Matchbook Collecting: From The Beatles to The Loch Ness Monster

Before going smoke-free, restaurants routinely distributed free matchbooks emblazoned with their location & logo. After procuring a pile of designs, I started saving matchbooks that I came across or friends would bring me. Soon I had a giant, smelly bunch stored in a plastic bag.

Chicago Matches
Chicago Matches

History of Matches

Small sticks of pinewood coated with sulfer, early “matches” were invented in China in AD 577. Jump forward to Paris, 1805: a self-igniting match, lit by dipping it in asbestos, was invented. Not too safe!

Smelly and dangerous "friction matches" were invented in 1826. Finally, a "matchbook" with both matches and a striking surface occurred in 1892 & were sold by the Diamond Match Company.

Matchbook use peaked in the 1940s and 50s, then declined due to disposable lighters and anti-smoking campaigns. Recently, matchbooks have begun to regain popularity. The hobby of collecting matches is known as phillumeny. In 2005, there were over 1800 active collectors in The Rathkamp Matchcover Society.

California Matches

My matches from California

In 1989 I came out to California for the first time to visit my sister. We splurged and dined at Santa Monica's Valentino's restaurant. I can't recall what I ate. I do recall seeing actor Dudley Moore, star of the original Arthur and 10 films, leaving just as we were. Yes, he was short. We did not disturb him. After a fine evening out, everyone deserves a little peace. I wonder if he kept his matches.

International Matches - Liverpool and beyond

Matches from Scotland, England, Mexico, Germany and Switzerland.
Matches from Scotland, England, Mexico, Germany and Switzerland.

The Beatles & Nessie

Beatles matches from the Merseyside Tourism Board Liverpool, England are one of my favorites; my brother got them while at college in Edinburgh, Scotland. This is as close to the Fab Four or England as I have been.

Another winner: Loch Ness Center matches. Nessie, the famed sea monster from Loch (lake) Ness is certain to exist – at least on the cover of these matchbooks.

Windows On the World - World Trade Center matches

New York's World Trade Center

In the 1980s my sister and I visited the Windows on the World restaurant’s bar, the Liberty Lounge, on the 107th floor of New York’s World Trade Center. As always, I saved the matches. So named because it sported an aerial view of the Statue of Liberty out its tall, glass windows, we made the long elevator trip up just to see it for ourselves. The memories that matchbox brings back today are both haunting and poignant. It’s important to remember the whole world of people who were up there working and who perished that day, September 11, 2001. Gone but not forgotten.

Reverse side of matchbox - World Trade Center

Uniquely designed match sticks

Unique match sticks

Usually I discard the actual matches, only keeping the outer booklets or boxes. These pieces had such unique designs that I also saved the matches themselves.

Leave it to Donald Trump to offer flashy, unique matches for his Atlantic City, New Jersey casino, Trump Plaza. A vibrant red and gold booklet design is complimented by gold tipped matches with red heart and diamond playing card designs on each match.

The everyday design of Border Grill's orange and aqua cover is enhanced by the matching aqua with orange tipped matches inside. These southwestern colors make you want to go back to this Los Angeles restaurant for more.

Nicklow's in Minneapolis combines a classic gold on black column on the jacket with the same Greek column displayed on each match inside. Oopah!

Special Occasion Matches

Sometimes people will use matchbooks to commemorate a special occasion such as a wedding or anniversary. One book of matches I treasure is from the wedding of my parents over 55 years ago, embossed “Bob and Jan, February 20, 1954”. How cool is that?

I also have matches from weddings of some of my friends. That's one way to remember the dates of these events!

New York City matches

Sardi's, in the Theatre District, is known for the ink sketches of celebrities lining every inch of wall. You should go here at least once in your life.
Sardi's, in the Theatre District, is known for the ink sketches of celebrities lining every inch of wall. You should go here at least once in your life.

