Lot 99    

Vietnam Zippo Lighter Collection
6/21/2012 - American History, Including the Civil War
Lot of 282 Vietnam War-era Zippo lighters featuring personalized and anonymous engravings chosen by U.S. soldiers, sailors, and airmen during deployment. The collection has been compiled individually by American artist Bradford Edwards over several years in the 1990s, on-site in Vietnam.
 
Edwards, who said in an NPR interview on the collection I’m not a Zippo collector; I’m not somebody into the Zippo, per se, explains that he is fascinated with the lighters as window in the minds and experiences of the men experiencing a certain place and time.  He has used the lighters as inspiration and media in his art, but the collection itself has grown to be a statement of its own, and became the basis of the book Vietnam Zippos: American Soldiers’ Engravings and Stories 1965-1973 (Sherry Buchanan, University of Chicago Press, 2010), which was spotlighted by New York Times, NPR, and other media outlets.  The lot includes all lighters featured in that book and more.
 
Edwards estimates that he has examined tens of thousands of Vietnam Zippos.  As Vietnam has evolved into a more modern and open nation in the last 20 years, foreign tourists have driven a growing market in the mementos, leading to an explosion in fakes.  Edwards proclaims there are no real Zippos in Vietnam now. The scene is over.  James Fiorella, author of The Vietnam Zippo (Schiffer Publishing, 1998) and probably the only authority on the subject with an expertise equal to Edwards, agrees, and warns collectors that over 95% of Zippos being sold in the open-air markets of Ho Chi Minh City and Ebay alike are fakes. 
 
Edwards was careful not to target specific sentiments or designs in the engravings, but simply to seek out authenticity and let the objects speak for themselves.  As such, the lighters capture a wide range of feelings and opinions about the war, from the obscenity-laden anti-army mottoes of the unwilling draftees, to the simple love notes of the homesick, to the 8 Special Forces emblazoned lighters, conspicuously absent of any further embellishment. 
 
The Vietnam War represented something different than all other American Wars, previous and since.  There were the regular army soldiers, many raised by World War II heroes and viewing their job as a duty and privilege.  There were victims of fate, the unwilling, drafted by lottery, many poor and minority, resentful of their government and military superiors.   And there were those along for the ride, not interested in glory or politics, merely trying to follow orders and earn their ticket home.  Regardless, they were all connected by the Zippo, the utilitarian tool carried by nearly all soldiers since World War II, a symbol of dependability and the rare thing that all soldiers could count on.  Used for lighting cigarettes, heating food, illuminating letters from home, or setting fire to huts of suspected VC, Zippos were used so frequently in Search & Destroy missions that GIs nicknamed them "Zippo Missions" or "Zippo Raids.” After purchasing one from the post exchange store for $1.80, a soldier could personalize his lighter at sidewalk tents with one of wide selection of stock designs or a personalized message.
 
 
 
Many messages, especially those chosen by pre-draft in the 1960s, are related directly to combat.  Some feature the emblems of proud and storied units, often complemented by macho mottoes exhibiting the pride and hubris of soldiers willingly fighting in the world’s strongest army:
 
DEATH FROM ABOVE.
SWIFT, SILENT, DEADLY
WHEN GOD OPENED THE GATES OF HELL, THE 101st WALKED OUT
DEATH IS MY BUSINESS, AND BUSINESS HAS BEEN GOOD.
YEA THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH I WILL FEAR NO EVIL FOR I AM THE EVILEST SON OF A BITCH IN THE JUNGLE
KILL THEM ALL LET GOD SORT THEM OUT
STOLEN FROM A GOOK 5-11-67
35 KILLS IF YOU ARE RECOVERING MY BODY FUCK YOU
SOCK IT TO ME
GIVE NO QUARTER
YOU CAN SURF LATER
 
As the debate about the war intensified back home, soldiers became disillusioned with their mission, and the draft lottery injected a fresh force of often unwilling troops, the inscriptions evolved.  Peace signs, psychedelic designs, and cartoon characters became prevalent.  Charles Schulz’ Peanuts characters were a popular choice, as many soldiers identified with Snoopy’s fight against an imaginary enemy, the Red Baron:
 
