An interview with a collector: Flavio

Today, I have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to Flavio a dedicated Ronson collector from Italy. He has probably the biggest collection of Ronson lighters in the world. Enjoy his story! 

Can I ask you to briefly introduce yourself?...

Hello, my name is Flavio. I was born in 1955. I live in Italy near the beautiful city of Turin. I work in the real estate sector and soon I’ll get married to my beloved companion Francesca.

Congratulations to you, Flavio. Tell me, when have you started collecting Ronson lighters? What were the beginnings of your passion and why Ronson?

All started about 15 years ago. This is the story behind it: in the 1970's in Italy smoking was very common and I started to smoke too. On the occasion of my birthday my grandfather gave me a lighter (photo below), which unfortunately I lost in year 2000. A friend of mine saw my sadness related to the lost of my favorite memory of my grandfather and he gave me some advice: "Try searching on the internet. There is a site called eBay where people sell anything. Maybe you will be able to find a similar lighter." I did so and I found it! Then I bought another nice pocket lighter. Then a table lighter and then a vintage one... and now I have almost 3000 Ronson lighters!

I really take a liking on the table lighters made by Ronson and about half of the collection consists of them. They are made of silver, crystal, glass, various metals, ceramics and so on. Some of them are very bulky and some are also very rare. And still there are some lighters that I am missing in my collection like the sphinx, the devil, the airplane. I would love to find them. So far I have been collecting all Ronson lighters including the first striker lighters patented in 1913 as well the most recent lighters that come out after the rebirth of the brand.

Do you collect any other things than Ronson lighters? 

I have to answer your question this way. Unfortunately, my passion made me collect also other lighter brands like Dunhill, Cartier, S.T. Dupont, Evans, Colibri etc. But these I have only about 200 pieces and almost all of them are table/desk lighters. I have decided to buy them either of their beauty or rarity. I also have a small collection of SAFFA (Società Anonima Fabbriche Fiammiferi e Affini) Milan – they were very popular in the 1970/80 and they came out in beautiful designs!

What has been the major source of your lighters?

My favorite hunting ground is eBay from where I bought approximately 70% of my lighters. But also various exhibitions of used and old things are good places to find missing lighters. Near where I live, every Sunday there is a flea market that I often visit. And two or three times a year there are very large exhibitions in Parma and Milan. Flea markets are generally a good excuse to go out on Sundays and visit some new towns and places.

The nice thing about eBay is also the opportunity to meet and make friends with other "crazy" collectors and  also talk about things that are not necessarily connected with lighters. Currently my "friends of the fire" are Dario, Danilo, Santo, Diego and Maurizio from Italy, Sebastian from Poland, IRA from USA, John from France and Australia, Theodore from England, Franz and Helmut from Germany and Carlos from Mexico. A very diverse bevy. The only problem I have is my poor English so I am very pleased with google translator which as I am aware makes me sometimes write "nonsense incredible"!

What is your collection for you personally? What is your dream connected with it and what do you do to make it reality?

There is no real reason why collections begin. It is something totally subjective. For me, it is the pleasure of having and preserving something beautiful, rare, historic and artistic and, in addition, the emotions you feel when you find the missing piece. I also like to believe that it is a small investment in the future.

I have so many projects that I would like to start and finish, but I see them all difficult to achieve for the matter of time or cost. I'd like to make a small exhibition of the most interesting pieces I have; or a small museum. Maybe a book or a collection of photos on DVD. I could then sell them on eBay and recover some money. We will see...

Does your family understand, support or even share your passion of collecting lighters? 

Fortunately, my future wife is a collector herself. She collects among others Lenci dolls, Wedgwood pottery, figurines of horses. So she understands, supports and accompanies me in my passion. The big problem is the space in the house which is now almost fully utilized because of the loads of showcases.

What has been your most exciting lighter finds? 

My best find was a beautiful cigarette lighter in mother of pearl. I have already had such lighter. When I saw it on a stand, I got an adrenaline rush and after some negotiations I managed to buy it. I paid 20 euros and I was happy as a child at Christmas! Or when I bought the whole collection of Danilo, a friend from Milan who had decided to get rid of his ca. 400 lighters. Some of them were very rare. It was a tough negotiation lasting almost five hours.

Could you name your top 10 favorite Ronson lighters in your collection?

It is difficult to point the top ten lighters among all the ones I have. Let's say that I like some series of Ronson lighters. Among the table lighters I would chose the chrome plated dancers, animals, those crystal lalique, and ceramics Bjorn Wiinblad lighters. Among the Ronson pocket lighters I like the Banjo, the heart shaped lighters and the classic Varaflame.

Can you give novice lighter collectors any hints regarding collecting lighters?

As the world of lighters is immense – just think about how many different models were marketed by Zippo – my advice to those who want to start a collection of lighters would be choose your field of expertise! It might be narrowed to a brand, material used, new or vintage, the origin, type (gas/petrol), the target group (for example: military, pocket or women) etc. And, initially, do stick to that choice. Otherwise the collection might be to broad and you might lose the pleasure of hunting the rare pieces! And another tip is be curious – study, seek, learn and make friends with other collectors. There are great people around!

