chemicals such as zinc, platinum, sulfuric acid, and hydrogen gas that when put together create a very volatile mix, these lighters were considered very dangerous to use. These lighters were in circulation up until the end of the 1800s.
The next generation of cigarette lighters were developed in the early 1900s and were called flint lighters. The invention of these lighters was made possible by the discovery of Baron Carl Von Welsbach of the chemical ferrocerium or flint. These lighters used naptha (a petroleum-based mix) as their fuel and flint as their catalyst.
From 1900 to the 1930s, cigarette lighters became very popular as companies started producing compact lighters (small enough to be carried in a handbag or pocket) and large lighters which were designed to be displayed in a desk or table. Not only were lighters produced during this period functional, but they were also aesthetically appealing.
After the Second World War, butane lighters began to emerge on the scene, replacing flint lighters. These lighters which were very popular during the 1930s and 1940s utilized compressed butane instead of lighter fluid or naptha. Among the advantages of these lighters are that users can easily control the flame, the resulting odor or smoke is less pungent compared to those produced by flint lighters, and their wick does not require any replacement.
Popular antique or vintage cigarette lighter makers
Cigarette lighter makers that produced highly collectible antique or vintage cigarette lighters include Zippo, Ronson, Penguin, Colibri, ST Dupont, Rowenta, Rolstar, ASR, Bentley, Schick, Stratoflame, Evans, Scripto, and Dunhill.
Main article: Vintage Zippo Cigarette Lighters
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