The best way to get your feet wet in this hobby is to join clubs. Membership is annual, so if you eventually decide this isn't the right hobby or that particular club isn't the right club, you simply don't renew your membership. No problem.
 
The advantages of club membership, especially for newer collectors, are several. Club membership gives you contact with other collectors. Those collectors can be your eyes and ears for what you are looking for (because you're never going to find everything you need by yourself). They can be your trading sources; they can be your mentors. You have access to who those collectors are through the club's bulletin and membership roster.
 
The club bulletins provide you with what's going on in the hobby, what's going on in the club's specific area, and both general and specific collecting information. Many also offer regular auctions, drawings, and raffles. If you're lucky enough to have a local club within comfortable driving distance, you'll also have the luxury of local club meetings you can attend, which, in turn, provide you with eye to eye contacts, hands on experience, and opportunities to obtain covers.
 
Plus, you don't have to be in the club's immediate area. In fact, for almost all clubs, the majority of members are spread over both the US and Canada. Some are even located overseas. It's the club bulletin that ties them all together.
 
Clubs charge annual dues, and, depending on the particular club, they range from $3-$20. Several clubs charge less than their regular dues for e-bulletin recipents rather than hard copy recipients. Hopefully, this recent innovation will spread to the rest of the clubs.
 
There are three types of clubs in the hobby:
 
RMS: Rathkamp Matchcover Society is the national, or 'parent' hobby organization. It is the largest and oldest matchcover club in the world, having started in 1941. It has the most members, the biggest and most informative bulletin, and sponsors an annual convention, aside from publicizing the hobby, recognizing the achievements of collectors through various awards, and so on. If you intend to be a serious collector, you should certainly join RMS.
 
Regional Clubs: These are area-specific clubs, sprinkled across the country, from coast to coast, and we include the Trans Canada club (Canada) in our 'family', as well. Although these clubs, as all the hobby's clubs, gladly accept members from literally anywhere in the world, their bulletins strongly tend to concentrate on topics specific to their particular locations. Many of these clubs offer auctions and other activities with their bulletins. There is a complete listing of these clubs, with appropriate details, on the CLUBS page. You can access membership applications for many of these clubs by going to the Clubs page of the RMS web site.
 
Specialty Clubs: These are non-regional clubs that focus on a specific category of covers. There is Hallmark club, a Jewelite club, a Jewel club, a Girlie club, and so forth. They all maintain lists of their particular category's covers and issue listing supplements as necessary. These clubs usually only have one meeting a year, held at the annual RMS convention.
 
Most collectors belong to several clubs at the same time: RMS, to get the most specific collecting information and keep tabs on the hobby as a whole; and at least a couple of regional or specialty clubs, for local participation and to see what's going on in other areas of the country. Several clubs have reduced dues for members who receive their bulletins via e-mail rather than hard copies through the mail. Personally, I recommend Sierra-Diablo Matchcover Club (Northern California) and Lone Star Matchcover Club (Texas) as good regional clubs to start with. Both have very informative bulletins, and Sierra-Diablo also has
the best bulletin auction in the hobby.
 
And, by the way, if you happen to be interested in foreign material (and are multi-lingual), there is a list of foreign clubs around the world on the FOREIGN CLUBS page, although you should be aware that almost all of these clubs focus on matchboxes and labels rather than matchcovers.

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