My matches from New York City

I've always loved the variety and excitement of New York City. Combine that with another love - food, and you've got a winning combination. From the warm, doughy, salt-encrusted pretzels served streetside, to the best pizza by the slice in the US, New York deserves a hiatus from any strict diet. Above are matchbooks commemorating some of that fine eating.

Jerry Lewis (almost) Ate Here

Minneapolis Restaurants of the Past

Legend has it that Jerry Lewis, in town for a show downtown, sent back his dish at Minneapolis' Cafe Napoli because he eats only white sauce, not red. I found my red sauce there to be just fine.

Anyone in Minneapolis during the 1980s will recognize many of these establishments, long since gone. It's amazing how many restaurants come and go over the years. I certainly had many nice times and calories at most of these locales. Do you remember any of these eateries?

I had my wedding rehearsal dinner at Figlio's in Calhoun Square. Great pasta, sadly, it exists no more.

Positively Fourth Street was a used record shop on the outskirts of the University of Minnesota's Dinkytown area. Named for Bob Dylan's song of the same name, you could pass the time browsing through bins of new and used vinyl here. Bob lived in Dinkytown briefly before heading out to Greenwich Village in New York City to pursue fortune and fame.

Ralph and Jerry's was the local campus market during my college days. Another campus favorite, Station 19 was a converted firehouse turned restaurant near the outdoor football stadium. With brick walls and a fun, cellar-like atmosphere, it was a great place for a dinner or drinks after a game. These places are now just memories - and matchbook covers.

Minneapolis: Past and Present

Defunct Minneapolis Pracna on Main on the Mississippi riverfront, Magic Pan Creperie at the mall, downtown's dance venue, The Pacific Club
Defunct Minneapolis Pracna on Main on the Mississippi riverfront, Magic Pan Creperie at the mall, downtown's dance venue, The Pacific Club

New Jersey matches

Childhood Memories/My New Jersey matches

Some matches ignite strong memories: back East in the 1980s for his mother's funeral, my Dad and I took a side trip to see the neighborhoods where each of us had grown up. That night we dined at Caughey's in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Now that my Dad is gone too, I'm glad we had the opportunity to share that day and that meal together.

Atlantic City matches
Atlantic City matches

How to Store Matchbooks: 5 Easy Steps

1) Remove the staple that holds the matches to their cover

2) Discard the actual matches

3) Slide the flattened covers into plastic pocket sheets of a three-ring notebook

4) Organize alphabetically, by locale or theme

5) Enjoy. No more worries about a fire hazard or flinty smell. Flip through the compact notebook & recall past times.

Wisconsin matches

Would you buy a burger from a badger?
Would you buy a burger from a badger?

New York State & Long Island matches

Dick and Dora's great Italian dining in Massapequa - home of Jerry Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin, and Joey Buttafuco.
Dick and Dora's great Italian dining in Massapequa - home of Jerry Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin, and Joey Buttafuco.

Places and times gone by can be captured in as simple an item as a box or book of matches. Whether you appreciate their graphic designs, historical significance, or just fancy an ode to caloric consumption, matchbooks can be more fun than you'd think.

Gallup and Santa Fe, NM matches, St. Louis, Seattle, Vegas, Montana, Florida, South Dakota, and NYC's Russian Tea Room
Gallup and Santa Fe, NM matches, St. Louis, Seattle, Vegas, Montana, Florida, South Dakota, and NYC's Russian Tea Room

Comments 68 comments

TTC12 profile image

TTC12 5 years ago

This is great! Nicely done and appreciate the history of matches! I liked the red sauce, too. Jerry does not know what he missed.

acc12 profile image

acc12 5 years ago Author

TTC12, yes, who knew matches had a history? How many hobbies are there where you can collect something that is basically free? Glad you liked it.

Liz Zwingli 5 years ago

What a fun read, really enjoyed the history of matches.

acc12 profile image

acc12 5 years ago Author

Thanks Liz. I had almost forgotten I had these. The nice thing about matches is, they take up very little room when you flatten them into a notebook!

