Improving on an earlier Australian cigarette lighter, George G Blaisdell created the style icon known as The Zippo. The Zippo Manufacturing Company was formed in 1932 and production began in 1933 in Bradford Pennsylvania, USA — and the design has remained unchanged ever since.
The lighter has classic proportions, fitting the hand and the pocket easily and comfortably, it looks ‘right’. The edges are rounded off smoothly, and it can only stand upright or lie flat on it’s back or front. The case has a hinged, spring-levered lid, and the lighter is sleeved into the case, and comprises a wind-proof vented top, a flint wheel, a flint sleeve with a screw retainer, some rayon wadding and a length of wired wick. The fuel is called petrol, but is actually lighter fluid — which is mainly naphtha.
Zippos require to be filled with lighter fuel every two to three days. The flint probably needs replaced every month. The wick can be pulled through and trimmed, so it may only require replacing annually. If you have a Zippo, you will also need to have a tin of lighter fluid nearby! The hinged, spring-levered, lid makes a loud and characteristic Zippo sound, so they cannot be used silently — which is one reason they became popular in movies, radio and so forth.
These lighters come from an era when smoking (pipes, cigars and cigarettes) was popular and commonplace and lighter fluid easily and readily available everywhere. In an unsophisticated , simple era, Zippo lighters became popular as ‘windproof’ and good lighters for the outdoors. As such they became very popular with the US American military during World War II — when all Zippo lighters produced went to the Allied war effort.
However, this is mostly a marketing angle than anything of tangible worth; the case is not covered by the guarantee — and that includes the hinge and the spring lever. The hinge is the most used part of the lighter — and through use, the hinge loosens and the hinge bar slides out and is lost. The solution for many people is to straighten a common paperclip and slide this wire through the hinge as a hinge bar replacement. This works particularly well with a plastic coated paperclip.
From a time when men did not wear jewellery, a lighter was an important accessory (as important as a watch and clothes). The Zippo suggested the outdoors, then the military, but later — when slim, gold gas lighters and plastic disposable lighters grew popular, Zippos became a symbol for groups on the edge of society — cowboys, rebels, Hell’s Angels, Rock and Roll, Private Detectives, and macho men.
It is the lighter used to light the fuse, to light the last cigarette of the man on the firing squad, or to light the way through the tunnel. There are tricks to be learned — cool ways to spark up a Zippo with one hand and a pair of blue jeans. This lighter has LORE.
From 1986 to 2000, Zippo stamped a code on all cases. On the left of the underside was stamped a letter A-L, denoting the month, and on the right was a Roman Numeral which denoted the year, beginning with II in 1986 — so a Zippo stamped G XII was made in July 1996. After 2000, Zippo stopped using Roman Numerals, so, for example, a Zippo made in August 2002 would have been stamped H 02.
These lighters are incredibly collectable, and some are very valuable indeed.
Zippo lighter cases come with all sorts of branding — national flags, football teams, company logos — you name it, the cases have been engraved , coated in paint or plastic, and even ceramic badges stuck on! They have also produced a feminine version — with smaller, slimmer proportions.
The classics are: Polished Chrome, Brass, and Brushed Steel. Then matte Black, Shiny Red and so forth.
- http://www.zippo.com – The Home of Zippo
- http://www.zippocasemuseum.com – The official store of Zippo Mfg Co.- Buy Direct from Zippo.
- http://www.zippoclick.com – The Official Zippo lighters Collectors Club
- http://www.zippoppd.com – Zippo Promotional Products Division
- http://www.zippohottour.com – Zippo Sponsored – Where it is all about the music.
- http://www.zippo.ca – Zippo Canada
- http://www.zippogallery.com – A collection of rare and historic Zippos
- http://www.baudelet.net/zippo.htm – Zippo Lighter Identification Codes.
- http://www.diablo944.co.uk – Fake and Genuine Zippo’s, other Zippo items & stuck flint removal