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The Difference Between Reconditioned and Vintage Lighters

We get calls here at ARS all day, every day with questions about the possibility of repairing this lighter or that. Often times, we will receive a follow-up question about the possible monetary worth of the lighter in question. Some even go as far as to insist that since the lighter is “vintage”, it must be worth a small fortune. While unfortunately this is often not the case, we do seek to clarify the differences between reconditioned and vintage lighters and how that could affect any possible value.

Aged like fine wine

The term “vintage” as far as we are concerned, refers specifically to the age of the lighter and generally, the rarity. A general consensus among lighter collectors is that a lighter manufactured more than fifty years ago is considered vintage. Less than that and in used condition is considered, obviously, used. If put into working condition and cleaned up, the otherwise used lighter is now considered “reconditioned”.

A VINTAGE lighter that had been reconditioned is considered “vintage in working condition”. It’s important to keep in mind though, that despite being vintage and in working condition, this does not necessarily make the lighter valuable to collectors. And if it IS valuable to collectors, does not mean it will fetch you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Like anything else, collectability and what’s “hot” to collectors at any given time is subject to change.

Vintage Does Not Mean Rare

Unfortunately we have to disappoint many people who call with the impression that the table lighter they received at their wedding in the 1950’s is worth much more than it really is. “But it’s vintage,” is often the reply and we then have to disappoint the customer further by explaining the reasoning for our assessment. “Your Ronson Crown lighter IS vintage in terms of its age, but unfortunately there were so many of them made and so many are still in circulation, that they are just not valuable to collectors.”

It must be understood that even though the lighter may not be valuable in its collectability, that does not mean that it’s not a great lighter and you shouldn’t be proud to own it. As with our example from above, a Ronson Crown lighter was one of the most finely crafted, reliable, durable and consistent vintage lighters ever made. It’s because of these facts that Ronson made so many of them in the first place. Back in the 1950’s before smoking became bad for you, EVERYONE wanted them. Conversely, there are vintage lighters made in Europe that are absolutely worthless because they used long-gone disposable tanks of butane to fill and never became collectable and can no longer function as a lighter.

Reconditioned Does Not Mean Lacking In Value

There are plenty of “modern” lighters that despite being used and reconditioned, does not mean that they do not have value. Two of our most prominent names in lighters today that we perform service on, S.T. Dupont and Alfred Dunhill, can be extremely valuable lighters for both their use as a lighter and something that is collectable or rare. Of course this would depend on the particular model, if it were a limited series of some kind, etc…

Remember that the collectability or rarity of your lighter does not determine its value as a lighter. Consider instead of any monetary value, the aesthetics of the piece, its reliability, and any sentimental value it might have to your family. These considerations can make a lighter with zero collectability value, absolutely priceless.

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Why Can’t you Repair My Lighter?

Believe me when I say, we WANT to repair your lighter. It’s what we do. We do it well and have been doing so since 1957. We know a thing or two about lighters and how to repair them. Imagine how frustrating it can be for us when we get a call or an email or a Facebook message asking about fixing dear ol’ Grandads lighter and we have to say it can’t be fixed? “Why can’t you repair my lighter?” is a bummer question for everyone involved, and here’s usually why that’s the case…

The Lighter Is Ancient

One of the most common reasons that we cannot repair a lighter is due to the fact that it is so old that repair parts have been used up. If new sources for parts are not available (closed shops, estate sales, etc…) then there’s nothing to be done. Sometimes it’s a lighter that was made in Europe before/during the Second World War. Those factories were bombed back to the stone age. Other times its the simple fact that production stopped for one reason or another. It happened so long ago that the repair parts were just all used up. We just can’t fix it.

The Lighter Is A Novelty

The novelty butane lighters are a class of lighters that were sometimes made to advertise or promote an event or product. Usually cigarettes or cigars but we’ve even seen advertising novelty lighters for things like chocolate milk and cars. Ironically, some of these non-butane lighters became highly collectible, called “Flat Advertisers”. Novelty lighters can also be flame-makers that were just made simply and sold inexpensively through gifts shops, drug stores or discounters–never having been meant to be repaired. No repair parts were made for them and if they broke, they broke and that was that. Lots of Chinese manufactured lighters with all kinds of configurations and even knock-offs of expensive lighters were created.

