Vintage Colibri Cigarette Lighters
Colibri is a company that specialises in men’s accessories. Now established for over 83 years, Colibri is traditionally known as a lighter manufacturer. Since its inception, Colibri has developed its existing line of products, which have come to include: lighters, jewellery, smoking accessories, small leather goods and writing instruments.
Vintage cigarette lighters are among the most popular collectibles today, both for their aesthetic value and brand associations. There are two different form factors available: table top and pocket lighters.
First invented in 1823 and then improved in the 1880s, pocket cigarette lighters became as common as keys or wallets by the 1930s. The three basic types of vintage lighters include manual (flint and wheel spark ignites a wick or creates a flame above a gas valve), semi-automatic (wheel also opens the fuel source cover), and automatic (requires only a button push).
The first lighters were called strike lighters and were similar to matches. Users would scratch a flint with a wand with a hard metal tip and a wick at the end. It would create sparks, which would ignite the wick, which was soaked with fluid.
By the 1920s, lighters had become functional as well as artistic with the advent of the semiautomatic lighter, where the user flips open the lid and a flint wheel simultaneously spins and ignites the wick. The automatic lighter was created by Louis Aronson (founder of Ronson lighters) in 1926. It requires only the push of a button to create the flame, which stays lit as long as the button is held down. Up through WWII, most lighters ran on Naptha, a petroleum mixture. After WWII, Naptha was replaced by compressed butane.
Early electric lighters were made of ceramic. They plugged into a house element and the bottom would get hot.
To attract women in the 1930s, some companies (especially Ronson) created lighters that combined various elements, such as cigarette cases and compacts, and addedrhinestones or enameled designs.
Lighters come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from slick, elegant designs to novelty items, such as lighters that look like lipstick cases or little TV sets. Some lighters incorporate materials from notable manufacturers, such as glass from Laliqueand china from Lenox. In the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, Ronson produced the Ronson Master Pack, which combined a lighter, cigarette case, and watch.
Other key brands for lighter collectors include Zippo, Dunhill, Penguin, ST Dupont, Scripto, and Evans.
Colibri was founded in 1928 by Julius Lowenthal. His primary aim was to re-invent the lighter market and to produce an automatic lighter. He succeeded by inventing the semi-automatic lighter. In 1935, Colibri launched the fully automatic ‘Monopol’ lighter; engineered with a Swiss acceleration system. From 1940 and until 1945 Colibri launched the ‘Stormgard’ lighter designed for soldiers fighting in World War II. In 1952, Julius Lowenthal’s son Jack, joins Colibri. Technological advances in 1958 led Colibri to produce a lighter with a visible multiple gas refill and a hydraulic auto-flint system. Colibri released the electric lighter in 1967 and named it the ‘Molectric.’
In 1974, the James Bond film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ Colibri supplied the golden gun; constructed from a Molectric 88 lighter, cufflinks, cigarette case and fountain pen. Later in 1974, Colibri sponsors the RAC rally team driven by Henry Liddon and Timo Makinen.
In the 1980s, Jack’s son David joins Colibri which led to the expansion into lifestyle accessories from Swiss watches to cufflinks and pens. In 2001, the Vortex and Trifecta collections were introduced with pyramidal twin-flame and triple flame lighters.
In February 2009 Colibri changed ownership with its head office changed from Providence to New York, USA. They proceeded to relaunch the brand which included three new series to distinguish between products; The Classic (C Series), Design (D Series) and Technical (T Series)
The original 1928 Colibri logo featured simple, bold typeface and later incorporated flames to dot each ‘I’ in the word Colibri. The logo later included an emblem of a lion breathing fire and a simple hummingbird outline. The logo symbolised ‘Lowethal’ (the founder of Colibri) and literally translates in to Lion.
To signify the re-launch of the brand, in 2011 the Colibri logo was re-branded and incorporated a monochrome humming bird symbol (as ‘Colibri’ is also a breed of hummingbird.) Similarly to the small and detailed nature of the hummingbird, this aesthetic is reflected in Colibri’s products. The design of the logo coincided with the brand re-launch and has a sharper design to reflect the 2011 collection.
1928 –The ‘Colibri Original’ was launched.
1935 – Colibri launches the fully automatic ‘Monopol’ lighter.
1940 – Colibri developed the ‘Stormgard’ lighter for soldiers during WWII.
1958 – Colibri invents the first visible multi-gas refill and the hydraulic auto flint system.
1958 – The Swiss made Monopol watch was launched.
1960 – Launch of the Monopol cigarette case.
1961 – Colibri invented the Piezo Electric lighter.
1967 – Molectric 88 Silver lighter.
1970 - Colibri produces 6 jewel encrusted gold lighters.
1977 – The ‘Sensatron’ Battery operated touch lighter was launched.
1980 – Launch of Colibri Pens and Cufflinks.
1982 – Power flame plus lighter launched; a 3 way wind resistant lighter.
1985 – Launch of Pipe lighter with adjustable flame.
1987 – Quantum, the first windproof lighter was released.
1998 – Double guillotine cutter and cigar punch cutter accessories launched.
2001 – Colibri produced the first pyramidal dual-flame lighter.
2001 – The Trifecta – the world’s first triple flame lighter.
2002 – The Summit - a high altitude ignition system lighter.
2011 – The 2011 collection; new lighter models, cufflinks, money clips, pens, and small leather goods.
The 2011 collection
Five new lighter models were launched in the 2011 Las Vegas IPCPR to the C, D and T series collections:
Diamond – Metallic finishes
Zephyr – Faceted in a variety of metals
Monza – Pachmayr texture
Enterprise I – Similar to Enterprise III but with a single flame
Enterprise II - Similar to Enterprise III but with a double flame.
A vintage Colibri lighter and cigarette holder sold for $25 at a Gulfcoast Coin & Jewelry auction in December 2010.
A Colibri Monopol gold plated lighter set with a 17 jewelled Swiss watch movement to the face sold for £30 at Eastbourne Auction Rooms in November 2006.
A S.T. Dupont and a vintage Colibri cigarette lighter sold for $100 at Damn Yankees Auction in January 2013.
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