Spotting fake zippo lighters (current production)
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30 November 2008
Fortunately, unlike the collector of Dupont lighters, Zippo freaks have a much easier ride when it comes to spotting fakes. Given that the price point of a current production Zippo is so much less than a luxury brand, it would seem that there is significantly less point in counterfeiting them. Indeed, the biggest concern is to those more discerning collectors who are on the look out for rarities and specialist items such as Vietnam era Zippos, and those early models from the 30's which can change hands for significant amounts. However, modern 'Rippos' (ripped off Zippos) do exist, but are generally fairly easy to spot once you know what to look for. As most of the other guides on ebay tend to deal with a very broad range of styles and ages, I thought it was worth creating one that deals specifically with new/recent production Zippo Lighters. All of this information exists elsewhere on the web, but not (that I could find) in one place, so here goes. 1/ Packaging The ultimate litmus test for this aspect is to compare it to packaging that you know is genuine. If you don't have another Zippo from the same era and with the same packaging (there are a lot of variations when it comes to how Zippos are presented) or can't examine the genuine article in a retailer, the following may be of some help, but remember, you do hear about fake lighters in genuine boxes - even genuine 'inners' in fake lighter cases, but more of that later. Okay, so just because it came in a branded box or complicated plastic carrier, it isn't necessarily genuine. Look for the overall quality of the packaging, and most importantly the quality of the print. Without a genuine item to compare it to, the only resource you have is what the genuine Zippo logo looks like, including key pieces of information such as the registered 'R' being in the top right from 2005 onwards. If it doesn't look the same, or costly processes like foil blocked red flames have been replaced with red paint, or are 'out of registration' with the rest of the logo (basically, if the second pass of the print process is wonky), be suspicious. Be aware of flimsy plastic or tin, or just a bad finish, all of which could indicate a fake. With regards to the famous orange sticker, its abscence is not a sure sign of a fake - some markets don't require them to be there, and some savvy retailers and collectors remove them to prevent marring the finish and so customers can inspect the item fully prior to sale. The next possible indicator of a fake is the leaflet within the packaging. Various guides both here and elsewhere on the web have scans of fake Zippo instructions sheets with logo's in the wrong font, and copy littered with dumb spelling mistakes. Zippo is a big company, there are careful about their identity and spell check their printed material. Instructions say I can't link so you'll have to do some googling if you want to find them I'm afraid. Oh, and the guarantee certificate is not always on there, though there will be a mention of the famous guarantee somewhere. 2/ Lighter case Lets start at the bottom and work up. The stamping on the bottom of the lighter should meet the following criteria: a - Date stamp. The current dating system consists of a letter to the left of the logo and two numbers to the right. The former is the month (a=Jan, b=Feb,etc) and the numbers are the year (i.e. 08) If the letter goes beyond 'L' (the twelfth letter....work it out) its not genuine. Similarly if the number is 45 be suspicious, though I doubt even the fakers are this dumb! Next is the logo itself. This you can find on the zippo web site, basically if it doesn't look the same, its a fake. After 2005 the 'R' is in the top right of the word Zippo, the 'Z' is not capitalised, and the flame on the 'I' is higher than the rest of the letters, almost level with the top of the registered 'R' - also, the two P's should just be touching. Under that it should say BRADFORD.PA. MADE IN U.S.A. all upper case and with a slight exaggerated spacing to the place of manufacture. This sits just off the outer perimeter of the stamp. A good fake can meet all of those parameters, but what they often can't achieve is the clear crisp quality of stamping. Under the eyeglass you can see the 'R' in its circle, and see the square edges and deep flat face of the logo and the rounded rectangle in which all of the above sits. If its shadowy, indistinct, engraved rather than stamped, deviates from the layout and text described, or in any way illegible under the magnifier, its a fake. b - Quality of finish. Again, it helps if you get hold of a genuine zippo for comparison, but you should be able to spot the difference, especially which the high polished chrome models. The finish is really deep and lustrous, like an unblemished rolls royce bumper - It really is that good fresh out of the box. If its a brushed version, painted, or antiqued, its going to be harder to tell, though the weight, overall fit and finish, and most importantly the sound of it opening, should expose the fake. If you have a bit of a google, there is actually a german (I think) web site that has audio files of various different lighters being opened if you need a comparison, but its not difficult to conjure up the sound for every american veitnam movie ever made! ;-) Be aware that lighters with certain finishes, and especially those with plaques bonded to the front are going to make a different noise, the latter being the most different as it deadens the 'ting'. That said, when you close it there is still that very distinct clattery 'donk'. Also, make sure there is a slight bevel to the join between the lid and the main body. c-Hinges. Modern lighters have five sections to the hinge alternating small/large/small/large/small They are recessed less than halfway into the case and look nice and straight when examined without the 'guts' in the case. There is always some 'slop' to the hinge, but not so much that it interferes with the workings when closing, or that the hinge looks crooked and uneven. Inside the lighter the hinge is cleanly spot welded to the case with two oval-ish welds about 8mm from the centre line of the hinge. Inside, there will be no evidence of blown welds, or heavy carbonisation, outside the 'dents' caused by the welds will range from virtually imperceptible (especially on lighters with a painted finish), to distinct but smooth sided ovals laying horizontal to the weld like an egg on its side. Fakes tend to have harsh deep circular