The Lighter Is Garbage

No one wants to think of their lighter as worthless garbage. This is included though because some lighters were made with a single eventual destination in mind–the trash can. Period. Despite some of them being refillable, others disposable, some lighters were made to such poor quality standards that it would be far more expensive to repair than simply dispose of and purchase a new one. Worth mentioning is the fact that we have also had people send us Bic disposable lighters for repair. I am completely serious.

High Production – Out Of Business

Sometimes a company will have an extremely popular brand of lighter. A perfect example is the Colibri Company. For many years Colibri made a name for itself selling quality, mid-priced smoking accessories including lighters. Then, almost out of nowhere, the company went out of business and subsequently had the name bought out by another company. When this happened, we purchased every repair part that they had stockpiled since their plan was to not produce lighters anymore. Those parts ran out (a few years ago) and that was the end of Colibri butane lighter repairs. If a high-production company goes out of business, a lot of people are left in the lurch when it comes to repairing their lighters. This has happened with a few companies as the years went on, but none so impactful as Colibri. We have been telling people that we cannot repair Colibri butane lighters for over five years now and we STILL get daily calls about them.

A Brief Word About Parts

Often times when we are forced to disappoint a customer regarding the lack of repair parts for their lighter. Often the response is “Maybe it doesn’t need parts.” or “Can you use the parts from another lighter?” We certainly understand the level of desperation that some feel when they want to get an old friend working again. The sad reality is the fact that we have to follow the philosophy of; “If we don’t have repair parts, we don’t touch the lighter.” This is necessary because lighters always need replacement parts–internal valves, seals, hinges, and items with names that wouldn’t make sense unless you were familiar with lighter terminology. There was never any such thing as “standardized parts” for lighters. A glimpse at our repair shop would present endless racks, shelves, and drawers full of thousands of different kinds of parts for hundreds of different kinds of lighters. And if you’re going to talk to me about “O-Rings”, we’re way ahead of you. It’s not just about the O-Ring, as O-rings are incorporated into existing replacement valve systems that corrode along with the rubber/plastic/metal o-rings.

All things considered, you have to understand that we WANT to repair your lighter. It’s how we stay in business, after all. You should not feel slighted in any way when we tell you that we can’t do so when we haven’t even seen what you have.

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To Repair Or Not To Repair

Long ago, back in my early twenties, I happened upon an artifact while digging through my Father’s dresser (Lord knows what I was actually looking for). The artifact in question was an old Ronson lighter that immediately brought me back to my childhood. It reminded me of simpler days and the unmistakable smells of my Dad’s pipe. Whiffs of Captain Black pipe tobacco. The scent of Ronsonol from the lighter. Long since quitting the habit, the lighter, now unused, found its way to the bottom of a dresser drawer. Here it sat through the years. It was a stroke of destiny that gave me the idea to seek out a close friend of mine affiliated with a lighter repair service. After introductions and a lighter repair later, my Dad had his nostalgic old friend back and I embarked on a career working for said lighter repair business, building and maintaining their websites. Funny how things work out sometimes.

So what about you? You came to this site for a reason and more than likely it was because you have a lighter to be repaired. If a lighter is under warranty then its a no-brainer. No cost = good. But if the lighter is out of warranty, the decision becomes to repair or not to repair and the reasons why.

Sentimental value

A very common reason for lighter repair is the sentimentality that it holds for the owner or new owner. Usually applies to a much older lighter belonging to a relative, deceased or otherwise, and holds a special place in the heart of the current owner. Those who contact us about repairing a lighter for sentimental reasons are also warned that the repair is not a “restoration”. As with all our repairs, there is nothing we can do about dents, scratches, and plating wear. In cases where these factors are present, we usually encourage the fact that these features add to the charm of the lighter. We can, however, clean the lighter thoroughly. We do not recommend spending the money on a repair if the lighter is going back into storage of any kind and is not intended to be used. Defeats the whole purpose.

