Collectible Restaurant Matchbooks

Collectible Restaurant Matchbooks

Called "phillumenists," collectors of matchbook covers that advertise businesses or restaurants have been collecting this promotional medium since the early 20th century. Restaurant matchbooks are memorabilia from another era and may represent dining in a fondly remembered venue.

When did matchbooks first originate?

Before the late 1800s, matches were sold in a box. In 1892, a man named Joshua Pusey first patented the idea of a type of match, made of paper, with tips that were dipped in a phosphorus and sulfur solution. Stapled to cardboard, these matches were promptly patented. The patent was soon purchased by the Diamond Match Company from Pusey, who later became attorney for the company.

What companies first used matches for advertising?

The first order of 10 million matchbooks was from the Pabst Beer Company. They wanted their ads put on the covers of the new advertising medium. This was the result of the sale by the first salesman, Henry Traute, in 1894. Other companies that followed suit include the following:

  • Bull Durham
  • Wrigleys Gum
  • Pabst
  • Schlitz
How can matchbooks be displayed in a collection?

Most of the time, the match sticks are pulled out and the covers are stored flat. This is accomplished by the collector "shucking" the matches, or prying the staple open carefully, discarding the matches, then storing the cover flat. If the pack contains a match bunch that is printed, however, they are not thrown out but are an intrinsic part of the match book and are kept.

Why are the strips in different places on some matchbooks?

Matchbook friction strips were first on the inside, then moved to outside front, and finally to the back of the cover in 1962. In the beginning, they were on the inside, next to the matches. Because of match fire fears of the public, the words "close cover before striking" were added to the front bottom.

What are some restaurant match books that can be collected?

A venue that is no longer in business and has a printed match book appeals to some who collect these memorabilia. Artwork may reflect terms used in the past or names that are now considered quaint. Some matchbook examples are listed here:

  • Chat & Chew Diner
  • Cafeterias
  • Indian & Chinese dining
  • Hogs Breath
Can a match box be collected?

Yes, boxes with printed artwork or logos are often collected as memorabilia of a special place, trip, or romantic dinner. Bright colors may make this type of ad very similar to a billboard when the boxes are turned sideways.