Excise duties on French lighters, 1910–1945

On 10th December 1910 the French state adopted new tax regulations on "all devices indented to produce spark or fire by friction, or by any other means, and of the combustion of a flammable substance". Since 1st January 1911 every lighter in France that was intended for sale in the French market had to be taxed and adequately marked (see pictures).

To confirm that the excise duty was paid to the Ministry of Finance a special duty metal plate (stamp) was attached (usually welded) to the lighter by the lighter manufacturers. The fees charged by the French state were high but the tax rates levied by the state were varying depending on the type and finish of the lighter. Following tax rates were used:
  • 2 French francs for common pocket lighters,
  • 5 Fr for pocket lighters made of silver,
  • 20 Fr for luxury pocket lighters (e.g. made of gold),
  • 5 Fr for common table/desk lighters (over 10 cm),
  • 10 Fr for table/desk lighters (over 10 cm) made of silver,
  • 50 Fr for luxury table/desk lighters (over 10 cm) made of gold or platinum.

Between 1911 and 1916 a simple cooper plate was used which had the date 1911 engraved. Later, between 1916 and 1945 a new plate (undated) was introduced with the letters "C" and "I" (stands for indirect taxes) and a profile of Mercury (patron god of financial gain, commerce and messengers) with an inscription "Ministère des Finances" (eng. Ministry of Finance). Two shapes were used for the plate – oval for table lighters, the other one for pocket lighters. Additional to the two duty plates a marking "BL" (Briquet de Luxe, eng. luxury lighter) was introduced in 1926. It was a small hallmark which was considered as more discreet and applied only on luxury lighters like Quercia or Lancel.  

It is worth to mention that France was not the sole country where lighters were taxed and marked with special plates. A similar law was constituted in Belgium and Spain although it was applied for a short time. The taxation of lighters in France was abolished in 1945.


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