- WHY YOU'RE
NOT GOING TO BECOME A MILLIONAIRE:
- Before we start treasure
hunting, we need to have a little chat!
I know those covers you have are 30, 40, 50 years old, but they're
not...old! Old, in this hobby, begins with Pre-WW
II material (that's earlier than Dec. 7, 1941). Hard to believe,
but it's already been some 75 years since the end of World War
II, so it's not that difficult to find covers well over half
a century old. They look old; they feel old...but they're not...old!
Still, you could find a cover from the 1930s, and it might not
be of any great interest to collectors. Surprising? Keep in mind
that there have been billions of covers issued
over the last 100 years, so that dandy little 1930s cover you've
just come across might well be an interesting item of conversation
when the relatives come over, but to a collector it may be of
no interest at all. Even most Pre-War covers aren't that sought
after. In the 1940s and 1950s, we hit the Golden Age of matchcovers,
but, although they're 60+ years old, again...they're not really
"old". The 1960s and beyond....forget it! Those covers
may be readily collectible for other reasons, but not for their
- FOREIGN: In some cases, 'exotic' is a plus;
in other instances, it's the kiss of death! Covers in Arabic,
Chinese, Japanese, etc., for example, are completely unintelligible
to collectors here. Plus, foreign covers are often in 'non-standard'
sizes, which makes them difficult to house. And, most of them
are not in the most desirable categories to start with. I
mean, what's a collector supposed to do with a laundromat cover
from New Zealand? On the other hand, something such as a
cover from the Abu Dhabi Sheraton [ which would be in English]
has 'exotic' working for it, rather than against it. There
are also various categories in Foreign that would always be of
some interest...Cigarettes, Airlines, Girlies, Die-Cuts are the
most common, although Foreign Military and some others would
qualify, as well.
- JUNK COVERS:
- Even though there is always
someone (out of the some 7 billion people in the world) who wants
anything, there are a few types of covers that are basically
considered 'junk' within the hobby.
- Nationals: are covers
that have no single specific location (city and state), as seen
here in the three covers above. Not all Nationals are junk, however.
As you would expect, most Airline and Railroad covers, for example,
would have no specific location, but they're very collectible
There are covers that simply raise no interest at all among collectors,
in general, such as the three pictured above. Non-academic schools,
Auction services, Furniture stores, Shoe stores, Chemical companies,
etc. There's nothing stopping you from collecting in said categories...but
don't expect anyone else to.
- The point is, that, although
the covers you have may look special to you, they're probably
going to be considered run-of-the-mill material or less to collectors.
So, don't get your hopes up...
- But, even still, there
are some treasures...
- As with other collectible
hobbies, this one has its treasures, and, as with other collectible
hobbies, you just have to know what to look for.
- So, now that we've narrowed
down what 'old' is, let's look at covers from the c. 1894-1941
era. From a collecting standpoint based on age, that era can
then be broken down to:
- > whatever it is, it's
a treasure! KEEP IT!
> Only some are treasures
- OK, so...you're a non-collector
or a novice; tragically, Aunt Martha in Pocatello has just passed
away and part of your inheritance is two old cardboard boxes
of matchbooks. How do you find the treasures, if there are any?
Well, the first guideline is readily obvious. Most (but not all,
so this is not 100% infallible) of the pre-1938 matchcovers had
noticeably wider strikers, so look for those and put those aside
immediately for further consideration later.
Notice how the
American striker on the left is vertically wider than the Lone
Star striker on the right.
- Another item to check
is the overall length of the matchcover. Before the advent of
vending machines, most old covers were longer than what we're
used to today. Look at this example:
Compare the regular
length of this 1950s Lone Star cover with this "extra-long"
(XL) or "tall" old Federal cover from the early 1930s.
- Any XLs you come across
you can immediately put aside as keepers, as well.
- After looking at the striker
width and the cover length, you really have to start knowing
what you're looking for from this point on. You don't have to
be knowledgeable to know you've struck treasure when you find
a cover with Babe Ruth on the outside and a 1919 calendar on
the inside. Other than that, however, you'll need to become familiar
with manufacturers, manumarks, and footers (see Reference Publications). Here's a quick crash course, but
you'll need to read the Manumarks
and Footers page first:
- Any covers
by these manufacturers are treasures, some more than others,
- [* = highly
- Acme Match Co.
- Acorn Match Co.
- Advance Match Co.
- Advertizit Match Co.
- All Trades Match Co.
- Art Match Co.
- Atlantic Match Co.
- Atlas Match Co. (NJ/NY)*
- Bell Match Machine Co.
- Book Match Co.
- Central Match & Label
- Circle Match Co.
- Coast Book Match Co. *
- Columbia Match Co. (WI)
- Crown Match Co.*
- Empire Book Match Co.
- Empire Match Co.
- Federal Match Co./Corp.*
- Gem Match Co.*
- General Match Co.*
- Gopher Match Co.
- Hellman Match Co.
- Hercules Match Co.*
- Jersey Match Co.*
- King Midas Match Co.*
- Manhattan Match Co.*
- McGill Match Co.*
- National Match Co. (NY)*
- Owname Renewable
- Rex Match Co.
- Standard Match Co.
- Star Match Co.*
- Tulip Match Co.
- Union Match Co.*
- Any covers
with these footers are treasures:
- [These are
all highly sought after]
- blot-r match
- ACME QUALITY
- AMERICAN QUALITY
- ART MATCH QUALITY
- CLOVER FARM QUALITY
- DIAMOND QUALITY
- EDDY QUALITY
- EMPRESS QUALITY
- MAGNA QUALITY
- STONE'S QUALITY
- SUPERBA QUALTY
- UNION QUALITY
- UNION MATCH QUALITY
- for Safety [by
Ohio Match Co.]
