eBay: $8,300 for a Dunhill Aquarium Table Lighter

A very rare Dunhill Aquarium Table Lighter was sold last month on eBay for $8,300. The opening bid started at $1,500 on January 19th 2012. Ten days later the table lighter had received 20 bids from 9 bidders. By far it is the highest price for a table lighter fetched on eBay. The record price for a cigarette lighter though belongs to an early example of Zippo pocket lighter which was sold on January 2009 for $11,758.98!

The Dunhill Aquarium lighters which were made in the early 1950s are for sure among collectors' favorites. They usually receive final eBay selling prices in the $3,500 to $5,000 range. The price though might be higher especially for examples in excellent condition featuring scenes like birds, outdoor pursuits, automobiles or ships. The scenes were hand-painted by Ben Shillingford which makes every lighter unique and thus very desirable.

And some more pictures of this beauty:

Sterling Candle Snuffer with Allbright Lighter, 1944

This practical and handy combination of candle lighter and extinguisher (candle snuffer) was manufactured in mid 1940s by Guth Stern & Co Inc. in New York, N.Y., U.S.A. The wick lighter is mounted on the end of the long handle and can be covered with a top cup which makes the lighter invisible.

This combo is made of sterling silver (.925) except the removable manual operated lighter which is made of brass and silver-plated. Similar lighter inserts were made by HyGlo Products Co. Owosso, Michigan U.S.A. in the 1930s and 1940s.

Marked on the snuffer cap: STERLING and on the lighter insert:  


Guth Stern & Co produced only a few type of lighters and lighter inserts though these were applied by many producers in a very wide range of bases and lighter casings. One of the most complicated lighter mechanism was the Allbright lady compact style pocket lighter manufactured since 1940.

Type: petrol (wick) lighter

Scarcity: rare

Value for very good–mint condition: $70100

Weight: 31 grams (1 oz); lighter insert: 4 grams

  • length: 26.0 cm (10.4")

Book review: Smoking Antiques by Amoret and Christopher Scott

This post starts a series of book reviews on cigarette lighters and other smoking accessories.
  • Full title: Smoking Antiques (Shire Album No. 66)
  • Authors: Amoret Scott, Christopher Scott
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Number of pages: 32
  • Publisher: Shire Publications Ltd.
  • Publishing date: 1981
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 inches
  • ISBN 10: 0852635400    
  • ISBN 13: 9780852635407
  • Status: Out of Print
  • Availability: used and new at Amazon
  • Price range: $2-$10


Description of the book provided by the publisher:

Since tobacco was brought to Europe from America, where it was widely used by native Indians, its consumption has formed a significant aspect of social life. Different methods of taking tobacco have come into and gone out of fashion and as a result of an enormous range of objects connected with smoking and snuff taking has been produced, much of it of great potential appeal to the present-day collector. For the pipe smoker there were clay pipes and racks for holding them, pipes of meerschaum (sepiolit), porcelain and briar (wood), and tobacco jars and boxes. The vogue for taking snuff led to the production of many beautiful snuff boxes and accessories. When cigars ousted snuff in the early nineteenth century the cigar case took over from the snuffbox as the subject of elaborate decoration and smokers also needed cigar cutters and holders. Primitive lighters, early matches and their containers are an interesting sideline. In this book the authors examine these and other smoking antique, including printed ephemera, from the collector's point of view and provide the historical background of smoking. 

Amoret and Christopher Scott have written many books, including Discovering Stately Homes and Staffordshire Figures for Shire, but most of them are about antiques and they have made several television appearances with their collections. Amoret Scott is a founder member of the Ephemera Society and items from her collection have been shown in exhibitions and displays throughout Britain and the United States. She is a travel consultant for visitors to Britain.



The tobacco story 3
Foreign pipes 7
Clay pipes 8
Meerschaum pipes 10
Porcelain pipes 10
Briar pipes and others 11
Tobacco jars 12
Tobacco boxes 14
Pipe racks 15
Smoker's tongs 16
Stoppers 18
Matches and match containers 19
Lighters 22
Snuff and snuffboxes 22
Cigars 29
Cigarettes 30
Ephemera 30
Clothes 32


Sample pages:

Information on lighters are limited to minimum although many other subjects 
are covered as you would expect from this small publication



This little book makes an overall good impression. It is not a reference book but rather a brief story of the world of tobacciana collectibles like: pipes, tobacco jars, tobacco boxes, pipe racks, smokers; tongs, stoppers, matches and match containers, lighters, snuff and snuffboxes, cigars, ephemera and even clothes. The approachable writing style as well as the selection of facts make it a light and quick read. The booklet lacks an index and bibliography which can be excused taking into account its moderate content. A lighter collector won't find much information on lighters but may find interesting to read and see the variety of clay and porcelain pipes or decorative meerschaum cigar holders.

The 36 black and white photographs are high quality - they are clear, optimal sized, well organized and what is even more important, all of them are equipped with comprehensive captions.

I recommend this low priced (used) booklet for beginners and those beyond lighter collectors who would like to get a broader view of the world of smoking antiques without getting too much involved in details. It is short enough to read it conveniently anywhere including a bathtub.

Rating: Good (3/6)

Mail Order Catalog: Sears Christmas Book, 1952

Many of us enjoy viewing vintage mail order catalogs as they serve a mirror of past times, desires, habits, customs, and mode of living... Some of them contain pages on cigarette lighters. A good example is the Sears Christmas Book from 1952. The full catalog (447 pages) can be viewed on Jasons website wishbookweb.com.

