One of the nicest gifts for any person from age six to senior citizen is a fun-filled and satisfying hobby. We think the best hobby is matchcover collecting...for many reasons. There are no set rules that have to be followed, for example, if you are collecting for your own enjoyment; it's comparatively inexpensive; trading by mail allows you to set up an entire network of eyes and ears, all looking out for your collecting interests; and you meet and/or correspond with so many great people. On top of everything else, it's very educational. History, geography, politics, business, county and state administrative structure, and so much more...they're all packed into those little pieces of cardboard. See our Matchcover Album for some classic examples of the matchcovers and matchboxes we collect.
The serious phillumenist (as matchcover collectors are called) sets up rules for shows and swapfests, creates checklists on various types of covers, and often is highly specialized. To enjoy the hobby, you need not do any of the above - just enjoy the part of the hobby you have decided to pursue. But, however you go about it, you'll find your fellow peers ready, willing and able to help you...and readily accessible. Indeed, with e-mail, the hobby has become a closely interwoven network of men and women joined together in pursuit of their common interest. See Collectors On-Line for contacts literally all over the world!
Covers & Albums: There are ways to collect that can be rather expensive, as well as types of collecting which are as inexpensive as simply asking your friends and relatives to pick up matchbooks for you whenever they can. Approximately 95% of collectors normally strip the matches out. The covers can be mounted in photo albums, scrapbook albums, commercial matchbook albums, or even kept in cigar boxes or other containers that will prevent the covers from becoming torn or lost while still keeping them in an orderly manner.
Most collectors today prefer to take the matches out of the covers for ease of storage in boxes or albums. The exception to this is covers where the matches have printing or pictures on them; these covers are usually left intact. Most matchbox collectors separate the boxes where the two sides of the box overlaps so they can be mounted in albums.
Most collectors also collect and expect only unused, undamaged covers. Likewise, salesman's samples (flats) are not considered real covers. These are general hobby standards, although each individual collector can certainly determine what standards of quality are to be used for his or her own collections.
The most widely used albums are simple 3-ring binders with special pages designed for matchcovers. In the early days, many collectors actually hand sewed their own pages. Then the pre-cut, slotted pages came into use. Most collectors today, however, are switching over to plastic pages with pockets designed to hold specific sizes of matchcovers. See Supplies if you're looking for pages, display cases, etc.
Matches can be fairly easily removed from recent covers if care is taken. Most collectors prefer to leave the covers intact if they come across older covers where the striker portion shows obvious signs of discoloration. The act of removing the matches from the cover would probably destroy the striker in the process. In any event, it is better to develop your skills in removing matches from the covers before you start to strip those covers you want in your collection.
Trading: When trading covers, "Nationals" (national advertising covers--McDonald's, Pizza Hut, generic Holiday Inns, etc., with no specific address) are normally not wanted by fellow traders. Traders usually swap on a one-for-one basis, anywhere from 10-100+ covers at a time. Used covers are almost always frowned upon as trading material, although it is okay to send used covers if your trader has previously agreed that he or she will take them. See Rules and Procedures for more more details on trading.
Clubs: A typical collector will be a member of RMS, belong to a local regional club and a few more regional and specialty clubs around the country, according to his or her own interests. Regional clubs normally provide the collector with regular meeting opportunities, local support, bulletins, auctions, membership lists, etc. See Clubs for a listing of those available and where they are located.
Conventions & Swapfests: Throughout the year, collectors have the opportunity to participate in a variety of annual conventions and swapfests from coast to coast in the US and Canada. These get-togethers offer collectors the chance to meet with their peers from around the country, trade, buy, sell, learn, and go home with lots of covers. Some collectors go for the covers; some go more for the socializing...but everyone always has a great time. See Upcoming Events for what's going on currently.