Monetary value

Collectors collect collections and lighters have found a recent resurgence in collectability. There are some lighters out there of exceptional value and others that are so common they are hardly worth the metal used to make them. Of course, this is all judged through the lens of a collector. Monetary value can be a strong reason to get your lighter repaired. While the actual dollar amount might not be greatly affected, the desirability of a working collectible piece certainly could be.

Actual value

Apart from sentimentality or dollar value, there remains the “actual” value that a lighter retains. This refers to the value of the lighter as a flame creation device that is above and beyond the plastic garbage that makes up most disposable lighters. Yes, fire is fire and both can be created via cheap or expensive lighters, but when it comes down to it if all you were looking for was a small flame to light your tobacco–you wouldn’t be on this website. When it comes to actual value–if you’re going to use the lighter, then it’s worth repairing.

The decision to repair your lighter usually falls within one of the three categories above. If it your intention toots the lighter into a drawer for the next fifteen years then don’t bother. But if you intend to use it and there is value in your lighter, by all means–get it repaired while you can.

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Back To Lighter Repairs

We just wanted to make it official that despite the ongoing shelter-in-place regulations here in North Carolina, we ARE once again accepting repairs at our regular address (see “send us your lighter for repair“). We moved some things around, made other arrangements, streamlined some procedures and cut some fat in order to make this happen.

We would like everyone to know that in no way are we breaking any rules, nor have we furloughed, laid-off, or put any employees in any sort of risky positions with relation to the Coronavirus. Our sanitary and social distancing protocols are well in place and working well. All lighters and packaging are kept individually sealed and separated until time of shipment and the last thing done before a lighter ships back to you is a final sanitization involving alcohol.

Please note that we are expecting a great deal of packages to arrive now and this may delay the repair times a little bit. Currently we are working at 3-4 weeks repair time from the date of payment of your invoice. This may increase as the next few weeks pass (as of this writing, 4/27/20).

We continue to look forward to servicing our customers and taking great care of your lighters.

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Shelter-In-Place and Your Lighter Repairs

With the shelter in place orders in effect here in North Carolina, we want to give you all an update and answer some additional questions that have been coming in day to day.

We are asking that you please hold off on sending your lighter repairs to us at this time. Once the SIP orders have been lifted, we will alert you on our homepage that we are once again accepting new repairs. For those of you who had already sent lighters off to us for repair and paid the invoice in full BEFORE the SIP order took effect, your repairs have either shipped or are being shipped back to you next week (the week of 4/5/20).

Those of you who paid your invoices AFTER the SIP order, those repairs are being held until the order has been lifted and normal business can resume once again. Once this occurs, you can expect a 4-6 week turnaround time for your lighter to ship back to you.

If you are looking to place an order on the website for any of the lighters or accessories that we have for sale, those orders are shipping out day to day with no delays. Please keep in mind that the USPS, UPS and FedEx are all facing delays, so your shipment may take a day or two longer than expected to arrive to your delivery address.

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Lighter Repairs & The Corona Virus

We’ve been flooded with questions over the last week or so regarding the current repairs in progress as well as ongoing repairs for the near future. As far as lighter repairs and the corona virus is concerned–Please see the latest info on the Lighter Repairs Homepage.

As a matter of fact, so long as delivery services like USPS, UPS and FedEx are unaffected, so is the case with our repair service. While we do not work from home, our repair facility is just a few moments away from our team’s residences and we are not a facility that is open to the public.

As of this writing, repairs are still being completed within 2-3 weeks of the date of payment. Estimates are still going out by email (preferred) and mail (for those without email) within 48 hours of arrival at our shop.

For those that have brought up the concern, before all repaired lighters are shipped back to our customers, each lighter is carefully wiped down with alcohol and handled with gloves. Usually, we do this to help prevent fingerprints on the metal or enamel, but the practice became unexpectedly poignant with regard to disinfecting any possible germ transmission. Everyone here on the team is healthy and working with no issues.

Any other concerns about your lighter repair? Just feel free to ask by leaving a comment below or contact us.

