Matches Are Nostalgic Collectibles
While smoking rates have plummeted in recent decades, that doesn’t diminish the appeal and utility value of the match. After all, you never know when a stove might fail to light, or the power might unexpectedly go out. According to many in the business, matchbooks and matchboxes have a sentimentality factor. They tend to be nostalgic collectibles that people hold onto.
Given that the phosphorus-coated sticks aren’t as frequently used to light up a cigarette or cigar, the symbolism and public image of matches have changed. Nowadays, if you smoke, you have a Bic lighter. And it has been discovered that people who don’t smoke actually use more matches than people who do. There are so many more uses for matches than lighting your smoke. Here’s a look at the popular souvenir’s history. It peaked during the early decades of the 20th century and the tradition is still alive today.
A Brief History of Matchbook Covers
The “matchbook cover” or “matchcover” is a thin, cardboard covering. This covering folds over the match sticks creating a “book” or “pack” of matches. These covers have been used as a form of advertising since 1894; only two years after they were patented. At first, businesses hand wrote their promotional information on blank matchbook covers. This was a time-consuming, but effective marketing idea.
Since then, the promotional use of matchbooks has exploded. Collectors, known as phillumenists or “lovers of light,” include people who have a shoebox or fishbowl filled with packs from local stores and restaurants to serious collectors with covers organized in hundreds of different topics and shapes.
Matches are probably the most cost-effective advertising because there are 20, 30, or 40 exposures. So, investing in the 40-strike books of matchbooks is a bit more expensive, but in the long-run, your book will be handled at least 40 times. They are not usually thrown away.
One thing has changed in all this time: the design. In 1973, federal safety laws required that strikers be placed on the backside of matchbooks instead of the front.
Given that cultural and health trends have not been in its favor, the matchbook industry adapted in the wake of widespread smoking restrictions. For the majority of bar and restaurant industry professionals, matches have already inched their way over to the “nonessential” column on business expense ledgers.
After the smoking restrictions were instituted, it became hard to convince restaurant and bar owners that matchbooks were still a valuable way to promote their brand and image. It is one of the most inexpensive ways to promote and market a business or service. Now, though, matches are not touted as smoking tools.
They are souvenirs. And the passion of collectors and phillumenist societies makes up in part for the loss of the product’s ubiquity. While laypeople will interchangeably use the terms “matchbooks,” “matchboxes,” and “matches,” it’s the matchcover that really matters to the hobbyists.
Customers can’t smoke in restaurants, but they can smoke elsewhere. And that’s when you really want them to have your matches with your logo. Whether your customers pin and display, store in drawers, or use them as utilitarian necessities, your promotional matchbooks and matchboxes are nostalgic collectibles.