LIFE HAS A FLAVOR THE PROTECTED WILL NEVER KNOW
FUCK IT
WHEN I DIE BURY ME FACE DOWN SO THE WORLD CAN KISS MY ASS
PLEASE DON’T TRY TO TELL ME ABOUT VIETNAM I’VE BEEN THERE
WHEN THE POWER OF LOVE IS AS STRONG AS THE LOVE OF POWER THEN THERE WILL BE PEACE
I LOVE THE FUCKING ARMY AND THE ARMY LOVES FUCKING ME
WE THE UNWILLING LED BY THE UNQUALIFIED DOING THE UNNECESSARY FOR THE UNGRATEFUL
FIGHT FOR PEACE, LIVE FOR WAR, DIE FOR NOTHING
WHEN I DIE I’LL GO TO HEAVEN BECAUSE I’VE SPENT MY TIME IN HELL
WHY ME?
 
While some pondered politics and meaning, others had their minds on the same subjects as many 19-year-old peers in America: sex and drugs.  The Playboy logo and nude women were popular motifs, as was the Zig-Zag man, taken from the packets of rolling papers used to roll the increasingly prevalent joint:
 
A FRIEND WITH WEED IS A FRIEND INDEED
ALWAYS RIPPED AND ALWAYS STONED, I MADE IT A YEAR I’M GOING HOME
 
I’D RATHER SMOKE GOD’S GRASS THAN DROWN IN MAN’S JUICE
ASK NOT WHAT YOUR HEAD CAN DO FOR YOU BUT WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR HEAD
GIRL IF YOU WANT TO FUCK SMILE WHEN YOU HAND THIS LIGHTER BACK
CANDY IS DANDY BUT SEX WON’T ROT YOUR TEETH
GIVE ME HEAD TIL I’M DEAD
I LOVE SEX SO BABY YOU CAN GIVE YOUR SOUL TO GOD BECAUSE YOUR ASS IS MINE
 
Some of the most powerful are the simplest: dedications to loved ones and hopeful sentiments from those just wanting to make it home alive.
 
I LOVE YOU MARY
TO MOM FROM A LONELY PARATROOPER
I CAME HERE AND LEFT BEHIND A NICE FAMILY AND A WONDERFUL GIRL I LOVE BUT SOMEDAY I WILL GO HOME
 
Together, the lighters tell a story of the war that cannot be found anywhere else.  They are a record soldiers’ feelings not meant for anyone but themselves, printed on a throwaway tool, capturing the spirit of the war in a way more authentic than any film, more personal than any history book, and more representative than any single soldier’s account.  The Zippo company is scheduled to produce its 500 millionth lighter this summer and will release a commemorative line meant to honor the unique status the simple lighter has earned as a physical symbol of the American experience -- and we dare to say that no grouping is or can be more representative of that sentiment than this.
Sold: $35,250.00
Price includes
Buyer's Premium
      Ask a Question

