Vegas comes through for the matchbook collector

Who knew?


I thought I was one of the few remaining matchbook/matchcover/matchbox collectors around. Afterall, it’s a dying hobby, as since the downfall of public smoking in most parts of North America, collecting matchbooks is becoming increasingly difficult. Most smaller establishments are no longer bothering to print matches. There are no more ash trays on tables in most eating and drinking establishments in the average Canadian or American city.

But Vegas is not your average city! After just three days in Sin City in 2009, I came home with a total of 10 matchbooks! That’s quite the haul in today’s day and age. (And no, I am not and have never been a smoker, although I have indulged in the very occasional cigarette over the years.)

I remember up until the 1990’s, we’d go on a roadtrip and I’d come home with a whole bag of matchbook covers of various shapes and sizes. Now that was fun! It was a way for me to remember all the great (and maybe not-so-great) places we had stayed, wined and dined. I would write in each matchbook as to what date I visited, who I was with and whether the result was something memorable (accommodation-wise, food-wise, for a special occasion, etc.)

being a phillumenist

And I’m not alone! Evidently, there are many other phillumenists in the world! Check out the Matchcover Vault site for the most comprehensive list of clubs and resources for collectors.  We always called them “matchbooks” in Canada and not matchcovers. Could that be an American thing?

In the 1950’s — the hayday of matchcover collecting — there were more than one million collectors in Canada and the US. Matchcover collecting was only surpassed by stamp collecting in popularity!  I’m sure that is no longer the case. We are indeed, a dying breed.

That is because the joyous days of productive matchbook collecting are long gone. In today’s world, you’re lucky to get just a few matchcovers from any given trip. (I scored just three or four matchbook covers from our trip to three European countries in October, 2009.)

What do you candle lovers do to light your candles? We know most smokers have lighters. But many of them still reach for matches.

And in Vegas, smoking is still tolerated — if not celebrated to the best of my knowledge. Smoking is still allowed in most casinos, but generally not in eating establishments. So the art of hunting for matchbook covers was just one more reason for me to revisit Las Vegas. Luckily there were many other reasons. (See this post for some of our 2019 Vegas adventures.)

the art of collecting matchcovers is a dying art  

It seems that addictive behaviours such as gambling and drinking go quite nicely with smoking. So pretty much every hotel on The Strip used to have an abundant supply of matches, usually found in bowls on the bar. On my most recent trip to Vegas in May, 2019, I did not find that. Matchbooks are quickly becoming a thing of the past!

You’re probably wondering how many matchbooks I have in my collection? Well, I began collecting on my 16th birthday, when my Dad took me to the Charterhouse Restaurant (now the Rib Room) in Winnipeg for a grown-up dinner. That was a very long time ago! Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to make many additions to it lately for reasons already stated.

I now have a lovely hexagonally-shaped custom-made leaded glass container that is 14 inches by 14 inches by 14 inches and is 2/3 full of matchbooks. It is esthetically pleasing and is in effect, a history of my adult life as I have personally collected each of the matchbooks in the collection so each one has some meaning to me.

Hopefully, my supply of incoming matchbooks for the collection will not run out before my time on this earth is done!

If you know of any destinations where matchbooks are still abundant, please let me know!

I find that with many vacation spots adapting the all-inclusive route which encourages guests to stay within the confines of the resort, and with cruising becoming equally popular, the days of visiting many different establishments on a vacation are less frequent–making matchbook collecting increasingly difficult.  We will never surrender. We will persevere and continue to ask at each place we visit, “Do you have any matches?

If you have a dying hobby that is increasingly difficult to continue, tell us about it. We can all lament together.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

17 Responses

  1. I have a cookie jar filled with matchbooks from hotels in Las Vegas

  2. Jeff says:

    Visit the TheVegasMap! Search for the coolest things going on around the strip!

  3. alex says:

    i have lots of match books starting back from the 40’s till today and all over the world for sale get me at

  4. Lizzie says:

    Very energetic blog, I liked that a lot. Will there be a part 2?

  5. Nickolas says:

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    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Nickolas. Yes, I’m happy to have the chocolate beat! Just hit the “Subscribe” tab to the right and you’ll receive all future posts by e-mail! Cheers.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…profit from your passionMy Profile

  6. Diane Webb says:

    I liked your blog and I personally invite you to join – The World’s Free Collectors Zone.
    We will also be happy to cooperate with your blog such as adding its link to our site.
    All the best,

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Very cool, Diane!

      Thanks for pointing me to Coollectors. What a neat site!

      Alas, I only add matchbooks to my collection that I’ve actually picked up in my travels. I am not a collector who buys and sells. But I definitely am glad to know of your site, as it’s something I may write about in the future.

  7. wizardofwords says:

    Bobbi Graham reads the blog but has trouble posting a comment. She says:
    "it seems there are many of us with these collections! Do you know if there's a market for these? I have quite a few famous ones, including leading nightclubs in NYC, the Watergate Hotel in D.C., etc. Some of my special ones are in a special matchbook cover wall rack I bought many years ago, and the rest in an oversize fishbowl, with even more stashed away in a carton."

    I answered Bobbi privately, but thought I'd also post the comment here for those of you who may be wondering about what to do with your matchbook collections: I suggest you contact Bill at the AMCC. The link is in the blog post.

  8. wizardofwords says:

    Hi Suzanne: Glad you quit smoking. But don't worry! I couldn't have accepted your matchbook collection! I only have ones that I personally have collected. Much more meaningful to me that way.

  9. suzanneboles says:

    Interesting. I can't go inot smoky places. I'm surprised Vegas still allows smoking in their casinos.

    I think I started doing this because my Mom had a collection (in the days when she and my Dad smoked). Then I started smoking.

    I did my final quit over a year ago and that's when I dumped my matchbooks. Any reminder of smoking is bad for an addict like me. I guess I should have passed them on to you. Sorry.

  10. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks for the comment, Bruce. Great to have you participating on my blog. Happy Holidays to you, too!

  11. Bruce Bishop says:

    Interesting piece, Doreen. The museum I work for acquired a sizeable collection from the estate of a local resident this past summer. Most date back to the 1940s and '50s. I didn't know there had been so many collectors at one point! Happy holidays – Bruce Bishop, Yarmouth, N.S.

  12. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks, Christine. And yes, I have taken them out occasionally to give them a glance — or to look for the name of a restaurant or place I know we've been. This was particularly useful before I began keeping travel journals. But in addition to providing a record of times passed, some of the matchbooks are truly a work of art!

  13. Christine Peets says:

    I've collected matchbooks too, Doreen, but I never thought to keep them as you have. I've just used the matches to light my candles, and then either I or my husband tossed the covers. I now see that as a mistake. What a wonderful idea you've got there, and a beautiful collection. Do you take them out and look at them individually, to remind you of the time you collected them?
    I think I might still have a few matchbooks. At least I hope I do. I'll definitely look around, and if I find any, I'll put them in a special place. Thanks for this inspiring piece.

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