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The Birth of the Collection

I was starting my sophomore year in college and decided to pledge a fraternity as a Little Sister. As part of our induction there were the typical hazing rituals that one would expect. Then, there was the Christmas break demand.

Photo: ©Cheryl Oppenheim

The Demand

We were told that during our 30-day hiatus from school we were required to collect 100 matchbooks. Each was to be unique, and all needed to be new and intact. At the time it seemed an unreasonable task, and I was thinking that being blindfolded and forced to stay awake for two days would be preferable since I didn’t want to spend my vacation hunting matchbooks.

Remarkably I was able to find enough matchbooks over the month long break. Thus, my collection was born. From then on I collected matches from nearly everywhere I went. With every pack of cigarettes, at every restaurant, and at every event. The collection grew over the years and the vases I stored them in kept getting larger. Sometime around 1995 I bought a glass water bottle at a flea market. It became my goal to fill it up, and I continued to deposit matchbooks into that bottle over the years.

The Realization

Recently I realized that these matchbooks, these little pieces of art, contain the stories of my life, and a rich history. The history of the places I’ve visited around the world, and of my beloved New York City where I’ve lived the majority of my life. I also knew that at a time when cigarettes are coming more and more under fire, and E-Cigarettes are becoming more prevalent, matchbooks are slowly becoming a thing of the past. It’s harder to find them. They’re no longer readily available in restaurants and the matchbooks received with a cigarette purchase are often blank. They are becoming extinct.

These little pieces of art, contain the stories of my life, and a rich history.

They’re a dying art form that served as a vehicle to advertise and promote events, venues, services and products. As a designer and collector this made me sad, and it provided impetus for me to begin writing and documenting the stories, and the history, of the matchbooks and of the things they represented.

It's not the destination, it's the journey

I begin here, and hope you will follow me on this journey of discovery and rediscovery as I try hard to remember how I came by the matchbooks in my collection, and research the places, companies, and purpose of the art.


All images of matchbooks are property of Matchbookology


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