Rare Matchcovers / Matchbooks (more)

The world's oldest known printed matchbook!

Oldest known matchbook Binghampton John Fendrich Tobacco matchbook
Oldest known matchbook Binghampton John Fendrich Tobacco matchbook


In September 1892 attorney Joshua Pusey patented the first friction matchbook. The Binghamton Match Co., established in Jan 1893, developed a matchbook based on Pusey's design, to include a distinctive striker located inside the cover. A very limited amount were produced. In 1895 Pusey sold his invention to the Diamond Match Co. who successful sued Binghamton for patent infringement, forcing them out of business. Currently there are only two branded Binghampton Matchbooks known to exist, dating 1893/94.

Contrary to popular beliefs, the handmade Mendelson Opera matchbook, said to be the oldest and made by the Diamond Match Co., was actually made by Binghamton. It is displayed so infrequently, current pictures showing its real design are hardly seen. From rare modern pictures taken by a fellow collector Jeff Ackman, the Binghamton name on the saddle (or top) is now mysteriously missing when compared to the 1941 Life magazine photo...see the difference here! This has left the entire hobby believing in the story that a group young desperate entertainers, bought a box of blank Diamond matchbooks, hand-printed an ad with clipped pictures and gave them out on street corners and created the first matchbook ad. This is now possibly proved to be innacurate.

The thought that they copied the idea from already seen printed Binghamton books is only a strong theory, but it does make sense. The only two known, Fendrich Tobacco book above and the Piso Cure book, both have printed sticks and full cover ads. Either the Opera crew made their own by looking at near exact examples or the Binghamton Match Co. got a hold of an Opera book, with about 100 given away on distant street corners (or Opera House patrons), and had a brainstorm. What we do know is that the Mendelson book was made by covering up a Binghamton book to include the staple, with paper and pictures.


Charles Lindbergh Matchcover /  Matchbook

Charles Lindberg luncheon matchcover / matchbook


The famous Charles Lindbergh matchcover, dated June 14, 1927, is the most coveted in the hobby. It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the valuable matchcover in the world, selling for a record $6,000 in 2015. In 1952 the listed value was $100...at the time more than a Honus Wagner baseball card. Apparently about 200 were made to be handed out at a special dinner in which 3,200 guests attended at the Astor Hotel in New York honoring his 1927 flight across the Atlantic. Nobody really knows why this book is so rare. One strong possibility is that it was withheld and discarded because Captain Lindbergh was promoted to Colonel the week before, rendering the matchbook completely inaccurate. In 2012 there were eleven known to exist, almost all are hidden in private collections. Even the most advanced hobbyists will go an entire lifetime without ever seeing one in person. There are three in our collection, to include the current record holder.

Also shown is the Charles Lindbergh luncheon matchcover, dated the following day, June 15, 1927. This may be one of only two known. Several top collectors state they have never seen one (in person or a picture) and heard only rumors that it actually existed. Well...here it is!

Even though digitally enhanced to remove blemishes and stains, this is one of the few (if any) true pictures that can be seen of either cover.

Oldest Diamond 1892 Matchcover

A near impossible to find "Patented Sept. 27, 1892 (Licensed Match)" from the Diamond Match Co. Shortly after purchasing Pusey's design in 1895, Diamond went to work moving the striker to the outside and began experimenting with printed ads. This particular cover advertises the Barker Collar Co. of West Troy, NY.

As with many matchcovers, dating them is often difficult unless there are some distinguishing factors or printed dates. On May 20, 1896, West Troy officially changed its name to Watervliet, never to be used again. This would date this cover from 1895/86. It does not have a striker, staple marks or folds so it was never actually used as a matchbook. This is possibly one of, if not the first, example of a salesman sample (flat) or matchbook prototype made to test their new invention.

This Lillian Russell Cigar full book has the "Patented Sept. 27 - 1892" wording above the striker as well as "The Diamond Match, Co. U.S.A. Volume 1" on the saddle (top); believed to be a first generation Diamond Matchbook with less than five known. A near exact matchbook was found in 1898, located in the uniform coat pocket of James D. Brady, a Spanish-American War Army Rough Rider under Theodore Roosevelt. This book dates at or before that time.

Knights of Columbus Matchbook

Red Cross Matchbook

World War 1 Matchbook

WWI Matchbook / Matchcover

Matchbooks prior to the 1920's are very difficult to find. Because these show America's support for the troops during World War 1, they can be accurately dated from 1917-19. Without pictures or dates, as stated above it can be very tough to date these early matchbooks. The best way to identify a pre-1920 is to look for the ever-so-rare Approved Match No. 7 (Licensed Match) wording just above The Diamond Match Book Co, N.Y. name. With these particular covers, it is located just above the striker, although this wording or variations have been seen located other places, in the handful that are known. As one would imagine a World War 1 Red Cross matchbook can be a serious collectors dream and remarkably displayed here are four variations...with five more in the collection.

Green Hat Matchcover & Matchbook
Shown here is a near mint condition Green Hat Matches matchcover (1 of 20). Oddly enough, it's the wording at the top, not the image that a collector should be looking for. Dated 1926, it is made by the Lion Match Co. for the Albert Pick Company. Considered one the hobby's great commodities, it is usually at, or near the top of the list of all serious collectors. They are scarce to find in any condition.
USS Indianapolis matchcover

A tough matchcover, owned in both blue and red. The U.S.S. Indianapolis was commissioned in 1932. It was torpedoed in the final few days of the war on its return trip from delivering the first atomic bomb to the Tinian Island before being dropped on Hiroshima. The Japanese submarine commander in the new I-58 submarine was eager to make a kill, knowing the war was in its final stages. No rescue was sent and many of the survivors drowned after their waterlogged life jackets pulled them under. Of she ships crew of 1,197, about 900 made it into the water, only 317 survived as sharks ate hundreds while their helpless friends watched. It remains one of the worst disasters in U.S. Navy history.

USS Arizona Matchcover issued before it was sunk in Pearl Harbor

Launched in 1915 the U.S.S. Arizona is most famously known for her sinking, with the loss of 1,177 lives, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the event that brought about US involvement in World War II.


Douglas Macarthur I shall return matchbook

Macarthur I shall return matchbox


The Office of War Information classified the project top secret! They made arrangements with the Larus Bro. Tobacco Company of Richmond Virginia to manufacture Chelsea Cigarettes to be included in soldier's field rations.

In a wing of their factory set aside for this secret work, Larus packaged four cigarettes in a colorful paper label picturing the flags of the US and Philippines. MacArthur's facsimile signature and the famous "I Shall Return" slogan were prominently featured.

"I Shall Return" cigarettes along with matchbooks and matchboxes, were smuggled behind enemy lines from the U.S. Cargo Submarine Narwhal and dropped at night from B-24 bombers. These, along with other items were distributed by US and Filipino guerrillas and helped keep the Filipino's hope for liberation alive until General MacArthur returned in October 1944.

There are two different kinds of matchbooks and one matchbox known. Any one of them are difficult to come by and are a prized collectible.


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