Founded in 1932 by George G. Blaisdell in Bradford, Pennsylvania, the Zippo is one of the most iconic brand names in the world and their lighters are known all over the world for reliability and high quality. Over their seven decades of existence, the company has turned out thousands of designs and even manufactured lighters for the United States Armed Forces.
The World War II Era
The road to world-wide success for Zippo really began in the 1940’s when the lighters gained popularity with U.S. military members. In fact, during World War II Zippo ceased manufacturing of consumer lighters to concentrate on their military market, even though they never had a formal contract with them. Lighters made during this period were first manufactured from brass but as war shortages dragged on lighters came to be made from steel. Most of the lighters carried authorized badges, unit crests, and the division insignia for specific units within the military and they were considered a status symbol at the time. Today those lighters are a treasured collector’s item and it can cost up to $100 or more to acquire one.
Coming into Their Own
Starting in the 1960’s, the Zippo brand of lighters began a campaign to be more appealing to a larger segment of the population and it was a rousing success. And though the lighters on the outside have gone through considerable changes in the seven decades Zippo has been in business, the inner workings of the lighter have remained for the most part unchanged. Many of the lighters made during this period in the 1960’s were actually hand painted works of art that are also treasured by collectors all over the world. As technology changes, so did the way Zippo designed the covers of their lighters and today there are literally thousands of designs to choose from.
The Zippo Museum
For people who love all things Zippo, the place to be is the Zippo Museum located in Bradford, Pennsylvania, and it is ideally located at 1932 Zippo Drive. This 15,000 square foot attraction is home to the world-famous Zippo Case Store and the Zippo Repair Clinic. On the drive up to the museum be sure to take note of the fourteen custom made Zippo lighters that line the drive. At the entrance of the museum is a 40-foot tall Zippo lighter that has a pulsating flame coming out of the top. It’s open seven days a week for self-guided tours and the museum features a number of lighters from every era in company history. In 1992, Zippo created a 60th Anniversary Zippo lighter, and has made one every year since to commemorate the founding of the company. Each anniversary lighter can be seen here at the Zippo Museum.
Even More Ways to Use Your Zippo
Zippo are famous for lighting even when the winds are howling, but they can also light in some of the most extreme weather conditions on the planet. They are highly popular with campers and backpackers who need a reliable source to start a camp fire with. Many mountain climbers and cold weather backpackers also prefer Zippo because they are more reliable than butane lighters in the coldest of weather.
How Much Do They Cost?
A better question might be, how much do you want spend? A no-frills basic Zippo lighter costs as little as $13. But, if only the best will do for you and yours, you can buy an 18 karat gold custom Zippo lighter that goes for over $12,000. And then there is the antique Zippo market. In 2003, a vintage 1933 model Zippo lighter sold for over $18,000 at a swaps meet in Tokyo and in 2002 the Zippo company also bought a vintage 1933 model to display in their museum and payed a similar price. During a big 75th Anniversary celebration in 2007, Zippo sold an almost mint condition 1933 model for over $37,000. Whether you pay $12, or $12,000, your Zippo comes with a lifetime warranty which is another reason the lighter has proven so popular over the years. And no matter what you paid, you’ll always hear that distinctive Zippo click with each and every light thanks to the flint wheel ignition system.
Zippo lighters are still the main cash cow for the company, but they have diversified into manufacturing a number of other products as well. In addition to their full lines of windproof lighters, butane lighter, and candle lighters, they also produce a number of accessories that every Zippo owner should have. A number of cool leather lighter pouches and holders are available that you can get to keep your Zippo where it needs to be at all times. Zippo now also has a line of fine writing instruments available. They now feature a wide assortment of solid brass pens, in both roller ball and ball point styles. They come in a number of different decorative stripes and accents, and they all have the world-famous Zippo logo.
Recently, Zippo unveiled the Zippo Fashion Italia line of ladies’ handbags, briefcases for busy professionals, and accessories for men and women made of high quality leather, textile, and other synthetic materials. They have proven to be very popular with the fashion-conscious European market and they are quickly making headway in the lucrative American market as well. Zippo now also has a line of high quality wrist watches for men. They feature distinctive features such as an embossed logo crown and a mirrored case back, and all of the watches in this line are waterproof up to five feet.
Expect to see more innovative products from Zippo in the future. With the Zippo brand on a product, people from all over the world know to expect long-lasting quality.