All Images

William Notman Photograph of a Plains Cree Family & Travois
Lot # 211 - William Notman Photograph of a Plains Cree Family & Travois
Albumen photograph titled in the negative 1817 Cree Indian with Traverse, Calgary, with the individuals identified in the negative as Kenepequoshes (Son of a Snake) and Kustkita Au Musqua (Black Bear & Papoose), signed in negative by Notman & Son's, Montreal, 7.5 x 9.5 in., on cream-colored mount, 9... > Item Details
Major General N. P. Banks, Collection of Fifteen CDVs
Lot # 27 - Major General N. P. Banks, Collection of Fifteen CDVs
Comprising ten different uniformed cartes along with a civilian pose and two lithographic vignettes, most being common Anthony-Brady views. Another CDV show Banks’ three young children. The last view is a penciled caricature extolling the victory at Port Hudson captioned The Banks of the Missi... > Item Details
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison Signed Land Grant
Lot # 373 - Thomas Jefferson and James Madison Signed Land Grant
1p, vellum, approx. 8.5 x 15 in., Washington (DC), 6 March 1806. Signed by Thomas Jefferson (President 1801-1809) and James Madison (Secretary of State 1801-1809, President 1809-1817). For Daniel Bowser and John Waggoner, for a section of land along the Great Miami River, registered at the Cincinnat... > Item Details
Gouverneur Kemble Warren, Civil War Major General, War-Date ALS, Plus
Lot # 320 - Gouverneur Kemble Warren, Civil War Major General, War-Date ALS, Plus
Governeur Kemble Warren (1830-1882). Civil War Major General noted for commanding the defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lot includes: ALS, 1p, July 11, 1862, no place, to a Capt. Witman regarding an endorsement; plus an Army Corps of Engineers obituary of Warren, released Augu... > Item Details
Will of Revolutionary War Hero Thomas Key
Lot # 360 - Will of Revolutionary War Hero Thomas Key
Thomas Key (1750-1821) settled in the Edgefield, S.C. area. He served as a Captain in Col. LeRoy Hammond’s regiment during the Revolutionary War. An historical marker at Horn’s Creek notes that Key "...Attacked a party of Tories under the command of Captain Clark. The Tories were de... > Item Details
Ben E. Green, Politician & Colonel, Unpublished, Handwritten Memoirs & Related Ephemera
Lot # 391 - Ben E. Green, Politician & Colonel, Unpublished, Handwritten Memoirs & Related Ephemera
406pp manuscript; 2 pamphlets. Ca 1900. It never ceases to amaze how so many arguments for the causes of the Civil come together, combine, and recombine in so many ways. No one better illustrates the variations on the theme than the diplomat Col. Ben E. Green (1822-1907). Born in Elkton, Ky., the ... > Item Details
Jefferson Davis Memorial Card
Lot # 91 - Jefferson Davis Memorial Card
Printed memorial card honoring Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, who died on December 6, 1889. Gold printed on black, 4.25 x 6.5 in. Recto feature's Davis' birth and death dates as well as poignant quotes regarding death. Verso includes dedication to Davis. > Item Details
Santa Anna ANS, 1843
Lot # 376 - Santa Anna ANS, 1843
ANS, 1843. 1p, 8.5 x 10.75 in., n.p., 13 January 1843. Signed Anto. Lopez Santa Anna. Appears to have been a cover letter accompanying another document. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was born in Veracruz in 1794 to a respected Spanish family. He joined the military at the age of 16, against his parent... > Item Details
Composer Stephen Foster's Parents, Eliza & William Barclay Foster, Half Plate Daguerreotype
Lot # 100 - Composer Stephen Foster's Parents, Eliza & William Barclay Foster, Half Plate Daguerreotype
Fine half plate copy daguerreotype of Eliza Clayland Tomlinson and William Barclay Foster, the parents of American composer Stephen Foster (1826-1864). This image is published in Stephen Foster, American Troubadour, by John Tasker Howard. The consignor purchased the daguerreotype from a flea market ... > Item Details
Group of 34-Star American Parade Flags
Lot # 78 - Group of 34-Star American Parade Flags
Lot of 3 glazed cotton, printed parade flags, each with 34 stars configured in 5/6/6/6/6/5 horizontal rows, 7.75 x 10.75 in., each mounted on wooden dowel. Kansas was admitted as the 34th State in 1861. > Item Details
