The rarest Zippo lighters include Zippos produced between 1933 and 1935, military-issue Zippos from World War II and Vietnam, and engraved, special or limited-edition Zippos. Zippo lighters were mass-produced after 1955 with numerous designs. Zippo lighters produced after 1965 are considered relatively common.
Zippo began production of its patented lighter in 1933. Models produced from 1933 through 1935 feature a hinge mounted on the outside of the lid and 16 holes in the chimney. These are some of the rarest Zippos. The company moved the hinge to the inside in 1936 and reduced the chimney to 14 holes.
Zippo lighters were standard-issue to U.S. servicemen during World War II, and they were painted with a black crackle finish so that soldiers could engrave their names or designs with a knife or pin. These lighters are very rare, with most getting lost or left behind during the war. Lighters with engravings from World War II are referred to as trench art and are highly valuable. Vietnam-era service issues are valuable for the same reason.
Engraved special edition models are rare due to their limited release numbers, such as the 1945 Zippo commemorating the death of the famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle.