The only point upon which we expect to agree is that grading is subjective. Grading it typically based on an overall assessment of the lighter. Collectors all have their distinct views on how they judge imperfections. Does one large dent or scratch lower the grade more than multiple small blemishes? Is a missing striker wand of greater significance than a torn leather cover? This grading guideline cannot possibly address even a tiny portion of the types of questions that may arise. It is intended merely as a starting point. By its nature, it is incomplete and is subject to on-going review and revision.
MINT IN BOX (MIB): A specimen that is identical to one that would be for sale at the time of manufacture. It has never been used. No browning of the wick even for purposes of dry test firing. Factory flaws undetected at the time of production are conditions that require disclosure, regardless of whether this flaw is seen on multiple examples. A “Good Judgment Call” must be exercised to determine whether this flaw would have passed quality control standards at the factory. Imperfections due to storage and handling wear or moisture damage/blemishes are not permissible flaws.
The condition of the box must be disclosed using the same guidelines. A lighter may be mint in box but any deficiencies in the condition of the box must be noted. Torn corners, scuffing, age marks, peeling labels and the like. If paperwork is known to be missing, that must be disclosed. If there is no paperwork, “MIB, no paperwork” should be the default description. Accessory items included in the factory packaging must also be described as must their exclusion. Examples are brushes, spare flint and wick kits, and tools. “10”
MINT: Same as above but without the box. “10”
Note to above: A silver plated or sterling lighter may have tarnish but will still be considered mint. Flint or storage dust that can be easily wiped or blown away will not diminish the grading. However, any protective coating that has discolored over time, age marks from moisture and mold that cannot be easily and completely removed will reduce the grading by one or more levels based purely on esthetics. Replacement of missing parts, packaging or accessories with identical new replacements will not prohibit specimens from being categorized as MINT IN BOX or MINT as long as they are identical new old stock replacements in every respect. Reproductions are not considered stock replacement parts.
NEAR MINT: No evidence of use. No damage other than browning of the wick for dry firing, some faint storage and handling marks. A “Flea Bite” mark may be acceptable. A ‘Good Judgment Call” must be made in grading these specimens with consideration for the location of the damage and the decrease in visual appeal. “9.5 – 9.9”
EXCELLENT PLUS: May have seen actual use a few times but overall the wick still shows as white. May have very slight abrasions. Typical examples would be a lighter used for special occasions and then put back into storage. No plating or enamel loss. “9 – 9.4”
EXCELLENT: Still traces of white wick but wick may be more burned than not. An example might be Mint but…. “Flea Bite” marks along the edges of the body. Light surface abrasions on enameling. Possible evidence that the fluid and/or flint screws had been manipulated. May exhibit very minor loss of gloss but little or no plating or enamel loss. “8.5 – 8.9”
Note: For any grade EXCELLENT and above, the specimen must be complete and without any missing parts. In the case of lighters with flints, the tube must be cleared or able to be cleared without damage to the flint tube. In the case of compressed gas lighters, all seals must function properly with no gas leakage and all regulators functioning properly.
VERY FINE: May have fine scratches and surface scuffing, some edge nicks and a few small soft indentations. Will have only minor loss to plating (as would be expected typically on major operating parts) and only minor enamel loss, most commonly on edges but there may be pinpoint enamel loss to the body. Has the capacity to be polished and buffed such that the plating or enameling will become glossy again to 80% or better. A lighter purchased for use but maintained with care. “8 – 8.4”
FINE: More noticeable damage from use and pocket storage. Typical marks expected from contact with coins and keys when stored in the pocket, much like the nicks and scratches on coins. Used but not “Abused”. No unsightly physical deformation. With restoration, finish can be brought to 70% of new condition. “7 – 7.9”
Note: For grades FINE and VERY FINE, specimens must have all moving parts necessary to function properly. All decorative features are present. Under these conditions, exceptions may include a missing interior snuffer cap or the cap cover for a butane lighter filler hole. It may include the absence of a spare flint holder, a fluid filler gasket or fabric wick. Under normal circumstances, missing parts will not prevent the lighter from functioning mechanically. The previous examples are items are not considered essential for the majority of collectors since they do not prevent the functioning of a lighter mechanically.
GOOD USER to WELL USED: mechanically sound. Unsightly to very distracting blemishes. Deep or long scratches and nicks and/or very noticeable dents may be present. Moderate to heavy loss of plating and enameling. Embellishments such as rhinestones, emblems, and exterior wraps may be missing, damaged or incomplete. “5 – 6.9”
No distinction is made between grades GOOD USER and WELL USED because from a collector’s perspective, there is very little value difference. This grade represents the minimum grade a collector would accept for inclusion in his collection while awaiting an upgrade. (Allowances considered for rarity and the lighter category. Eg., military and trench lighters carried in the field and very early fire-making devices)
REPAIR/PARTS: The lighter may be restored to displayable condition (Good to Well-Used) with considerable effort or may only be suitable to dismantle for useable parts. “4.9 and under”
GRADING ON A SCALE OF 1 – 10:
Because some collectors prefer a numerical grading system, all descriptive grades above include a numerical equivalent in quotation marks at the end of the description. It is presumed that a “Dedicated Collector” would not be expected to add any specimen to their collection below a grade of 7 unless he did not expect to locate another example for several years.
DISPLAYABLE: This is a special grading category outside the general standards. This is because an otherwise excellent or better lighter may be missing critical parts. It may have prominent damage on a body segment not normally viewed. For practical purposes, it is a specimen that a “Dedicated Collector” would not purchase unless the price was sufficiently discounted from the then current market price to justify a purchase until a suitable replacement or a missing part could be secured. Rarity of the lighter will often dictate the price and the need for accepting an example suitable only for display.
ALTERATIONS, RESTORATION, REFURBISHING AND REPAIRS: Lighters may be repaired to working condition notwithstanding the fact that they show solder marks, use non-factory screws and other parts, whether factory-made or handcrafted. They may be altered in appearance with the addition of non-original parts or the subtraction of original parts. The specimen could be a marriage of two or more otherwise unrelated parts or sets. They may be re-plated, re-leathered or re-painted. Chips, nicks, cracks and gouges may be filled. While the grading would be impacted, as mentioned earlier, how these alterations and repairs are perceived is a “Good Judgment Call” that can only be made by the owner. However, these condition facts must be disclosed so a fully considered “Good Judgment Call” can be made by an acquirer as well.
Abused: Damage expected from other than normal wear. Examples are major dents/ dings that resulted from the lighter being dropped on a rough stone or similar surface and scratches resulting from contact with the same surface. Typical damage resulting from tools or other implements used to force lighter parts open or faulty repair/restoration. In other words, blunt force trauma. Examples would be damage to screws and gouges in the lighter body in an attempt to open the snuffer cap. Stripping the threads on a screw and repeatedly sliding the lighter along tabletops and desk causing accelerated wear. Evidence consistent with the lighter having been used as a substitute for a hammer or for other inappropriate purpose.
Flea Bite: nearly invisible to the naked eye. Imperfections that would not normally be seen unless a thorough examination of the lighter had been undertaken, typically under low magnification.
Dedicated Collector: A passionate collector who devotes multiple hours each week to hunting, researching, restoring, organizing and displaying his collection. He takes a long-range view to the hobby and his acquisition methodology is aligned with this view.
Good Judgment Call: The assessment a Dedicated Collector would make when deciding whether or not to add the specimen to their collection. How would they judge the flaw?