- FOR SAFETY [by American Match]
- FOR SAFETY [by
- DIAMOND MATCH
- GREEN HAT
- SAFETY FIRST [from
any company, but the following manufacturers are noted for their
early Safety First covers:]
- -Advertizit Match Co.
- -American Match Co.
- -Art Match Co.
- -Atlas Match Corp.
- -Diamond Match Co.
- -Hercules Match Co.
- -Jersey Match Co.
- -Lion Match Co.
- -Manhattan Match Co.
- -Royal Match Co.
- -Universal Match Corp.
- Note: I maintain the listings
on all of these old covers. Each list identifies the covers that
are known to exist, and each list is updated annually or semi-annually,
as needed. The list may include only a few covers or thousands,
depending on how prolific the manufacturer was. If you're going
to collect such covers, you may find such listings useful. See
- And, after all that is
said and done, there is still one very notable group of old treasures
not yet covered by any of the above characteristics. They don't
carry an identifying footer, weren't made by an old defunct company,
aren't XLs, and may or may not have the wide strikers. These
are the Group I covers.
- GROUP I:
These covers are all by Diamond Match Co. and were all put out
in the mid-1930s. They're distinguishable from other covers because
they don't carry any advertising, and they were issued in sets,
some of which had over 400 covers each. There were sets of movie
stars, football and hockey players, radio personalities...bridge
sets, dog sets, souvenir sets, etc, so they're widely sought-after
by a variety of people, not just hobbyists. These covers are
as good as gold, often selling for at least several dollars each,
and often quite a bit more, but it's easy to get overwhelmed
in this area since there are so many. A complete Group I listing is available [listed as T &
Here are three
examples of Group I covers: two Bridge covers (outside and inside)
and a one of the Football covers.
One more word in parting.
Many of the Group I covers bear the word "Colgate,"
either in the manumark or elsewhere, usually on the inside. Colgate
was a Diamond Match Co. employee who designed almost all of Diamond's
sets in the mid-1930's. "Colgate" on a cover indicates
What? You don't seem to
have any of those Golden Oldies?! Well, I don't have a vintage
Rolls Royce either, but there are other types of Treasure besides
just old! A cover can be more recent and be in high demand
[rarely, I'll admit].
Covers can be in demand
because of their subject material. Throughout the decades, there
have always been some 'categories' which have been hot
and some that have been cold...and some that have always
been hot! Many to all of the covers in some of these categories
will bring less than a dollar, but substantially more than the
.04 -.10 cents that run-of-the-mill covers will bring. If you
have a lot of them, that adds up! In some of the categories discussed
here, the covers will bring a dollar or more each. Keep in mind,
though, that in every category, there are those covers that are
very common; everyone has them; and there will be little demand
for such. Here are at least most of the perennially wanted categories:
- FULL-FEATURES: For many collectors, Full-Features
are the epitome of what matchcover collecting has to offer. Ironically,
they always have the matches retained, so these are always
'full-books' (covers with matches). Full-Features were
made by Lion Match Co.., mainly during the 1940s-1950s, and are
much preferred over matchbooks which only have 'printed sticks'
(text on sticks, not pictures). They will normally bring dollars+
each. The one shown here has everything! It's a Full-Feature,
a Display, and a Major Political. There is no current listing
- WORLD'S FAIRS: High demand for the earlier issues,
beginning with the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, which was the first
and remains as having the most sought-after covers. Such would
bring dollars+. There is no general World's Fairs listing, but
there are specific listings for some specific World Fairs. The
New York '39-'40 World's
Fair listing is the
largest, with over 500 covers known.
- MILITARY: Most were issued during World War
II. Always in demand. The listing currently lists over 5,000 of these
- GIRLIES: What can I say? They've always been
popular! Many are much more explicit than the one shown here,
but, hey, this is a family site. It's the 'non-stock' Girlie
covers that are more valuable ('stock' means that the picture
or photo was regularly used on many covers for a variety of advertisers;
'non-stock' means that the picture or photo is basically unique
to that particular cover. The earlier Girlie issues were drawings.
Starting in the 1960s, photos became more common. There is a
large photo-catalog listing available when you join the Girlie Matchcover
Club. Note: many
Girlie covers are very common, especially those issued by matchcover
collectors for conventions, and thus have little value.
- MAJOR POLITICAL: Modern issues are generally too
common to have any significant worth, but the older issues, such
as this FDR cover ,are Treasures. The age, of course, is part
of it, but rarity is the larger part. I paid $10 for this one
a few years ago. There is no listing.
- RAILROADS: These are in high demand...mainly
because there are so many railroad fanatics around, both
within and without the hobby [Coca-Cola covers are also always
popular for the same reason]. A small percentage are notable
for their extra-nice artwork, but otherwise... Most of the Post-War
issues are fairly-to-quite common. There is no listing.
- RADIO/TV: Also always in demand.
And there are others, such
as Full-Length Diners and Contours, for example, but this is
about it. There may be categories that become very sought-after
because they're new, but that popularity eventually dwindles
as the 'newness' wears off, especially if they cease to be produced.
The categories I've described above have withstood the test of
A parting note: Interestingly
enough, the two hottest categories in the hobby in recent years
were comprised of some of the cheapest covers to be had...Tobacco
(cigarettes, cigars, etc.) and Casinos. Value had nothing to
do with their popularity; it's simply that these were just about
the last two categories in which the domestic industry was regularly
cranking out new issues...so there was a lot of interest. They
had to be the less commons ones, though. For example, in the
Casino category, new covers from the Indian casinos were initially
much more sought after than those from the established casinos
in Reno, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City. Everyone already had the