Pocket match holders / vesta cases converted into lighters, XIX/XX century

Pocket match holders, also called 'vesta cases' or 'matchsafes', were holding a number of friction matches and were introduced in the 1840s. They were made from precious (metals like silver, gold) to common (brass, copper, German silver, wood, celluloid etc.) materials. The most popular material was solid silver, and silver-plated brass. The phosphorus head of the match could be easily ignited when rubbed against roughened serrations.

Vesta cases are a wonderful area for collectors - the variety of decorations, styles and quality is stunning. The most sought after are figural novelty vestas and those finely painted by hand. The heyday of pocket-sized matchboxes was between 1870 and 1920 - hundred of thousands were made by silversmiths and workshops around the world.

After 1907 matches as well match holders were slowly displaced by lighters. The invention of ferrocerium (lighter flint) began a new era of lighters that were very cheap in production. A new designation for vesta cases was found - small family owned metal workshops began to convert vesta cases into petrol lighters. Such case was ideal for such operation as vesta cases were designed to keep friction matches safe and dry (tight fit). Such converted lighters are quite difficult to find nowadays but nice to have in once tobacciana collection.

One of the best books on matchboxes is the 'Matchsafes' edited by Deborah S. Shinn. It has a great selection of vesta cases, wonderful photos and a lot of interesting info.


Ronson Wedgwood Celadon Table Lighter, 1954

This wick table lighter was made in ca. 1955 in England by Ronson and Ofeturia & Barlaston Wedgwood.  The ceramic base is in a oyster shape and is finished in a classic celadon (willow-green color) glaze. 

The Ronson lighter insert is round in shape, made of brass and chrome-plated and marked on the bottom:  
Ronson Trademark 
Made in England

The lighter base is padded with felt and marked:

Ofeturia & Barlaston
Wedgwood Celadon
Made in England

Type: automatic wick (petrol) lighter

Scarcity: uncommon

Value for good–mint condition: $40.00–60.00 (approx €30.00–50.00)

Weight: 125 grams


    height: 7.4 cm
    length: 7.5 cm

Barnett Pearlman Polo Automatic Lighter, 1948

The Polo Automatic Lighter was made by Barnett Pearlman & Co. Ltd in London, England between ca. 1948-1952. The base is made of brass and heavy chrome-plated. The bakelite pedestal gives the column shaped table lighter additional stability.

The lighter was available in two different heights: 9 and 13 cm. The automatic lighter mechanism was invented by Ernest Shinwell and patented by Barnett Pearlman & Co. in 1948 (patent no. 642,908).

The wick lighter is marked on the underside of the base:

Made in England World Patents
REGD. DES. NO. 857204

Type: automatic petrol (wick) lighter

Scarcity: uncommon

Value for very good–mint condition: $50 (approx €30)

Weight: 285 (tall), 235 grams

  • diameter: 6.7 cm 
  • height: 13 cm (tall), 9 cm (short)