eBay: £7,100 for a Dunhill Aquarium Table Lighter

A rare Dunhill "Aquarium" Table Lighter was sold today on eBay (UK) for £7,100. The opening bid started at £1,000 on October 15th 2016. Ten days later the table lighter had received 21 bids from 5 bidders. The lighter itself had some condition issues although the scene with the beautiful Queen Mary ship made the lighter very desirable.

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.

RMS Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner that sailed primarily on the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 for the Cunard Line. Queen Mary was the flagship of the Cunard Line from May 1936 until October 1946 when she was replaced in that role by Queen Elizabeth. Queen Mary sailed on her maiden voyage on 27 May 1936 and captured the Blue Riband in August of that year; she lost the title to SS Normandie in 1937 and recaptured it in 1938, holding it until 1952 when she was beaten by the new SS United States. With the outbreak of World War II, she was converted into a troopship and ferried Allied soldiers for the duration of the war. More information can be found on Wikipedia.

FAQ: Ibelo Monopol, Care & Maintenance Manual, 1950s

This instruction leaflet was added to all "Monopol" pocket lighters made by Ibelo in the 1950s.

Petit point dressing table lighter, 1955

This unusual dressing table lighter was made by 'REGENT of London' between 1955 and 1959 in London, England. The gold-tone brass lighter base is pierced and has floral petit point needlework panels (tent stitch embroidery). The structure of the lighter base is made of wood. The design of the case is marked:

Made in England (not always present)

Unfortunately the registered design cannot be obtained online although the design itself was registered between March and June of 1955 and is held physically in the National Archive in Kew, Richmond in England. One more design of this lighter is know to exist (based on a rectangle) but is rare.

The wick lighter insert is made of brass, no markings are available.

The table lighter was sold alone or in a vanity set comprising of an matching alarm clock, candlesticks, rectangular  musical trinket box, powder box with mirror lid but also a dressing table tray, hair brush, mirror and manicure set with stand and perfume bottle (not pictured).

Type: petrol (wick) lighter

Scarcity: uncommon

Value for very good–mint condition: 30–40.00 USD (approx €25.00–35.00)

Weight: 230 grams

  • height: 5.8 cm
  • width: 4.9 cm
  • length: 7.9 cm

Photo: Fuelling lighters on the WW1 front

These two photos were taken during the World War I on 20th June 1915 in a military camp in Turenne, Alsace, France. French soldiers are fueling their petrol lighters, mainly trench and rope lighters.

Courtesy by Christophe Beck, Hartmannswillerkopf.

"Still lifes" postcards with table lighters, 1969

Here is a quite interesting series of three postcards designed and printed in West Germany between 1969 an 1971 by Krüger. The still life photos share similar elements, among others: flowers, alcohol, cigars/cigarettes and... lighters:

(1) Erhard (Schwäbisch Gmünd) und Consul gas table lighter produced since 1968.
(2) Esprit pocket lighter produced since 1950.
(3) Any ideas?

Mylflam - 1000 Zünder - table lighter Model 111, 1948

This table lighter Modell 111 was manufactured between 1948 and 1953 in Frankfurt am Mein in Germany by Mylflam Metallwaren GmbH. This semi-automatic petrol lighter was marketed in many different finishes like: silver, nickel plate, brass, lacquer, various types of leather etc. Below an example of the Mylflam Model 111 in nickel plate and mother of pearl finish.  

The wick lighter was generally made of brass. Marked on the underside of the base:


The patented mechanism gave the owner the possibility to hand it over without extinguishing the flame. The table lighter was advertised as a "Present-article much in demand for offices, conference- and dwelling-rooms"

Type: petrol (wick) lighter

Scarcity: uncommonrare (depending on type of the finish)

Value for very good–mint condition: $80.00–160.00 (approx €70.00–140.00)

Weight: 230 grams

  • height: 7.4 cm
  • width: 4.3 cm
  • length: 8.9 cm

"Neighbours" postcard, France 1951

Here is an an example of a colorful and humoristic postcard from the early 1950s illustrated by Pierre Ryreze and edited by d'Art BelFrance. It depicts a meeting of neighbors. One of them is asking "Are you moving around?" In reply he gets this: "No, I have mounted a wood gas generator to my lighter!!" 

The postcard design no. is 508. It was printed by FAP in France.

Karl Wieden KW 650/G Table Lighter, 1932

The KW type 650/G was first manufactured by Karl Wieden (KW) in 1932 in Germany. It was a very successful and robust semi-automatic table lighter produced in various finishes till the early 1950s.

The photos present an example of the KW 650/G made in brass with green artificial oxide. Except this sailing ship, also a version with dragons and elephants is known.

The removable lighter insert is a standard brass KW in normal size. There were also available smaller units in the size 3/4 and 1/2 of the normal KW (see dimensions). The lighter model was patented in Germany in 1936 although the design was introduced into the market in 1952.

Type: wick (petrol) lighter

Marked on the underside of the lighter base:

Scarcity: uncommonrare

Value for good mint condition (dependent on finish): $60.00–120.00 (approx €50.00–100.00)

Weight: 260 grams (0.57 pounds)

  • height: 7.2 cm (2.83")
  • width: 8.4 cm (3.3")
  • length: 2.8 cm (1.1")

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: grahame.martin@t-online.de. 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-uncommon

Value for very good condition: 10-20 EUR
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")