Thank you Flavio for your time. It was a pleasure to talk with you! I hope you will soon find the missing pieces in your collection to make it complete and good luck with your exhibition! 


Below some pictures of parts of Flavio's collection.

17th International Lighter Convention in Krefeld, Germany

On the 7th of May (Saturday) 2016 the 17th International Lighter Convention in Krefeld, Germany will take place. Table holders can setup from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM. More info can be obtained from Grahame Martin: I hope to be there! As the New Year is in the game I would like to wish you new discoveries, wonderful inspirations and happiness to fill your heart. All the best!

Advert: Ronson De-Light Lighters, Art Metal Works 1928

A black and white full page magazine advertisement published in the USA in 1928. It features the De-Light lighter series made by Art Metal Works, Inc (Newark, New Jersey, USA). It is advertised with words like: "The World's greatest lighter", "A flip and it's lit. Release and it's out!" and "The gift of gifts".

Predom Termet GZS-03 Table Lighter, Karolina, 1978

The gas table lighter Predom (Termet) GZS-03 was made between 1978-1988 in Pieszyce, Poland. Predom (Zjednoczony Przemysł Zmechanizowanego Sprzętu Domowego) was a Polish corporation manufacturing a wide range of office and household products. The "Termet" division was manufacturing gas-fired heaters, boilers, gas burners and pocket and table lighters.

The base of the lighter is made of porcelain manufactured by ZPS "Karolina" (former Königszelt) which was founded in 1860. The base has a pearl finish with silver stripes on the legs. There are at least five other "Karolina" designs known. The base is stamped: KAROLINA, MADE IN POLAND, 1 (quality mark). These lighters were also available in a set consisting of: lighter, cigarette holder and ashtray.

The lighter insert is chrome plated and stamped on the side: Predom Termet logo, gas model lighter GZS-03 and the month and year of production 10-82. The lighter insert was used in other versions than porcelain bases, like crystal glass and wood. 

Type: gas (butane) lighter

Scarcity: common

Value for very good condition: 99 PLN (approx. 86 PLN)

Weight: 220 grams (0.48 pounds)

The graphic coming from the original box: Zapalniczka, zestaw stołowy porcelanowy

  • height: 6.5 cm (2.6")
  • width: 6 cm (2.4")
  • length: 11 cm (4.3")

Advert: Ronson Wedgwood Table Lighter, 1954

This Ronson magazine advertisement was published in a British magazine "Punch" in June 1954. It presents a Ronson table lighter in a Wedgwood blue and white jasper base as "today's most fashionable wedding present".

Japanese Horse-Drawn Carriage Table Lighter, 1959

This nice figural table lighter was manufactured between 1959 and 1961 in Japan. The base of the lighter is made of ceramic and is hand-painted. It depicts a Japanese horse-drawn carriage. Two people are sitting on the carriage - one person on each side - man and woman.

The removable wick lighter insert is chrome-plated and stamped on the side JAPAN and on the bottom:

 PAT. NC. 531887

Type: petrol (wick) lighter

Scarcity: uncommon

Value for very good condition: 99 PLN (approx. 87 PLN)

Weight: 120 grams (0.26 pounds)

  • height: 7 cm (2.8")
  • width: 5 cm (2")
  • length: 12 cm (4.7")

"Oh, for my lighter!" postcard, Canada, 1942

Here we have an example of a color postcard from the WWII era. It depicts a small boy handing the Canadian soldier a can with petrol (fr. essence) for the jeep. In reply he gets this: Oh, for my lighter! A bit of humor in the very unhappy times. The postcard was printed in Belgium.

Ronson Striker Lighter "Monkey", 1938

The Ronson Striker Lighter "Monkey" was manufactured by Art Metal Works Inc. (Ronson) between 1938-1940 in Newark, N.J. in the United States. The same "laughing out loud" monkey design was also used in the manufacturing the Ronson AMW incense burner, but certainly without the wand and flint strip.

The striker wand (two variants known) is on the top of the monkeys head and the flint strip on the arm. The striker lighter base is die-casted. It is therefor heavy and very sturdy. The finish is called "imperial bronze" - deep bronze effect combined with cooper-colored highlights. It was also made (but is rarer) in cooper finish The striker lighter combines a small ashtray compartment in a form of a clamshell.

The bottom of the lighter is marked:

Also some of the lighters have a sticker saying: 


Type: striker lighter

Scarcity: rare

Value for very good–mint condition: 250€

Weight: 735 grams (2 lbs)

  • height: 10 cm (3.9")
  • width: 9 cm (3.5")
  • depth: 9 cm (3.5")

Advert: Ronson Rondelight and Touchtip lighters, 1940

A black&white 1/4 magazine advertisement published in the USA on November 1940. It features three Ronson table lighters:
  1. Cigarette Box and "Touchtip", model no. 16353. Chromium and black and white or tortoise-shell and ivory enamel.
  2. "Touchtip", model no. 2104. Enameled table lighter in black, white, turquoise, maroon, green or tortoise.
  3. Rondelight, model 14407. Table or desk lighter in black with chromium or colored bands.

