Can You Reclaim Gold from Antique Ronson and Zippo Lighters?

What should you do if you find an old gold-toned old Ronson or Zippo lighter at an antique store or estate sale? If the selling price is less than $25.00, our advice is to buy it first and ask questions later.

Although chances are slight that the lighter will contain a quantity of gold that is worth recycling, a small number of lighters have been made over the years with gold and gold-filled cases that really do contain gold that can be profitably recycled – they’ll pay back your $25.00 investment four or five times over or maybe even more. If not, chances are you can sell the lighter on eBay and get your investment back anyway.

Not all "gold" lighters are really gold. Know the difference! A public service message from Image courtesy of eBay.

Not all "gold" lighters are really gold. Know the difference! A public service message from Image courtesy of eBay.

The Basics of Investing in Old Lighters

First the bad news . . .

  • Gold-toned and gold are not the same. Many old lighters were designed to create the impression of high value. Most are made of highly polished brass, not gold. Many are coated with yellow-tinted clear lacquer.
  • Zippo’s Gold Dust models are not made of gold. They are actually brass with a unique powdered surface finish.
  • Enamel is just about never applied over gold surfaces. You’ll find some very nice old lighter cases on which enamel appears to have been applied on a gold case, but the underlying metal will almost always be polished brass.
  • Commemorative lighters rarely contain enough gold to recycle. If you go hunting for old lighters, you will find commemoratives that were created for golf clubs, Rotary Clubs, car dealerships, and more. Such lighters were made to give the impression of high value without the cost; in other words, they are made of polished brass, not gold.

 Now the good news and some advice . . . 

  • Some older lighters have cases that are gold-filled. If you do a little searching on eBay, for example, you will find both Ronson and Zippo lighters that have gold-filled cases. They’re selling for $50 or more, but their presence supports our “buy now, ask questions later” advice about buying at antique stores and estate sales.  And then there is the fact that Zippo still manufactures a model with a solid 18k gold case that retails for about $11,000. If you can snag one of those for a rock-bottom price, you will be a very happy lighter hunter.
  • Look for karat markings on lighter cases. Chances are that whoever is selling that old lighter will have looked for karat stampings too – but you never know.
  • Don’t overlook custom designs that include both gold and silver. Old Zippos and some other lighters have slide-off cases. Over the years, silversmiths and jewelers have created customized cases of all kinds that slide on and replace the cases that came from the factory. Such cases, if you are lucky enough to find them, usually contain significant quantities of sterling silver, sometimes embellished with decorative inlays of gold.

Not Sure What Kind of Lighter You Have? Give Us a Call

Is your discovery worth $25, $250 . . . or more? If you’re not sure, call us today at 800-426-2344 to talk with a recycling expert. There’s no obligation, and you could be in for a very pleasant surprise.

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Why Your Recyclable Gold Will Always Be in Demand