Militaria from the Vietnam War has a real collectors’ following, and the whimsically-engraved Zippo lighters commonly carried by US servicemen during the Vietnam conflict are popular enough as collectibles to be extensively counterfeited. But trying to sell a collection of 282 Vietnam-era Zippo lighters, even one which had been previously published as an art book (Vietnam Zippos: American Soldiers’ Engravings and Stories (1965-1973) by University of Chicago Press) as a single auction lot would never have been the best way to achieve optimal results, and with the economy in its current condition, there just were no buyers for $30,000-50,000 worth of lighters.
The owner should have sold them, one at a time, accompanied by a certificate of provenance and authenticity on Ebay. But, I’m not sure he could, even then, have counted on getting over $100 for every example.
Design Observer story
Cowan’s American History Auction, Lot 99
From Andrew Sullivan.