Collector's Showcase: August 2015

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.”

From there, Marc’s collection grew to include “more matchbook covers than I will ever take the time to count,” as well as other forms of match memorabilia, including match dispensing machines, match shipping crates of various sizes from the 1880s to 1950s, numerous salesmen sample books, original advertising and drawings of matchbook covers, books on the history of matchbook companies, company advertising, “All aspects of the history of match production interest me and appeal to my interest in history.”
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.”
Henry Traute, a salesman with Diamond Match Company in the late 1900s, is widely credited with the vision to use matchbook covers as a new form of advertising. In 1894, he got his first order for 10 million matchbooks bearing ads for Pabst beer on their covers. From that point on, matchbooks gained in popularity as companies – big and small, local and national – started using matchbook covers as advertising vehicles and souvenirs to commemorate events.
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.”
What advice does Marc have for the collector starting out? “Have patience! Everything comes around. In match covers and match boxes, multiples abound… it’s the nature of the beast. If it’s a well-known organization, they made multiple cases. You’d be amazed at how much is still alive.”
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.”
The Rathkamp Matchcover Society (RMS), an organization open to all match cover and matchbox collectors who are interested in increasing their knowledge of the hobby and developing trading friendships, will hold its 75th Annual Convention August 16-22 at the Best Western Lehigh Valley Conference Center in Bethlehem, PA. For more information, visit www.matchcover.org.

Collector’s Showcase: August 2015