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Lighting Cigars, Pipes & Cigarettes-When Fire Isn’t Always Just Fire

If you are an owner of one of the high-end S.T. Dupont or Alfred Dunhill lighters or are thinking of purchasing one, there is an option which you should be aware of. Dunhill Rollagas and Unique style lighters, as well as S.T. Dupont Line 2 lighters can all have burners with the options for cigarette, cigar or pipe smoking. What’s the difference, you ask? Isn’t fire always fire? Well… actually no. When it comes to lighting cigars, pipes and cigarettes–fire isn’t always just fire.

Cigarette Burners

Cigarette burner

Cigarette burners are designed with a thin, “single flame”. These burn straight up out of the burner valve of the lighter. It’s the basic type of everyman type of flame that can be found on every flame-making device. From wooden or paper matches to the venerable Bic-type disposable lighter, that’s a cigarette burner. Shown in the picture above from a Dunhill Rollagas lighter.

Cigar Burners

Cigar Burners are designed to produce a slightly wider and ever-so-slightly angled flame that better ignites the tip of a cigar evenly. It does not take much practice to master where the widest portion of the flame is produced. Care should be taken to not touch the lighter burner to the tobacco. Doing so will result in the “gunk” that a lot of cigar lighters develop under the cap. This can lead to the need for repair over time. The cigar burner in the photo above is from an S.T. Dupont lighter.

Pipe Burners

Pipe burners are an ingenious invention (first commercially available in the vintage Beatte-Jet lighter) that produces the single-wide flame, just like a cigarette burner. This flame ignites at a 90-degree angle to better facilitate igniting the tobacco by tipping the lighter into the bowl of the pipe. As with the cigar burner, care should be taken to not allow the lighter to come in contact with the tobacco. *Note – Pipe burners are no longer being produced by the Alfred Dunhill company. The stock we have is all that we will ever have and once they’re gone…they’re gone. This is not a problem with the S.T. Dupont line 2 lighters, as they are still in production.

And there you have it. The three types of burners available when you purchase any Dunhill Rollagas lighter, Unique lighter or S.T. Dupont Line 2 lighter. Can you light any type of tobacco product with any type of burner? Of course, you can. It IS fire, after all, but for such an expensive smoking accessory, why not have it customized to what you predominantly want to use it for?

The replacement of the burner in your new lighter is your choice when ordering the lighter from us. For a used lighter, the replacement or change of the burner can be done as part of a general overhaul and cleaning of your lighter at no additional charge.

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A Lighter Overhaul – What Does That Mean?

99.9% of all repairable lighters that come in for service require what we call a lighter “overhaul”. But what does that consist of and what’s the process? Not to mention–what’s the difference between overhauling a butane lighter vs a petrol lighter?

Overhaul Butane

An overhaul of your butane lighter means that the cigarette, cigar or pipe lighter will be completely disassembled and thoroughly inspected for worn or broken parts. Those damaged parts will be replaced with factory original parts. New seals will be put in place. The valve system will be carefully rebuilt. The tank will be tested for leaks and any leaks found will be repaired. Then a thorough cleaning is done to both the inside and outside of your lighter. Once complete, the outside is polished and then the lighter passes onto testing.

Overhaul Petrol

An overhaul of your petrol lighter, which is any lighter that uses lighter fluid instead of butane gas (like a Zippo and many older and vintage lighters), means that the lighter is completely disassembled. Then, all the cotton packing is removed from the tank of the lighter as well as the cotton wick. Any worn springs are replaced and cut to custom length for that particular lighter. The flint tube is then drilled out to remove any “frozen” flints or flint residue. Any worn or broken parts are replaced from the lighter mechanism with factory original parts. The lighter is thoroughly cleaned inside and out. A new wick and new cotton packing are replaced to hold the lighter fluid. The outside is polished and then the lighter passes onto testing.

Testy, Testy

Testing your lighter is essential prior to shipping in order to make sure that the repair was done correctly. We also want to ensure that the lighter is free of leaks. The lighter is filled, tested, adjusted, re-tested, adjusted again and then left to sit for 2-3 days. After sitting untouched, the lighter is tested again to ensure that no leaks are present and all is functioning.

