Before we start treasure hunting, we need to have a little chat!
  • AGE: 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 age.
  • NOT BEING ISSUED ANYMORE: Be aware that the fact that "that business doesn't exist anymore" is meaningless. The vast majority of businesses advertised on matchcovers are gone. Businesses are hit and miss affairs, here today...gone tomorrow. The fact that that hotel burned down 30 years ago or that restaurant went belly up back in the '50s doesn't add anything to the value of that cover. There are exceptions, of course...The World Trade Center destroyed on 9/11, the Boston Coconut Grove destroyed in the famous 1942 inferno, etc. But, it was the disasters that give those covers special value, and those are rare exceptions.
    • 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.
  • CONDITION: Don't forget that, as with all collectibles, condition is an important factor in value. Collectors are looking for unstruck, undamaged covers. The matches, themselves, are almost always removed by the collector, so if yours have already been carefully taken out, there's no problem with that. Also, if the cover is old and in a desirable category, it may still be wanted, even in used condition [collectors have to be practical, after all].
    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 covers.
    • Non-Categories: 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:
    c. 1894-1929
    > whatever it is, it's a treasure! KEEP IT!
    1930s > 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, though:
    [* = highly sought after]
    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 Co.
    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
    for Safety [by Ohio Match Co.]
    FOR SAFETY [by American Match]
    FOR SAFETY [by
    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 Lists.
    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 & T Listing].

    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 a treasure!


    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 available.
  • WORLD WAR II PATRIOTICS: Always popular because of the history and nostalgia involved, these great covers are wanted by most discerning collectors and non-collectors alike. Value depends on the particular design, since most of the covers here were produced with stock designs used in great numbers. Some will definitely bring a dollar+. There is no current listing available.
    • 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.
  • ODD-STRIKERS: Ever popular because of their novelty, these covers have the striking surface incorporated into the design of the cover. The one shown here, which is a fairly common cover, has the striker on the seat of Hitler's pants. 375 are currently listed.
    • MILITARY: Most were issued during World War II. Always in demand. The listing currently lists over 5,000 of these covers.
  • U.S. NAVY SHIPS: At one time, most Navy ships issued their own matchbooks. These are divided into Pre and Post-War covers. The Pre-War covers are naturally harder to find and will usually bring a few dollars each. Post-War Ship covers are wanted, as well, but are much more common and thus less valuable. There are Pre and Post-War lists under Combine Lists.
    • 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.
  • MIDGETS: These 1930s covers are recognizably smaller than the average, designed specifically for women and their purses. Originally issued by Diamond Match Co., but Ohio Match Co. soon had their competing issues, as well. These will normally bring a dollar+ each. The current listing shows 9.451 known to exist and is available from Mike Schwimmer, 1849 Comstock Ln., Plymouth, MN 55447-5172
    • 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.
  • TRUCKING: This has always been a popular category...Why?...I have no idea! I collect them, myself, mainly because of the occasional, very nice full-length art work, such as the one shown above. Such old Full-Length Trucks might bring in dollars+. Otherwise, we're talking something much less than a dollar per cover. 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 time.

    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 latter covers.

    Good hunting!

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