A Collection Unmatched
Marc Edelman can remember visiting his aunt and uncle in Englewood Cliffs, NJ as a young boy and being fascinated by his aunt’s jar full of matchbooks from places that even today bring back fond memories. Fifty years later, that fascination with matchbooks and matchbook covers has not waned, turning an interest into an avid hobby.
“When my mother found out that I was serious about collecting matchbooks, she gave me some of her prized souvenirs, including a matchbook from Pickin Chicken, a favorite Miami Beach restaurant, and a matchbook commemorating the Pennsylvania Railroad’s 100th Anniversary in 1946.”
With a collection this size, it’s surprising how quickly Marc can point to some personal favorites. “One is from my father, who was an optometrist. In 1943 he had matchbooks made for his business. We found two boxes when we closed and packed up his office in the 1980s. The other is a pair of covers – one with an image of my mother out on a date, and the other of my father out on a date, not with each other. Back then, photographers at nightclubs would go around to the tables and take pictures of couples, quickly process the film in a back room, take the contact paper and staple it to a book of matches, and sell them to the couple as a souvenir. Both are sentimental treasures.”
While the hobby of collecting matchbook covers and match memorabilia remains a popular one, it is harder than ever to find new matchbook covers. “There are still businesses – casinos, racetracks, restaurants – that offer matchbooks as souvenirs, but it is generally not a form of advertising any longer. Most companies have moved on to other forms of branding. It’s depressing, and another example of a dying American industry. The vast majority of covers out there for collecting are older and not recent.”
While collectors can often find matchbooks and match book covers online, Marc suggests looking beyond eBay and finding a local or national club. “Go to a convention. You’ll talk to people that know things about the hobby, and learn what to look for and pay, and the many categories you can collect.”