MarshFish profile image

MarshFish 5 years ago

What an interesting article, with great photos, about this area of collecting.

acc12 profile image

acc12 5 years ago Author

Glad you enjoyed it, MarshFish. Thanks for stopping by!

MarshFish profile image

MarshFish 5 years ago

You're welcome!

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Wow! I've learned a lot from this Hub both about matchbooks and about collecting! Thanks for sharing your own personal collection with us- it's very impressive! It would be awesome to see these displayed along a wall or something- you must have so many amazing memories attached to each and every one!

acc12 profile image

acc12 5 years ago Author

Thanks Simone,

They do remind me of different times. After most places stopped carrying matches I put them aside. Now that matches are making a comeback I'll have to keep my eyes open for new ones again.

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Amazing that you got to keep all of these. It's something I never would have thought of collecting. :D

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! Visit this hub to read and vote: Best of luck to you acc12.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Thanks ripplemaker for the nice comments. It is encouraging to be nominated for Hubnuggets- its always nice when someone else enjoys what you've written.

Mark Turner 4 years ago

They're cool. My late grandmother had a collection of matches that went back into the early 40's/ late 30's. I don't know what happened to them. I remember sitting, as a kid, going through the graphics on them. You have a great collection, also.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Mark, I bet your grandma's collection was awesome. I've noticed that the designwork on the older ones is especially good. Sometimes I see them at antique shows or flea markets. Thanks for commenting.

Eve 4 years ago

Gorgeous collection! I bet the photos of them alone would make great prints to frame!

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Thanks, Eve. That's an excellent idea. The trick is to not scratch and damage the booklets when removing the little staple holding the matches inside. It took me a few tries to get the hang of this. Glad you enjoyed the hub!

Shawn Scarborough profile image

Shawn Scarborough 4 years ago from The Lone Star State

Nice hub with some really great photos. Good tips on storing matchbooks, I would not have thought to remove the matches. Congrats on your Hubnugget nomination! Voted up.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Thanks, Shawn. It was a surprise to be nominated! For those who like to keep the actual matches, a friend told me she keeps hers in clear glass cookie jars - no smell and you can still see the matches through the glass. Another good idea.

Maureen 4 years ago

Very nice! I enjoyed reading the article and the pictures. Windows on the world - very special. I also noticed the Sandy Hook Pilots- wow, I didn't think any of those were still around although I know my dad use to use them for his cigars.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Maureen, yes I got those visiting you and your family. Good memories!

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 4 years ago from California

Delighted by your storing match covers explanation. Great title.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Tirelesstraveler, terrific- glad you enjoyed it. Can't go wrong with the Beatles.

melbel profile image

melbel 4 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

Wow! This is an absolutely beautiful hub! I voted for you in the HubNugget list. Fantastic job and welcome to HubPages!

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Melbel, thanks for the vote of confidence! The readers of Hubpages are certainly supportive of each other - it's a nice venue for exploring ideas.

Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 4 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

Congratulations on your hubnuggets nomination. These are some fantastic pictures.


acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Thanks Deborah- glad you enjoyed it!

cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan

Very cool! I love hearing and seeing the different things that people collect. The pictures are great. Welcome to Hubpages and congrats on your nomination.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Cardelean, Thanks - I appreciate you taking the time to read it!

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Thanks everyone for your interest in my hub - I was pleased to be honored in this week's Hubnuggets newsletter for my hub on Matchbook Collecting. Sure appreciate the encouragement!

sweetabaca 4 years ago

Very informative and interesting hub, I too collect matchbooks, I store them in over-sized Brandy glasses and cover then, so they don't get dusty.I haven't looked at them in years.what is the reason for matches becoming popular again?

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Thanks sweetabaca. Matchbooks are becoming popular again, I hear, due to people trading and displaying them on the internet & because they're another vehicle for advertising for high end restaurants and other businesses. Enjoy your collection!

PADDYBOY60 profile image

PADDYBOY60 4 years ago from Centreville Michigan

Very interesting collection. I tried to collect them at one time, but for some reason they burned up. Ha! Very nice and you made it very interesting.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Paddyboy60, Well, at least you had fun with your collection. Thanks for reading!

