Find out about other collectibles described by The Saturday Early Show's Tony Hyman in the Collectibles Archive or visit Tony Hyman's Web site.
If you think you have a collectible worth a lot of cash, send an email to email@example.com with "What's It Worth?" in the subject line. Or write to "What's It Worth?" The Saturday Early Show, 514 West 57th St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10019.
One of the earliest "lighters" (1600s to mid-1800s) was a pair of tongs that were used to lift coals from the fire to light tobacco. By the mid-1800s, there were utensils like a silver repousse whale-oil table lighter.
Actually, portable fire was available as early as 1530 with phosphorus-tipped splints but matches come into their own in the 1800s. The problem was: The matches caught fire when they were still in a person's pocket.
In 1903, a German named Carl Auer invented a flint made of cerium and iron that shot off sparks when struck by a hardened steel wheel, followed by a worldwide explosion of lighters. In 1913, inventor Louis Aronson began marketing a metal match that you could carry in your pocket.
But the Ronson is considered to be the Cadillac of American-made lighters.
For instance, there is the 1934 Ronson Strike Lighter Houn' Dog. The metal wand on the top is removed from the inner well, which holds lighter fluid. The tip of the wand has a hardened metal rod surrounded by a wick. A strip of flint is imbedded in the dog's nose. The wand is scratched down the flint and the sparks ignite the wick. Voila! A metal match! All of Ronson's first lighters, going back to 1913, were strike lighters. Value: $125.
|1939 Ronson Lady-Pact|
|1929 Ronson Superba|
|1937 Ronson Hearts|
|1936 Ronson Vee|
|1931 Ronson Date-A-Lite|
|1929 Ronson Princess|
The most important consideration in buying a vintage lighter is condition. The values presented here are for lighters that are in mint or excellent condition.
Lighters and information courtesy of Urban K. Cummings, author of two books on Ronson lighters. If you've got a question about a lighter or wish to buy his book, "Ronson The World's Greatest Lighter," here is the information: Available from Urban K. Cummings Lighter Books, P.O. Box 1482, Palo Alto, CA 94302. Send $24.95 plus either $2 for book rate (can be slow delivery) or $4 for priority mail. California residents add $1.75 tax.
You may write to the author at the above address or fax your message to (650) 327-7182. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Urban says he is a collector first and author second -- always ready to talk lighters with collectors, buyers and sellers. "It's a fantastic hobby," says he.
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