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Zippo Bottom Stamp Symbols

After spending a rather silly amount of time trying to find out what exactly is the meaning of the symbols on the bottom of the Zippo casing (a letter to the left of the Zippo logo and a number on the right, above the location of manufacture) and finding practically no information, I emailed Zippo to ask for an answer. This answer was long, complicated and quite interesting, so I will summarize it here.

Basically, they describe when the Zippo was made. Lighters fabricated between 1933 and 1957 bore patent numbers - these were phased out in favour of date codes for the purposes of quality control. They are ordered like this:

  • 1933 - 1937; Patent Pending
  • 1937 - 1950; Patent 2032695
  • 1942 - 1946; Black Crackle, Patent 203695 (this number is printed in error, it should read 2032695)
  • 1950 - 1957; Patent 2517191/Patent 2517191 with patent pending

Zippo records show "an overlap of bottom stamp configurations from 1949 - 1957. Also some lighters produced between 1955 - 1957 were date coded, however, specifics remain unclear."

After this, it gets a little complicated, as Zippo started using date codes consisting of dots, vertical lines and diagonal lines, like this:

  • Year        Left        Right
  • 1958     • • • •      • • • •
  • 1959     • • • •       • • •
  • 1960      • • •         • • •
  • 1961      • • •          • •
  • 1962         • •          • •
  • 1963         • •            
  • 1964                        
  • 1965         
  • 1966     |  |  |  |      |  |  |  |
  • 1967     |  |  |  |       |  |  |
  • 1968      |  |  |          |  |  |
  • 1969      |  |  |           |  |
  • 1970        |  |            |  |
  • 1971        |  |              |
  • 1972         |                |
  • 1973         |
  • 1974     /  /  /  /      /  /  /  /
  • 1975     /  /  /  /       /  /  /
  • 1976      /  /  /         /  /  /
  • 1977      /  /  /          /  /
  • 1978        /  /           /  /
  • 1979        /  /             /
  • 1980         /               /
  • 1981         /
  • 1982     \  \  \  \       \  \  \  \
  • 1983     \  \  \  \         \  \  \
  • 1984      \  \  \          \  \  \
  • 1985      \  \  \           \  \
  • 1986        \  \             \  \

...although in 1979, an error was made. One of the lines was removed from the left rather than right, so that it read / //. This was corrected later the same year to appear // /.

Effective July 1st 1986 the dot and slash system was replaced by a month/year code. The year of manufacture is represented by a Roman numeral, starting in 1986 as II and increasing one per year. This ended January 1st 2001, when the number became simply the last two digits of the year (for example, 2001 would be 01).

The month code has lasted from 1986 until today, probably thanks to its simplicity. The month is represented by a letter(A = Jan, B = Feb etc.). This meant that for the year the system was introduced they ran G - L (rather than A-L).

As a note of interest, the appearance of the word Zippo has changed over time as well. From 1933 to the mid-50's the word Zippo was simply stamped in simple block letters. In the late 40's the script logo, essentially the word Zippo in a font that appears handwritten and in italics, was conceived. This was phased in around 1955. In the late 70's the logo was redesigned again into its modern incarnation - the word Zippo in a simple, rounded font and a flame for the dot of the i - and in 1980 this was incorporated into the bottom stamp.