(For those who have not yet watched the Huston directed film, you can, if you’re a fan of the Chipmunks, watch The Maltese Falcon in exactly 7 minutes HERE.)

The Maltese Falcon is perhaps Hammett’s most famous novel. The Library of America has a couple of volumes collecting Hammett’s work, one with his short fiction, and one with the novels (which contains The Maltese Falcon).

For a century (that’s pulp-fiction jargon for $100) Haunted Studios will provide you with a replica of the famous black bird itself. You can even get it wrapped in newspaper and stuffed in a sack, just as it was when Captain Jacobi took it off the La Paloma and delivered it to Spade’s office.The above image of the Ronson building is found HERE.
Sam Spade’s lighter model below. You can view a touch-tip in action HERE.

I captured the frame still below from the film, “Mr. Wong In Chinatown”. You can see the standing character using a Streamline Ronson touch-tip to light Mr. Wong’s cigarette.20120627-041746.jpg

The Ronson touch-tip is just one more vintage item of which, if the means were present, I’d collect various examples. If you’re interested in seeing many more very cool Ronson designs (and where I borrowed the photo of the Streamline and the Watch touch-tip), here are a few links:

A paperback edition, and the Black Mask magazine in which the story originally appeared.

Typed on c.1938 Underwood Champion


32 thoughts on “RONSON & THE BLACK BIRD

  1. Last time I saw the Maltese Falcon, and every other time, I have this “what the…?” going around my head. It is to do with that lighter. Was it a match? Was it a trick? And now I know! Thanks.

  2. I like you, pal. Another great post! Beautiful lighter. And Hammett was a genius of the art form. With Chandler a very close second. Now I gotta get me a Maltese Falcon. Didn’t know they were still available.

    • I think Hammett wrote better stories, but I preferred Chandler’s colorful writing style. With Chandler, I think I just like how he sets a mood. I’m visually oriented, and so if an author can set the mood with words, it gets my imagination going. Thanks again for visiting!

      • Somebody once wrote that Chandler “made words dance”.
        That description fits like an old lady’s Opera glove.

      • Try a pipe. They’re more fun, and not really unhealthy if you exercise moderation (I’ve never smoked cigarettes or cigars. I only picked up the pipe as a hobby, and I only have a pipe about once a week). The aromatics also smell nice enough that your wife may actually enjoy the fragrance.

  3. Ahh, the Ronson Touch-Tip. I just went through a lust phase for one of those last month after re-watching (and re-reading) the Maltese Falcon. Unfortunately, the examples on eBay were way out of my price range. I do have the 1949 QDL, though (and a 1948 one in black/grey). I guess I’ll keep looking (:

      • Yep, just checked again this morning and saw a wonderful Touch-tip in black & silver with the cigarette drawers on either side, $444 “buy it now”. And that was the most reasonable one. 😛

      • Well, like vintage typewriters, these will be snatched up by collectors and become rarer and more expensive. But I’m sure you can find a deal eventually. Just be patient and keep looking.

  4. Nice write up on Ronson touch-tips. I have a group page on facebook called Ronson Touch-Tip Lighters. I have been collecting Ronson for 3 yrs. now when I accidently found a you tube video of on in action and had to have one.

    • Yeah, they’re pretty cool, aren’t they? I only own one right now, and I probably won’t be getting any more. I’m happy being able to own a nice specimen to actually be able to handle and show others. Enjoy the collecting!

  5. I happen to own the actual Ronson touch tip in the Maltese Falcon. I read about the sale of the falcon statue for $4 million, and found your blog while doing some research. Very interesting background on the Ronsons you compiled here. Thanks!

      • Nothing too exciting. My father-in-law received it as a gift in the early 80’s from a friend who bought it in an auction. He gave it to my wife and I shortly after we were married in 98.

      • So is it the actual prop from the film, or is it just the identical model? I suspect the actual item would be worth quite a bit and held by a collector; not really the kind of thing one would give away as a gift. (I’m just curious if there’s any way to authenticate that it was the actual prop from the film)

      • It’s the actual prop. The prop ID# is etched on the bottom. I’ve sent the info to the same auction house who sold the falcon statue and they are attempting to verify.

      • Wow, how fortunate to have that. That’s something to hold on to. Please leave me a comment and let me know what response you receive from the auction house.

        So is it in good condition? Do you have any history of its whereabouts prior to your father-in-law acquiring it? I think it’s pretty fascinating tracking the history of this stuff.

  6. Send me your email address & I’ll forward you a picture. It seems to work fine. I’ve depressed the mechanism that generates a spark, and it does. Pretty cool. I know it’s got a lot of intrinsic value, but if I’m told it can go at some ridiculous price, I think I’ll become a seller.

    • That model of lighter goes for around $400-$700 or so (it’s been a while since I’ve following the sales, so the prices may be off somewhat), depending on the condition. However, if that’s the actual one from the film, I suspect it would fetch quite a lot of money if you have it sold by a reputable auction house.

      You can email me at

    • I might be wrong, but I suspect it’s something like Bull Durham. You can still find old, unused samples of those online (but don’t smoke it! Anything that old will probably be disgusting.) I have a tattered, unused bag of it myself.

  7. I received a touch tip last Christmas it was a nice surprise. Seen it in the Maltese falcon mentioned it was interesting . I must say that it is a thing of beauty and l enjoy using it . I smoke cigars

  8. It’s funny how much this particular movie has lead me down so many rabbit holes of research. I saw the movie for the first time long before the internet was a thing. That’s when my research started with the phrase “Six, two and even they’re selling you out sonny.” What did it mean?! I could go on for hours about the hours I spent researching the vernacular. Thanks to Humphrey Bogart for that. The phrase does not appear in the text. Thanks to Dashiell Hammett for teaching me where Malta is and what a Webley-Fosbery automatic is. Thanks to YouTube I know how it works. Praise to John Huston and Western Electric for providing me with a years-long hobby of restoring old phones. Spade has a 202 desk set variant on his desk. Thanks to this blog, a missing piece has been accidentally identified…I was recently doing research on Royal typewriter restoration and the algorythmic tide brought me here. I now know what a Ronson Touch Tip is.
    Good stuff!

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