Friday, May 8, 2020

Cards and vintage things: Matchbooks come to life!

I've recently jumped into a new collecting hobby. It's not going to replace baseball cards for me in esteem but I am sure finding it interesting. Old matchbooks are quite collectible. They have a lot of the things I have grown to like - they are like mini versions of old signs, with interesting and old logos, designs, phone numbers, etc. What I am most interested in are old (mostly pre-1970s) matchbooks with familiar brands (current or long-gone), local Long Island/NYC, historically significant, old phone numbers/addresses.

As far as I can tell there are trading communities for matchbooks but they are more formal than baseball card collectors - you have to join a local club, pay dues, etc. There doesn't seem to be a version of the relaxed trading community you see for baseball cards.

The common way to collect matchbooks is to rip out the matches, flatten the book, and either stack or put in an album. I personally find it more interesting to keep them as close to their original setup as possible. It feels more authentic that way, as that is how they were designed to be used. Also when they are flat half the matchbook is upside down.

That however, does lead to one quandary for me for one of my pickups - see my request for advice below. And yes, there will be baseball-card related content - skip to the end if that's all you're here for. :)

The first three lots of matchbook I ordered on eBay have arrived. (I also have one small one coming, and one large one where unfortunately I think I've been ghosted by the seller and will need a refund.)

The first lot was the smallest. I got it mostly for the "Say Pepsi Please" yellow matchbook. Some other cool ones include RCA Victor and a couple of "hillbilly" cartoons. There are also a couple of "girlie" matchbooks - one for a bar, which is common, the other is for a kitchens and flooring company, which is pretty unusual. I guess they had a very male clientele? Most of these come from the greater Philadelphia area.
 The second lot was larger. The attraction for me was lots and lots of soda matchbooks. I don't smoke and I don't drink soda (not for health reasons, I hate carbonation) but here I am a big collector of soda matchbooks. I just like the look of them. Any duplicates are open for trade, for matchbooks, baseball cards, or other things. I already know a couple of baseball card bloggers who are also Coke collectors who might find one of the bottom matchbooks in their next trade package. I'll also consider trading some matchbooks I don't have duplicates of, in certain cases.
 A variety of non-soda matchbooks (plus one Fresca that snuck in the photo. Most of these came from in or around Laconia, NH.
 Most of the books were flattened but a few were still in their original shape. Any MIT grads want the MIT book? My favorites here are the two World War Two ones - very cool!
 The final one is the biggest and best. 201 matchbooks that were collected in 1937 and pasted into an album. The matchbooks were mailed out on the crumbly 1937 paper, though detached from the book and occasionally cut out from the pages.
 An NRA matchbook! That's the New Deal NRA, not the guns NRA. I've seen Cities Service signs on American Pickers. There weren't many duplicates but that one did have a duplicate if someone is interested. Most of these come from the Cleveland and Pittsburgh areas but there are also a lot from other nearby cities like Baltimore and New York - I'm guessing the collector had a job which required frequent travel. Some cool New York ones in here - I've had Gimbels and Child's wallet card posts, for example.
 Before Old Ben lived out beyond the Dune Sea, he had a coal mine in Berwyn, PA. Other cool ones here include Pennzoil, Motorola and the Waldorf-Astoria.
 Coca-Cola, Esso, Squibb and Rexall among the interesting brands here.
 Some of these look like candy wrappers, but they're matchbooks.
 The American Airlines one is supposedly very early and rare. Phillips 66 and Florsheim are some big brands here. "Ye Eat Shoppe" was in the Times Square area. It's some tourist pub now. When Googling it I found that in 1936, around the time this matchbook was printed, a waiter at Ye Eat Shoppe shot a 13-year-old who was trying to break in. The 13-year-old was arrested. I'm almost tempted to take some of the NY ones into the city and photograph them at their location.
Finally - I said there would be baseball card content. Here it is:
Those are Diamond Match matchbooks - five baseball and one hockey. They're in the Beckett book and TCDB, so I am considering them vintage cards for my collection. That means they are by far the oldest cards in my collection, the first from the 1930s. (I don't have any cards from the 1940s, will have to find a way to rectify that). Clockwise from lower left - Glenn Brydson, Chicago "Black Hawks", Joseph Cascarella, Philadelphia "Athletics", Clyde Hatter, Detroit "Tigers", John Moore, Cincinnati "Reds", James A. Collins, St. Louis "Cardinals", and Paul Waner, Pittsburgh "Pirates". Ripper Collins was a three-time All-Star for the Cardinals, and Paul Waner of course is Big Poison, a legendary Hall-of-Famer. Needless to say I am very happy to have these cards in my collection. Yes I am calling them cards. Never thought I would own a playing-days Paul Waner!

This however is where I ask for ADVICE - should I remove the matchbooks from the paper? The paper is fairly brittle but I don't know how hard it would be to deal with 80-year-old glue. Am I better off leaving it alone and just cutting around the matchbook, leaving the paper on the back? Or should I leave the pages completely intact (some of the pages are partially cut out). Any ideas are welcome, and any trade requests are welcome was well. If there are individual matchbooks (not the baseball ones) that interest you, let me know. Some of them I might be willing to trade. Maybe even the hockey one for something really good.

Anyone else collect matchbooks? Or, by chance would any of you be interested in a matchbook blog if I started one? There is not much out there online. I'm thinking a post a day with a different matchbook and a story behind it, like I found for the Ye Eat Shoppe. But only if a few of you would read it.


  1. First, I'd leave the ones on paper as they are. Second, I'm up for any dupe (loose) matchbooks, especially if they are full/intact. Like you I prefer them that way.

  2. I flipped a matchbook collection back in the days when I sold stuff at the flea market. Wish I could help you with your "paper" issue, but I don't really have an educated opinion.

  3. I remember reading something about soaking paper things in order to remove old glue, but I don't know if it would work for matchbooks, and I'd probably have to try and find the article again, because I don't really remember any of the specifics.

    My favorite booth at the local antique mall has quite a few old matchbooks, including some from NY. The matches have been removed and/or used, but if you want, I could take some pictures the next time I'm there so that you could see if anything was of interest?