June 22, 2018
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Collectors group offers selling tips on vintage lighters

Courtesy of juliaauctions.com
Courtesy of juliaauctions.com
The salesman’'s sample of an Oliver combination plow brought $8,625 in a James D. Julia sale this summer.
By Danielle Arnet, Tribune Media Services

Q: What can you tell us about our vintage cigarette table lighter shaped like an antique car? It’s part of our vast collection of lighters. The lighter is marked Unitoran and Japan, has a lot of detail and is in excellent condition.

A: As a dedicated collector, our reader should know about the collector group for fanciers of cigarette lighters. Called On the Lighter Side ( otls.com), the group founded in 1983 includes members in eight countries. The organization has a bimonthly newsletter (classified ads are free for members) and annual conventions held in different cities. This year’s was in Las Vegas.

OTLS board member Rich Weinstein looked over photos sent and told us the reader’s table lighter dates from the 1970s and is a butane model.

At that time, Japanese makers made all sorts of gimmicky lighters. On eBay, we spotted a musical piano that plays, a camera with tripod, a pistol that fires and a VW bus. All are lighters, all Japanese, all from that era.

Most significantly valuewise, the reader has a butane lighter, not one that uses liquid fuel or a striker.

As a result, according to Weinstein, “although it’s a neat-looking car, the lighter aspect of it is insignificant.” A potential buyer who is a lighter collector won’t pay more than $25 for it. Someone enamored with the look of the piece and all its gadgets might pay more.

We found a similar lighter on Craigslist, offered for $25.

OTLS founder Judith Sanders adds, “The most important word in the lighter community is Condition! Condition! Condition!” Happily, the reader’s lighter looks near mint.

“About four years ago, lighters were expensive,” she added. After the economy tanked, many serious collectors stored prized lighters and are still waiting to sell when (and if) prices rise. Others posted collections on eBay, where “it is a buyer’s market. Now buyers can get unbelievable buys online.”

As for trends, “Zippo is always popular,” she said. Ditto for any enamel lighters, specific Ronson models and striker lighters made in 1920s Austria. Add to that any lighter with a watch or table lighters with clocks and luxury lighters such as Dunhill and Tiffany.

Mailing address for OTLS is P.O. Box 1733, Quitman, TX 75783.

Q: I have a first edition of Dr. Seuss’s first book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.” What is value and how can I sell it?

Q: Can you give me any information on a comprehensive Bible dictionary in which every important scriptural word is fully explained? Publisher is A.J. Holman and Co. in 1874.

A: When readers ask for info on books, 99 percent of the time they mean value. Looks like it’s time to repeat info on how to find retail values of old books.

I always suggest that readers research and find books on abebooks.com, biblio.com or bookfinder.com. If it is an antiquarian book, find a local seller on abaa.org.

We found multiple copies of both readers’ titles on those sites. We even found one first edition Seuss that sold on eBay! I’d tell the readers results, but they need to see them for themselves. Hint: Neither should plan a cruise based on proceeds from selling.

Auction action: Antique and vintage salesman’s samples of furnishings and equipment are popular with collectors. Samples are faithful miniversions of items too bulky to bring on sales calls.

Samples, not to be confused with doll furnishings or toys, can bring big money. Some, such as cast iron stoves, are often seen. Rarer items, such as the agricultural model of an Oliver combination plow that sold for $8,625 recently in a James D. Julia auction, sell high. That sample of a wooden two-handled plow in red and black with a brass plow blade with reversible tip measures 23 inches long by 8¾ inches high.

“Oliver’s Combination Plow” and “Oliver’s Patent” are hand-painted on both sides. Missing a wooden crosspiece between handles that has been replaced with wire, the model was visual and appealing, and that counted.

Collector quiz

Q: Which of these statements about Black Forest clocks are TRUE?

a) All are cuckoo clocks.

b) They date from the 17th century.

c) They are/were made in the Black Forest region of Germany.

d) The most valuable version is a singing bird.

A: Only c and b are correct. A fine trumpeter version is best and good clocks were made in many varieties. Source: “Rare and Unusual Black Forest Clocks” by Justin J. Miller ($89.99, Schiffer). Not about touristy and garden variety BF clocks, the text is complex enough for horologists yet visual and attractive. Includes how to date the clocks, mechanics of make, differing types, miniatures and more.

Danielle Arnet answers questions of general interest in her column. Send email to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.


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