Beney Lighters Catalog, England 1950s

Below some miniatures of the newly digitized Beney Lighters Catalogue from the 1940s/1950s. It covers the  whole Beney lighter portfolio:
  1. Beney Saville Super in Baron, Knight and Lady sizes (pocket lighter).
  2. Beney Strikalite (pocket lighter).
  3. Beney Thada (table lighter).
  4. Beney Saville Globe (desk lighter).
  5. Beney Alfresco (pocket lighter).
If you make a donation of $5 and you get this and couple of other publications on lighters (for instance: Lighter Repair Manual) in PDF delivered to you by email! Thank you!

FAQ: Favorit How to Fill and Replace Flint, 1940s

This instruction leaflet was added to all "Favorit" pocket lighters made by Adolf Kinzinger and Ferdinand Wagner (Pat. Ang.) in Pforzheim, Germany in the 1940s and 1950s.

The leaflet was available in three languages: French, German and English.

Advert: Ronson De-light Cigarette Lighters, 1929

A black&white magazine advertisement published in The Saturday Magazine on November 1929. It depicts the Ronson De-Light Series including the table lighter Ronson Tabourette.

Gift Book, Ronson Pioneer and Typhoon, 1960

This Ronson advertisement comes from the "Gift Book" catalog from the 1960. It depicts a part of the new Ronson Typhoon and Pioneer pocket and table/desk cigarette lighters range.

Ronson Varaflame Claridge, Wood, 1966

The Ronson Varaflame Claridge was first introduced in 1966 in England. The production ceased in 1969. The base of the lighter was made of two specially selected cotrasting woods. The curved design of the lighter is similar to the Varaflame Jupiter which also was manufactured in the 1960s.

The removable lighter insert the Varaflame is chrome-plated and has a fingertip flame control. The insert is fastened to the base with a black plastic screw.

Type: butane (gas) lighter

Writing on the underside of the base:


Scarcity: uncommon

Value for good–mint condition: $25.00–40.00 (approx €20.00–35.00)

Weight: 130 grams (0.29 pounds)

  • height: 6.0 cm (2.36")
  • width: 9.2 cm (3.6")
  • depth: 3.6 cm (1.42")

Thorens Portor "Lady" Desk Lighter, 1928

The Thorens Portor "Lady" Table/Desk Lighter was manufactured in Switzerland in 1928/1929. The wick lighter insert is a Thorens semi-automatic 'single claw' model that was manufactured between 1918 and 1935. It is made of brass and gold plated; stamped: 

 B L
and G T on the top lid

The discreet "BL" (fr. Briquet de Luxe, eng. luxury lighter) indicates that the lighter was intended to be sold in France as it is a French tax mark. The mark was introduced in 1926 and applied only on luxury lighters like Quercia, Lancel and Thorens.  

The column shaped base of the lighter and the Art Deco nude lady are made of brass. Both have an antique finish applied on. No monogram shields present and no marks on the bottom of the base. More info about the lighter and the GT stamp are welcome!

Type: petrol (wick) lighter

Scarcity: very rare

Value for very good–mint condition: $450–650.00 (approx. €400–550.00)

Weight: 195 grams (0.43 pounds)

  • height: 8.9 cm (3.5")
  • diameter: 5.6 cm (2.2")

Ronson Art Déco Table Lighter, 1934

The Ronson "Art Déco" also referred as the "Tall Boy" (Urban Cummings) is one of the rarest and most representative lighters for the Art Deco period ever made by Ronson. It was manufactured in a small amount between 1934 and 1935 by ART METAL WORKS INC. in Newark (New Jarsey) in the United States.

Art Deco was the predominant decorative art style of the 1920s and 1930s, characterized by precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes and strong colors. The favorite materials used in finishing household items were glass, chrome, bakelite and enamel.

This particular lighter has a chrome plated brass body which major part is covered with black enamel which gives a very contrastive design. The lighter is relatively tall and thin and is neither handy nor particularly heavy.

The body of the lighter is based on an oval. A beautiful Art Deco ornamental monogram shield is present on one side (see photo above). A 1934 Ronson catalog shows also a version with a running scotty dog and a drunk hanging on to a light pole (both are without a monogram shield), see below. Both motives were also used on the Ronson De-Light "Jumbo" table lighter.

The bottom of the lighter is marked:

U.S. PAT. RE. NO. 19023


Type: petrol (wick) lighter

Scarcity: very rare

Value for very good–mint condition: $400–600.00 (approx. €300–500.00)

Weight: 155 grams (0.33 pounds)

  • height: 13.9 cm (5.5")
  • width: 4.1 cm (1.6")
  • depth: 6.8 cm (2.7")