I’m a casual matchbook collector, since I tend to use rather than save them (although, I do hold on to a handful of vintage matchbooks). My favorites are the vintage pin-ups shown in the photo below. I really enjoy these little relics of mid-century advertising, created when smoking was cool and great, pocket-sized design could be had for free.
A good rule of thumb in gauging the age of American matchbooks is the position of the strike strip. Books with strips on the front were manufactured up to 1973; after that date it became a Federal regulation that strips be placed on the back.
As a bonus, matchboxes and books fit nicely in our home’s small built-in soap dishes:
The advent of inexpensive lighters, along with increased regulations against smoking, pretty much killed 20th century promotional matches. They're not always set out like they used to be, but if you don't mind asking, you can still get matches at many restaurants (I asked the maître d' at Delmonico's for the box below). Also, it's fairly easy to find vintage matchbooks for a low price at the usual places—thrift stores, estate sales, eBay, etc. The Union Match and P.O.S.H. boxes were purchased from P.O.S.H. Chicago.
posted by Rachel