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

I also have a collection of match books. I think you did a great job with your pictures displaying some very unique covers. They aren't as easy to come by anymore as smoking is prohibited in so many areas and there are no match books available. This is a clever topic for a picture hub. Congrats on your win.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Thanks Pamela99, it was exciting to win the HubNugget for this one. Yes, matches used to be everywhere. Not as much nowadays. But I'll still keep my eye out for new ones.

davenmidtown profile image

davenmidtown 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

Congratulations on Hub of the Day. This is a great hub that is full of interesting pieces of history. Very well laid out and the photographs are amazing.

writeronline 4 years ago

Hub of The Day. Too good, acc12. Not that I'm surprised, when it comes to Hubbin, you really got it goin on!

They prolly haven't noticed the coins one yet. When they do; Bam! HOTD again, I'll bet.

Oh, the matchbooks are very interesting. My mother in law had a large collection, but since smoking became kinda uncool several years ago, I haven't seen it - and haven't thought about it. Do you think I should ask her nicely if she still has it?

I could write a companion to your Hub. MIL's would likely be vintage / antiques by now!

Anyway, onya, again. ('Onya' - Antipodean for "well done you."

sestasik 4 years ago

A great unique hub with wonderful information. I love all the pictures of the matchbooks!

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

Congratulations acc12 on Hub of the Day. I love your collection and the history and stories you incorporate surrounding it. It has never really occurred to me before that we so rarely see matchbooks in modern times and you certainly have a few from Scotland that I would never have known existed. Hope you continue with your collection and to build on the associated tales you will have to tell in future.

vasantha T k 4 years ago

congratulations. Very interesting and informative hub. Just in yesterday' Deccan Herald Newspaper(14.11.11), I read about this unique hobby by Phillumenist Kaushik Sengupta who has been collecting, matchbox covers for the last thirty odd years from all over the world. He has a collection of 1,118 matchbox covers.They are carefully laminated into three large volumes with spiral binding.Some information for you from Bangalore. With warm wishes. Voted up.

uniquearticlesbuz profile image

uniquearticlesbuz 4 years ago from USA

Unique ans awesome hub......

AllieRambles profile image

AllieRambles 4 years ago from Bay Area, California

My husband and I recently started watching Pawn Stars and American Pickers and I couldn't believe the stuff I had as a child (that is now gone) could be worth what it is today! That includes matchbooks. I may have to go raid my dad's junk drawer, lol.


Painted Seahorse profile image

Painted Seahorse 4 years ago from Woodstock, GA

What a unique collection! I enjoyed all the pictures and the descriptions of how you came by these matchbooks. Very fun hub to read.

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

Congratulations on hub of the day. I enjoyed getting matchbooks too, when they were available, even though I didn't smoke. They came in handy during power outages to light candles.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Thanks all, for the great comments. I'm honored to have my Matchbook Collecting hub chosen as Hub of the Day. Pretty cool. Never realized so many others collect matchbooks too - it was just something I fell into and kept it going. Glad you enjoyed the journey.

applecsmith profile image

applecsmith 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Matches are such a great thing to collect! I've never thought about it before, but they can contain such history. Your pictures are really nice too. Congratulations on being the hub of the day.

missolive profile image

missolive 4 years ago from Texas

Congratulations on Hub of the Day!

What an interesting collection you have. My parents used to keep a large glass bowl for any matches they collected along the way. Now I wonder what happened to them. I imagine it is nice sorting through them and recalling memories. This was very nostalgic for me - thank you.

Great job! Welcome to HubPages!

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I never collect matchbooks as such but I always found hem interesting. When I was a smoker I always picked up matches wherever. Since I quit smoking I quit picking up matches but they were and interesting part of our culture.

SJmorningsun25 4 years ago

How interesting! I appreciate your unique take on this subject--and your impressive collection! Congrats on a well-deserved Hub of the Day.

NMLady profile image

NMLady 4 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

Congrats on hub of the day.