After testing, your lighter passes to the shipping department where it is tested again prior to shipping label creation. All butane or fluid is then emptied from the lighter before shipment. We cannot ship butane in a device that can cause combustion.

Save Your Eyebrows

Once you receive your lighter, be sure to fill it up with either butane or lighter fluid and give it a test. Please point it AWAY from your face… just in case. Note that butane lighters that have adjustable flame heights will be set to around a half an inch by the technician. Remember to keep your lighter clean and for heaven’s sake… don’t light candles with it. We HATE cleaning candle wax out of your lighters.


Lighter Maintenance

Which Lighters Can We Fix?

How To Send Your Lighter For Repair

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Lighter Repair – Frequently Asked Questions

As you can imagine, there have been a lot of questions posed to us about lighter repairs since 1957. We figured it was high time to share some of them. In no particular order, here you go…

Can you fix my lighter?

See our list of commonly repairable lighters here.

Why Can’t You Fix My Lighter?

See our brief article regarding why we cannot repair some types of lighters, here.

Where do I send my lighter to get it to you?

Read the “Send Us Your Lighter For Repair” page.

What’s my lighter worth?

While there are some average prices for different lighters sold new, it’s much more difficult to determine value on a used lighter. Style, model, finish and design all contribute. Then you have the condition of the lighter to consider. Are there dents and scratches? Plating wear? Rust? All factors contribute. In our experience, 99.9% of the value of a lighter comes in how sentimental the piece is to you. Spending over $100 to repair a lighter you picked up at a flea market for $10.00 may or may not be worth it to you. Spending over $100 to repair Grandma’s old lighter that she left to you can be priceless.

Can you re-plate, refinish, re-lacquer or otherwise make my busted up lighter look new again?

Unfortunately not. There is nothing we can do to change the finish of your lighter. Dents, scratches, plating wear, chips or missing lacquer – consider it all part of the charm of your lighter.

How fast can I get my lighter back from repair?

Lighter repairs generally take 3-4 weeks from the date of payment. Why? Because we repair lighters from all over the world. Sometimes it goes a little faster.

If I don’t see my lighter listed on commonly repairable lighters, then is there a chance you can still fix it?

If the lighter is a petrol lighter (uses lighter fluid and NOT butane gas) then there is a chance we can still repair it. Send an email with pictures of your lighter and a brief description of what it is and what’s wrong with it to:

Can I pay you more money to push my lighter to the head of the repair line?


How long is the guarantee period for my repaired lighter?

All S.T. Dupont and Alfred Dunhill repair warrantee’s are 1-year. All other lighters are 90-days.

Why can’t you call me with my repair estimate?

Nobody picks up their phones these days. It takes too much time to make the call, leave a message (when your voicemail box is not full) hope for a call-back, on and on… We email estimates or if you do not have an email will send it regular mail.

Can you take parts out of one lighter to use them to repair another, similar, lighter?

No. We just don’t do work like that. If we do not have new, unused parts to repair a particular lighter, we simply don’t take on the job. And yes, even unused parts that we have in our inventory that may be forty years old are still considered “new” parts for us.

Can you put the “PING” back into my S.T. Dupont lighter?

Sorry. The “ping” sound made when popping open the cap of certain S.T. Dupont lighters is an accident based on fine craftsmanship. Since these lighters are hand made to such high tolerances, this “ping” sound has come to have meaning to some buyers. Unfortunately, the Dupont company has also started mentioning this sound in some of their advertising and product descriptions. The problem is the fact that not all of them will “ping”. Some come straight from the factory with a dull or absent sound. There is simply nothing that can be done about it. Even more unfortunate is that through normal use of the lighter and wear and tear on the hinge, the sound will eventually disappear. Our advice? Use the lighter for what it was designed for–a high quality accessory of superb craftsmanship. Something for the distinctive smoker that looks and works the way it should in making fire. The “sound” your lighter makes is inconsequential.

Whats the difference between a cigarette flame, a cigar flame and a pipe flame?

See our post on the various types of lighter flame styles here.