Monday, October 25, 2004

Cheap Lighters of the World

Through my travels, I found that I have accidently started a Cheap Lighters of the World collection. I have found that cheap lighters are one of those impulse buys that I have as I go through bazaars and souvenir shops. After all, at $10 or less, I always say "Why not?". Now that I have a collection going I will now need to actually look for these as I travel.

Note that there are serious collectors that spend thousands of dollars to build their collection of expensive, unique lighters, so while my collection is not elegant or fancy, it is at least easy on the budget.

Here is what I have so far:

Item: Soviet Tank Lighter
Type: Naptha (fluid)
Bought In: Lviv, Ukraine
Cost: 50 Hryvnia (about $10)

Perhaps this belonged to a Soviet tank commander? It would definitely make a good story as you lit up that capitalist cigar and bragged how you helped Reagan defeat the Evil Empire. However, as I inspected the lighter in the open air bazaar in Lviv, I noticed the bottom:

What they did is took an American Zippo lighter and glued on Soviet insignia, which were being sold all over the place in the bazaar. There were a glut of these items after the fall of the Soviet Union when soldiers sold whatever they had on them for hard currency. For only a few bucks you could buy enough military ribbons at the bazaar to make yourself a full Soviet general, although Hero of the Soviet Union and The Order of Lenin cost a few extra dollars.

Anyway, although a glue-together, I still thought it was cool, and for ten bucks - what the average monthly salary was when I was over there in 2000 - I said, why not?

Item: Japanese Disco Lighter
Type: Butane Torch
Bought In: Tokyo (Akihabara)
Cost: 600 Yen (about $6)
The neat thing about this lighter is that when it is opened, lights on the side of the thing go on and off in rapid succession, like if the jukebox were playing. The first thing people say when they see this thing in action is "That is sooooooo Japanese."

Item: Korean Traditional Scene Lighter
Type: Naptha (fluid)
Bought In: Seoul
Cost: 10,000 Won (about $9)
When I first saw this, I thought this was another "glue-on" like my Soviet Lighter. Turns out this is from a Korea company called ING that apparently does knock-offs of Zippo. And instead of this scene just being glued on, it is built into the lighter, with a clear coat on top, so it came out of the factory this way.

These are the only ones so far, although I have been to a lot more countries. I will now have to keep an eye out for cheap lighters when I travel. My next potential buy is in China, where I will probably be going some time in the next year or two. I am hoping I can find one with Mao on it since they have Mao everything there.

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