When you have cleaned out as many junk drawers as we have, you get a pretty good sense of what to expect. Among the crumbs, pennies, drink umbrellas and snapshots, we will spot the occasional matchbook. Hardly surprising. Fewer people smoke, especially in their homes. Yet it may be worth noting that there are a fair number of people who collect matchbooks, in significant volume.
There was a time when matches were free. They came gratis with packs of cigarettes. In the 1940s and 1950s matchbooks became a major advertising vehicle for restaurants, hotels, watering holes and other businesses. Matchbooks covers were emblazoned with the images of the tony establishments. One would think they served a similar purpose to the cocktail napkin in their day; that of hastily capturing a phone number or an address from someone you have just met. Matchbooks provided invaluable clues to movie detectives as to the whereabouts of witnesses and criminals under investigation. All of this background is to let you know they were very easy to get. After all, everyone was giving them away.
We understand the appeal that matchbooks project as collectables. Matchbooks are miniature mementos of a bygone era – an era, in comparison to our current one, that exudes way more sophistication and glamor. As children, were taught to fear matches and stay away from them, fire starters that they are. They harken back to a time before the Surgeon General’s report. Seeing those matchbooks with their iconic imagery, does sometimes make one nostalgic for naivety. Now all we have are those tacky, plastic, disposable lighters.
Let’s fast forward to the present. If you have a matchbook collection, when was the last time you remember seeing it? Our guess is that the collections are housed in giant glass brandy snifters, like the size required for a nightcap for Mighty Joe young. We guarantee they these vessels will be covered in a blanket of dust and cobwebs.
Perhaps the only thing holding you back from parting with your matchbooks is lack of knowledge. Maybe you are concerned with safe disposal. The whole point of this CRUD purge is not to burn down the house. If you are so inclined, you might want to check on eBay where serious collectors are trolling to see if you can make some money by selling. Put a couple of books in your daypack. You might need them for hiking or camping. If you simply want them to disappear, we recommend that you thoroughly soak your matchbooks in water before stashing them in the garbage. Run the glass snifter through the dishwasher. You could re-purpose the container for the hard candies you crave since you quit smoking.