This is wonderful! I too have a rather large collection of matchbooks. I collected them for years. Esp. when I travelled overseas!

I have several large boxes full of them!

4 years ago

Interesting hub; voted up. I think this is called philuminism, or something like this, isn't it?

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

Dahoglund, I was never a smoker - just liked the designs, too.

SJmorningsun25, thanks much- glad you enjoyed it.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

applecsmith & missolive, thanks for the kind words.

NMLady, I bet your overseas matches are awesome. If you haven't looked at them in a while, you'll be surprised at how many memories they envoke.

f, yes matchbook collecting is called phillumeny. Who knew?

The Reminder profile image

The Reminder 4 years ago from Canada

Nowadays, everybody seems to collect everything but collecting matchbooks is one fun looking hobby. Congrats on the hub of the day!

cookie512 profile image

cookie512 4 years ago


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 4 years ago from sunny Florida

This was fun...and congratulations on Hub of the Day!!! It makes me wish I had saved all of the matchbooks I had collected over the years.

You have some really unique ones..and more stories to tell for sure. So glad you shared this with us.

homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas

This was a very nicely done hub. You shared a lot of very interesting facts, and your pictures were so well done. Almost makes me want to collect match books.

Congratulations on hub of the day!

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

Very interesting, and congrats on Hub of the Day! Well done!

Who knew that there was so much history to be had in such a simple thing as matchbooks?!

And thanks for answering my "forever" un-asked question about how to store them safely. I had always wondered if matchbooks were one of those collectibles that lost value if they were not intact as originally made, but the idea of storing all those flammables made me nervous, so I never got into the hobby.

Voted up, interesting and useful.

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Wow, that is quite a collection. And so clever to turn it into a nice article like that. Congratulations!

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

rebeccamealey, thanks much. I left out a bunch, to condense it. Was fun to write.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

DzMsLizzy, I was glad to discard the actual match - less of a hazard. Glad you enjoyed it.

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This is a great hub! I am too young to remember the days of matchbook distribution in restaurants so it was fascinating for me to read about this. I had no idea! It's wonderful that you have this collection to help you remember the restaurants you visited during your many travels. Thanks so much for sharing your collection and congrats on getting Hub of the Day!

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

randomcreative, yes it's been quite awhile since matchbooks were commonly distributed. I put them aside & mostly forgot about them until I was looking for an idea for a hub. Glad you enjoyed it.

brianlokker profile image

brianlokker 4 years ago from Washington DC metro area

Congratulations (a day late) on having this hub selected as the Hub of the Day. The collection is fascinating. I've been to a number of the New York / New Jersey places. I can't believe you've got matches from Two Guys -- they had a store a mile or two from where I grew up -- years ago, of course!

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

brianlokker, thanks. My Grandma used to LOVE Two Guys - my sister & I used to laugh about it. Jersey memories.

Kevin 4 years ago

Wow, great hub! I too collected match books (stopped about 25 years ago) I have many of the same NY and NJ match books in your photos. Great memories of these restaurants, clubs and casinos. Nice work, voted up! Thanks, Kevin

KevinC9998 profile image

KevinC9998 4 years ago

Wow, great hub! I too collected match books (stopped about 25 years ago) I have many of the same NY and NJ match books in your photos. Great memories of these restaurants, clubs and casinos. Nice work, voted up! Thanks, Kevin

adrienne2 profile image

adrienne2 4 years ago from Atlanta

Wow talk about a cool collection. Acc12 I am telling you, we can get just about a little of everything right here on hubpages. I can read about how to make money online, and I can see fab-U-lous matchbook collection all on the same website. That's what I call awesome! Almost forgot welcome to hubpages.

acc12 profile image

acc12 4 years ago Author

KevinC9998, thanks- funny that you have some of the same matches; I, too, got them a long time ago. Who knew they'd become little time capsules?

Adrienne2, nice! I enjoy the variety here on HubPages as well. Many different perspectives and ideas- pretty cool.

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