Zippo Closes In on 500M Lighters
American icon set to sell its 500 millionth lighter by year's end
By Paul Stinson,  Newser User
Posted Jan 29, 2009 6:37 PM CST
A mother-of-pearl Vietnam war Zippo replica lighter by Hanoi-based US artist Bradford Edwards is photographed at his Hanoi studio, 30 December 2007.    (Frank Zeller/AFP/Getty Images)
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(Newser) – At some point this year, the Zippo factory in Bradford, Pa., will churn out its 500 millionth lighter, NPR reports. The windproof gadget has become a cultural staple since 1932, from the wartime foxholes of Germany and Vietnam to the glitter of the Silver Screen, but NPR notes that the company faces a host of modern challenges, among them a drop in smoking and a rise in counterfeiters.

Still, don't expect Zippos to disappear; virtual versions are even available for iPhones. Guaranteed for life and sporting designs ranging from Buddha to Elvis, 300 lighters arrive daily from around the world to be repaired, frequently with an accompanying tale to tell. "This one guy said his pig ate his lighter—and he followed him around for two weeks" waiting to reclaim it, said one repair worker.