Sears, officially named Sears Roebuck and Co., is an American chain of department stores, which was founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck in the late 19th century. From its mail order beginnings, the company grew to become the largest retailer in the United States by the mid-20th century, and its catalogs became famous. Competition and changes in the demographics of its customer base hurt Sears following World War II, as the country's suburban areas thrived, hurting the company's inner-city strongholds. Eventually, Sears' catalogs were discontinued in lieu of more web-based alternatives. 

Sears Christmas Book 1952 Cover

Presented Ronson lighter models: Ronson Maximus, Ronson Vernon table butane lighter, Ronson Penciliter, Ronson Standard, New Ronson Windsor, Ronson Mastercase, Ronson Adonis, Ronson Whirlwind, Ronson Princess

Presented lighter models: Evans Standard, Evans Cloissone, Evans Cosmopolitan, Evans Combination Cigarette Case and Lighter, Peli-can Lite, Butalite Lighter, Parker Flaminaire, Zippo, Gilbert, Regens Liter, Beattie Jet Lighter and Minuet table lighters

Mail order catalog

Richard Sears knew that farmers often brought their crops to town, where they could be sold and shipped. Before the Sears catalog, farmers typically bought supplies from local general stores. Sears took advantage of this by publishing his catalog with clearly stated prices, so that consumers could know what he was selling and at what price, and order and obtain them conveniently. The catalog business grew quickly. The first Sears catalog was published in 1888. By 1894, the Sears catalog had grown to 322 pages, featuring sewing machines, bicycles, sporting goods, automobiles and a host of other new items.

Organizing the company so it could handle orders on an economical and efficient basis, Chicago clothing manufacturer Julius Rosenwald became a part-owner in 1895. Alvah Roebuck resigned soon after due to ill health, but the company retained his name. By the following year, dolls, smoking accessories, refrigerators, stoves and groceries had been added to the catalog.Sears, Roebuck and Co. soon developed a reputation for quality products and customer satisfaction. By 1895, the company was producing a 532-page catalog. Sales were greater than $400,000 in 1893 and more than $750,000 two years later.

In 1906 Sears opened its catalog plant and the Sears Merchandise Building Tower. Also, by that time, the Sears catalog had become known in the industry as "the Consumers' Bible". In 1933, Sears, Roebuck and Co. produced the first of its famous Christmas catalogs known as the "Sears Wishbook", a catalog featuring toys and gifts, separate from the annual Christmas Catalog. The catalog also entered the language, particularly of rural dwellers, as a euphemism for toilet paper. In the days of outhouses and no readily available toilet paper, the pages of the mass-mailed catalog were used as toilet paper.

Alvah Roebuck returned to the organization during the Great Depression, and worked as a spokesperson until his death in 1948. Part of the reason Roebuck left Sears in 1895 was due to the stress the business placed upon him, and he later took some delight in pointing out his longevity versus the much shorter life of Richard Sears. In the 1970s, the name "Roebuck" was dropped from the trade name of the stores, though not from the official corporate name.

FAQ: How to Make Light of Lighter Repair, 1957

Below an interesting article on wick lighter repair from October 1957. It was initially issued in the Science and Mechanics Magazine.

FAQ: Wick Lighter Care, Troubleshooting Guide & Hints

Following, are listed some of the common problems that you may encounter with your cigarette wick lighter. This guide includes also measures which will help to solve them.
  1. Lighter won't hold fluid for a reasonable period of time. This is caused by defective washer on the fuel screw or by a short wick or loose packing. In the case of a short wick, regardless of how much fluid is in the lighter tank, it cannot be delivered to the chimney unless the wick reaches those parts of the packing containing the fluid. What you have to do is re-wick, repack and check washer, replacing if necessary.

  2. Lighter when lit burns temporarily with excessive smoking. This is caused when the lighter is filled with inappropriate petrol or oil instead of proper grade of lighter fluid. Oil may also prevent sparking action as it spreads over the working parts of the wick lighter. Disassemble every part of lighter, throw away the old packing, and soak the lighter tank and parts in good lighter fluid bath. Wipe dry, making sure that all traces of oil are removed. 

  3. The lighter won't spark even though new piece of flint is installed. If lack of flint is not the trouble here the problem might lye in:
    • defective wheel which might worn excessively smooth,
    • lack of proper tension or strength in the flint spring,
    • defective clutch spring as it sometimes felt apart,
    • fused old flint which often is the case when the lighter was not used a longer period.
    To get the lighter to work you will have to find spare parts in case the first two problems appeared. When an old flint is stuck in the flint tube you might want to use a tool (a screwdriver or a very fine-gauge drill bit). Remove the flint screw and spring and break up the old flint in the spring tube. Be careful to not damage the flint wheel, but also be thorough about getting all the old flint out. In some of the cases the lighter has to be dissembled to get the job done.

Hint 1: Keep clean the wheel. Do not allow it to clog up with dirt, lint, tobacco or powder dust, powdered flint, etc. The remedy for this is an occasional brushing with a stiff brush, or light wire wheel if powder tools are available. A good idea is also to blow a burst of air into the lighter mechanism.
Hint 2: If you do not intend to use the lighter for a longer period remove the flint otherwise it might get stuck like cement in the flint tube. This is because of moisture, spring pressure, time and ferrocerium - the material which the flint is made of.
Hint 3: Never use the lighter until fluid and flint are completely exhausted. This results in charred wick, and necessitates re-wicking and repacking. When flint is gone, the wheel continues to turn against the flint spring tip which, being often brass, will damage or destroy the cutting surfaces of the wheel, and make replacement necessary.
Hint 4: To disassemble a lighter with a standard movement, a few tools are necessary like small screwdrivers, tweeters and alignment tools.

In addition to what was written above an interesting article published in Popular Mechanics on February 1947 on "Getting the Most of Your Cigarette Lighter".


Advert: Silver Match Briquets, 1957

A French full-page magazine advertisement published on May 1957.