spots, with an distinct edge, and inside the sort of welding even I'd be ashamed of! Don't worry if you have a lighter with more distinct dents in it than your mates' - they do vary, I have them with different degrees of weld and they are all purchased over the counter from dealers. If there are more than two welds, or they are positioned closer than the 8mm I mentioned, that should also make you very suspicious. d - materials. Look inside the lighter and you should see unfinished areas exposing the base brass of the case. 3/ 'Guts, lovely guts!' Now here we do find a problem as some fake cases have original guts and vice a versa. On the whole this has got to be limited to second hand items where they have been mixed up, or used as a replacement or repair. But we're talking new lighters here, so these are the points to look for: a/ The striker wheel looks cut in two directions, with the most obvious pattern being the horizontal cuts.....or rather the off horizontal cuts. If the cuts are parallel to the edge of the case, then it is a fake. The cuts are also deep and aggressive. The secondary cuts (the ones that don't clearly join up into linear striations) are at an angle of under 90's to the main grooves that make the striking surface. b/ Rivets. The rivets holding the sprung closer and striker in place on an original are silver in colour, fakes tend to be brass. c/ Flint tube. On an original there is a metal lip to the body of the internal workings from which comes a brass tube, and then finally the exposed flint. Internally, the flint spring screw retainer has a coin edge for grip, and the screw is fairly skinny with a half centimeter unthreaded section underneath the head. It also stands proud of the case of the internals by three or four millimeters. d/ wick area. The copper and thread wick comes through a brass opn rivet which holds the roughly coffin shaped silver grey coloured spring in place. In that area an unused new Zippo has no bits of weld, soot and general cack in evidence. Around the wick the famous wind guard has eight 3mm holes on each side, approximately 8mm centre to centre apart horizontally and 6mm apart diagonally. e/ The Sprung closer is a dark gunmetal grey in colour, with the two lower edges when in the open position being slightly bevelled. There should be only about a millimeter play on a new lighter. f/ The main body of the internals. These are welded with three oval (this time the oval being stretched north to south) to bean or even flame shaped welds on the end on the striker side and lining up with its centre line. The middle one is pretty much cnetral with respects to the height of the lighter with the other two being about 1cm in either direction of it. The folded seam is to the right of the welds as you look at the body end on. G/ Text. on the largest flat side viewed with the striker at the top right of the lighter there are six lines of centrally justified script that read: FOR BEST RESULTS/USE ZIPPO/FLINTS AND FLUID/(then a one line gap)ZIPPO MFG. CO. BRADFORD. PA./(the next line has the same dating info from the case)/MADE IN ZIPPO (R) U.S.A./ On the reverse side it is justified left and its says KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN/AFTER FILLING WHIPE LIGHTER/& HANDS BEFORE IGNITING./(then a one line gap)/LIGHTER DOES NOT/SELF EXTINGUISH/CLOSE LID TO PUT IT OUT./ Obviously the slashes represent carriage returns, but not the upper case, the full stops, and that both mentions of Zippo are in a larger font size, but not the actual logo itself. Note that on the first word Zippo there is no (R). On both sides there is a raised lump beneath the text to help hold the guts in place within the case. H/ Turning the guts over ther should be a sharply defined oblong felt wad held in place by the brass screw with the words LIFT TO FILL repeatedly stamped across it. There is usually a hole in eht middle of it as well. Under this are five or six wads of a more cotton wool like material and the wick. The felt wad should sit just below the edge of the metal casing. That said, Zippo have had a tendency in the past to vary the orientation of the text, exclude it, not put in a hole, or even use red felt (collectors go, "Oooooooh"), but as a general rule its feintly written three times in black on white felt across the widest bit of the wad. Oh, and you can keep spare flints under that bit as well. 4/ Too good to be true. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, its probably a duck to quote someone oversimplifying the works of a certain man of Okham. If it is brand new, an exotic design, and costs £5 then it is unlikely to be genuine. Bargains are out there, I undertook all this research after buying a flash zippo from the current range for fairly bargain price of £19. Cheap, but not stupidly cheap....."but maybe that's what they wanted me to think" say's I - paranoia ensues and I spend ages ploughing through guides to come up with this single resource (I actually collect Dunhill), so at least some good came of it. 5/ Ask yourself, "would zippo make this lighter". A good anecdote I came across, was a new lighter with a disney character on it. Given how twitchy children's program makers are about smoking (Popeye now has a snorkel and not a pipe - what's that about?) is it likely Mouseschwitz, er, sorry, Disney would license Micky to appear on a Zippo? Also be suspicious of Zippos that are of borderline aesthetic taste with gravestone-esque pictorial windows featuring elvis et al. They could be real Zippos, but that thing stuck onto it probably isn't. Plaque lighters line up perfectly, the plaque is under 1mm off the face of the lighter, and they are easily found on retailers' and distributors' websites so you can verify they are a zippo design. If you can't find it elsewhere don't assume its because it's rare. There are some quite nicely decorated genuine Zippos but with the decor coming from a third party. If you are happy with the design, and sure its a Zippo, there is no reason why you shouldn't buy it as long as it hasn't been damaged during work, or have an applied rather than inscribed design thats unlikely to last. I hope that helps prospective Zippo buyers, who shouldn't be put off buying new model lighters on ebay. I know I can't link, Mr ebay moderator type person, but if I could suggest readers try googling for "fake zippo" and keeping your eyes peeled around page 6 of the results for a site called zipo-ya, and maybe try searching for zippo_sound for a bunch of digital lid sounds for reference. Good luck folks.
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