Short stuff here, but there’s motels.
If you’ve been with the site for a while, that makes sense, no? Wednesday nights I write a column, and compensate for the shorter pieces with that crowd-pleasing favorite, Motels. Of course, some of you couldn’t care less about those. Why, it’s Matchbooks you come for, and by Cornelius if you haven’t noticed that I’m no longer posting updates of 3 or 4, but have gone down to two per week.
I am running out of matchbooks.
I have only about 200 left, I think. That’s a two-year supply. You may say: you have no obligation to continue to post matchbooks weekly into the foreseeable future, OGH. But really, I do. So I went on Ebay today to see if I could find some more.
This was hard because I hate Ebay. I can’t stand the stress. I hate bidding on something, checking the time, waiting, waiting until the last moment - curses, outbid by someone with depthless pockets sitting in front of the screen with a timer. Again. Either let me buy it or never mind. But today I found an auction that was hours away from ending; the prices were right, and no one had bid, so ta-da. To ensure I would get them I loaded up an EBay app on my phone to issue great cries and alarums when I had been outbid - the sort of thing we never expected would be an aspect of 21st century life, but seems quite apt, now that we’re used to ubiquitous computing.
We thought there would be moonbases and jumpsuits and ecological despoilation and domed cities, but computers in the back pocket that played a sound when someone on the other side of the country beat your bid for something in a global auction? No. Just shows how little we could imagine what the internet would be, how every moment of the day would be subtly bent towards its presence, like a sunflower tracking Sol as it made its daily round.
Later I was in the church library waiting for daughter to finish confirmation class; I called up the eBay app and started browsing . . .
I must remove it from my phone tomorrow. It is dangerous. BUY IT NOW. These are the words I like to see, as if a great favor is being done. But my point is this: some people know how to sell matchbooks, and some do not.
What am I to make of this? Junk, for one thing. All that white suggests a certain time when matches were expected but times were tight, so matches were simple and plain and ugly. The 70s and early 80s. See down in the lower right hand corner - a dozen of the same type, which means there was no discrimination applied. This isn’t a collection.
This is better:
But it’s still nothing I would buy. The era is mid 80s and onward. The Sheraton logo in the upper right, the “Imperial Savings,” the dreaded Vegas matchbook. Collections heavy in Vegas matchbooks are never any good, because experience has taught me that smokers who went to Vegas never went anywhere else interesting.
Victoria Station was a local joint. I have that one.Not interesting. Alphy’s Coffee Shops, though - that gave me pause. You don’t see those much. Alphy’s was a coffee shop spun off the Alpha-Beta grocery story chain. I still wouldn’t spend ten dollars to get that batch. To show you how subjective the world of matchbook collecting can be: someone else is selling one Alphy matchbook for the price of this entire collection.
The decline of matchbook art is quite steep, starting around the early 60s. It’s a shame: we live in an era where design is king and the number of people who can use computer tools to create customized, delightful designs is probably greater than ever at any time in human history. But the medium is dead.
It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that if they designed really good matchbooks, priced them at twice the cost of the matches you buy at the grocery store every three years just in case, they could make some money. Just reprint old books from defunct cafes. Bygone motels.
Artisanal matchbooks. There’s a market there, that’s all I’m saying.
Anyway, I bought some. Your contributions to this site go for hosting and material acquisition, and for that I thank you. I bought 40, which will provide at least five months of updates.
They’re all in bags in boxes. There are days when I consider buying binders and sleeves and arranging them all to form something I can put on a shelf, and these are also known as days in which I just laugh. What would be the point? They’re already displayed in the most perfect form possible. On the web. For everyone. First page of Google's search returns for "matchbooks," for heaven's sake.
I started collecting them in high school. Threw them in a coffee can and that was that. If you'd told me that one day I'd be sharing them with the world on a vast and powerful computer network, I'd have said: wow. Do they get the network on the moon too? Er, sure.