Once upon a time in America, smoking was not only commonplace but even considered sophisticated and fashionable. Since almost everyone regularly needed a light, businesses were quick to capitalize on this marketing opportunity by producing customized matchbooks to advertise their goods and services.
Because matchbooks were produced in great abundance for many years with virtually every type of business represented, it’s not surprising that collecting matchbooks and, especially, matchbook covers, or matchcovers, has become a very popular hobby worldwide.
In most cases, the matches themselves, if still present in a matchbook, are not remarkable in any way so the common practice among collectors is to carefully remove the matches and keep only the flattened covers. Organizing and storing matchcovers is a far easier job than managing the same number of intact books. Only for the small subset of fancy matchbooks whose matches are printed with artwork is it recommended that the full book be left intact.