Morrow & Haynes American Indian Stereoviews
Lot # 213 - Morrow & Haynes American Indian Stereoviews
Lot of 3 stereoviews, including the following titles: No. 10. Fort Rice, Dakota, Gov't Cemetery and Indian grave in foreground, and No. 11. Cheyenne Village, both with S.J. Morrow's Yankton, Dakota studio imprint on mount recto; plus 587 Indian Burial Ground, with Haynes' Fargo studio imprint on mou... > Item Details
Virginia Cased Images by J. Smith & J.H. Pein
Lot # 113 - Virginia Cased Images by J. Smith & J.H. Pein
Lot of 2, including sixth plate daguerreotype of a young girl, standing on a chair, with a J. Smith 1854 sign in image. Daguerreotype possibly by J. Thomas Smith, active in Richmond, Virginia. Housed in original full case, reglassed; and sixth plate tintype of a girl seated with her elbow resting on... > Item Details
Family CDV Album with Military Subjects
Lot # 40 - Family CDV Album with Military Subjects
An untouched wartime compilation comprising 19 military views—mostly common generals—among an array of civilian photographs, some identified, all housed in a rare 4.5 x 6.0 in. album having fancy gutta percha boards in a geometric pattern. The common generals are: Grant (lithograph), ... > Item Details
Lincoln & Hamlin and Bell & Everett 1860 Campaign Ferrotypes
Lot # 135 - Lincoln & Hamlin and Bell & Everett 1860 Campaign Ferrotypes
Lot of 2, including: brass "doughnut" mount, obverse featuring ferrotype portrait of a beardless Lincoln, see Sullivan 1981, Lincoln portrait No.1, inscribed Abraham Lincoln. 1860, olive spray to right and left of date, reverse with ferrotype portrait of Hamlin, inscribed Hannibal Hamlin. ... > Item Details
Lieutenant George W. Weston, 26th Iowa Infantry, Civil War Archive
Lot # 336 - Lieutenant George W. Weston, 26th Iowa Infantry, Civil War Archive
Lot includes 15 letters and documents (12 war-date); Weston's bayonet & scabbard; scrapbook and relics; wallet including receipts; Bible; 6 photographs. 1861-1865. Older than usual, with a wife and two sons, and a staunch opponent of slavery, George Weston enlisted as a sergeant in the 26th Iowa In... > Item Details
C.D. Kirkland Photograph of Wyoming Cowboys and their Chuckwagon
Lot # 261 - C.D. Kirkland Photograph of Wyoming Cowboys and their Chuckwagon
Albumen boudoir photograph with C.D. Kirkland's Cheyenne, Wyoming imprint on mount recto and printed list of titles from Views of Cow-boy Life on verso, titled in the negative No. 67, The Mess Wagon. Making Pies. A fine image of a camp cook cutting dough, while his assistant lounges on a rolled up c... > Item Details
Union Generals, Army of the Gulf, Five Civil War CDVs
Lot # 26 - Union Generals, Army of the Gulf, Five Civil War CDVs
Common views of the high profile Sheridan, McClellan, and Banks with two Brady views of lesser known Army of the Gulf officers, Major Generals Christopher C. Auger and William H. Emory, both Military Academy graduates. Auger was a frontier regular who commanded a division under Banks at Cedar Mounta... > Item Details
Attack on the Overland Stage Budweiser Chromolithograph
Lot # 282 - Attack on the Overland Stage Budweiser Chromolithograph
Vibrant 20th century advertising lithograph after the painting Attack on the Overland Stage produced by O.E. Berninghaus ca 1860, 23.75 x 36.75 in. (sight), housed in original wooden frame with ?metal plaque attached, which reads: Attack on the Overland Stage / Presented by Anheuser-Busch, Inc. St. ... > Item Details
Charles IX, King of France, DS, 1567
Lot # 386 - Charles IX, King of France, DS, 1567
DS, 3pp, approx. 8.5 x 12.5 in., Paris?, March 1567, on paper. In French. Two pages numbered 37 and 38. Countersigned. Born in 1550, Charles Maximilian found himself proclaimed king at the tender age of 10. His mother, Catherine de' Medici became regent, and dominated government even after she was n... > Item Details
New York City Draft Riots, Civil War Broadside
Lot # 55 - New York City Draft Riots, Civil War Broadside
A rare, printed broadside urging New Yorkers to not riot, stating in part: To the Laboring Men of New York...Stop and Think!...Stand by the Law!...For when the law is broken and property destroyed, and lives lost, we all suffer more or less by the injury...Stand by the Union, the... > Item Details
ITEMS 1-20 of 20
SKIP TO PAGE: