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.