How to Display a Collection of Matchbooks

You know I have a thing for candles in the house. But did you know that I also have a thing for something that all candles need to produce candle glow and that is matches.

Yes, I have a thing for matches and all things match lighting related.

It started when I was a child and my mom thought my siblings and I needed to each acquire a hobby of collecting something to broaden our horizons.

My brother chose stamps. My twin sister – miniature books, and I chose to collect matchbooks. My younger sister was an infant at the time, so she missed out on this new adventure.

Collection of matchbooks on a pretty plate on a coffee table. Use What You Have Home Decorating Ideas

Over the years, my matchbook collection made it through 6 moves and is still going strong.

Recently when styling the coffee table in the living room, I was at a loss for something to add that was unique.

After a bit of contemplating, it came to me  – my favorite collection. I can place them in a bowl or small tray –“why had I never thought of that before?”

I think I always felt I needed to protect it, but why have something you love, if you can’t enjoy it. It can become the best  home decorating accessory, better than just another tchotchke.

I don’t collect many things as I am a firm believer in less is more, but I do have an abundance of one particular item – a true collection in every sense of the word.

A collection that I am rather fond of and that has many memories attached to it.  I went in search of it – It is in a big hat box that has been stored in a closet. Bringing it out to the light of day, I realized was also going to help me keep one of my New Years goals in check  – to have my favorite things around me. Happy colorful things that make me smile…

…like hundreds of matchbooks and matchboxes!!!

How to display a Matchbook-Collection

I have a lot of them in all shapes, sizes, and colors from places near and far.

Each of these matchbooks has a story behind it. I can pick one up and automatically, I recall a fond memory. The restaurant where Ed proposed to me, or the store where I got my first job in display, and the trip we took to Hawaii.

When I thought more about using the matchbooks as a decorating accessory, it made even more sense as matchbooks fill the bill in more than one way. When placed on a table they can become interactive conversation starters as well as visually adding color and interest to the tablescape.


My matchbook collection started when I was in elementary school. My mom thought it a good idea that my twin sister Carol, and I each collected something. She called it “broadening our horizons”.   My older brother collected stamps so we knew a little bit about collecting as a hobby and were excited to have a collection to call our own.   My mom decided that I was to collect matchbooks and my sister miniature books.

We both still have our collections. I have a lot more items in mine as matchbooks were a little easier to acquire than mini books.


They are not as easy to find anymore – since smoking is not allowed in most public places and most smokers use lighters nowadays.

Matchbook-Collection-Display ideas

My dad traveled to many business dinner meetings and always brought one home for me wherever he went.  Most of my matchbooks are from-restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, drug stores, department stores, beauty salons, and banks as there was always a stack of free matchbooks for the taking.

I had an aunt that lived in Brooklyn and worked on Wall Street. When she came to visit, she always had a bag full of them for me. As a kid these were the most exciting to acquire since they were from the big city – they were shiny and big from sophisticated and elegant establishments. As I got older, I started picking them up wherever I traveled. These have become my favorites – the ones I picked up myself.


I love seeing all of them together, but I do have a few favorites – one from a long gone restaurant that was on the bay in Ocean City, NJ called Holgate’s.  I also love the one from Hess’s Department Store, The Copacabana in NYC and the real estate office in Ocean City that my family used to use to rent our vacation home every summer – fond memories…


Most collectors choose what they want to collect, but my mom knew me well when she chose matchbooks for me. She knew the colorful art and designs on the covers would pique my interest. She was right as I still pick them up if I see an interesting or colorful one when I am out and about– it has become an automatic response.

How to display a favorite collection

My mom is no longer living, but I think it would make her smile if she walked into my house today and saw that I have them prominently displayed.  They are the perfect decorating accessory – interesting and meaningful.  I have to thank her for wanting to “broaden my horizons”.

Did you collect anything as a child that you still have or display in your home?

Matchbooks on a white ceramic tray.

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  1. My aunt used to collect matchbooks, too. She had quite a collection.
    I started collecting coasters several years ago. My friends and relatives help me grow my collection when they bring some home from their travels. One friend brought 39 from Europe when he and his wife were there on a motorcycle vacation. I have them displayed on the walls in the powder room.

  2. I’m very curious about the collection of mini-books. Never heard of them.

  3. Love the story behind your collection. Love the matches too. Really love the bowl. What/where did you get/find that bowl? Great item. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Penny – I bought the bowl the matches are in quite a few years ago at Pottery Barn.

  4. So funny! I worked at Hess’s and have a few of the same matchbooks that you have in your collection. I have a shopping bag’s worth. It’s a shame you can’t pick them up at restaurants and other places anymore. Thanks for the idea!

  5. John provan says:

    Greetings from Florida.
    My comments apply only to matchbook covers as I too collect them.
    I belong to the Sierra Diablo club in Calif. and participate in what
    we call a Freebix box proram. Many, many participate in
    the program and no membership fees. We exchange standard,
    mid size post office boxes filled with 3,000 to 4,000 matchbook c overs.
    Only cost is postage $15.50 and you get that back when you mail it
    the next person and thay pay you for the postage. Enjoyed your
    article. Send only the text and I’ll try and get it out to a
    lot of matchbook collectors.
    Please don’t send any advertising emails. Only matchbook cover
    John provan

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi John – Thanks for information about the matchbook club. I had no idea something like it even existed. What fun to be able to sort through new collections of them. :-)

  6. Delo Lumagui says:

    I have something in mind that would definitely look great when completed. That includes matchbooks, wine bottles, and baskets to make a wonderful DIY wine basket.

  7. Hi Diane–
    I have been following your blog for only a short time, maybe 6 months. I was so happy to find it through a link from another that I follow because I feel like you and I have a lot in common—similar age, I also have two grown daughters, similar style. When I read this post it brought a tear to my eye—I also collected matchbooks as a teenager and through my young adult years, toting the big container of them through all my moves. Until one day, my husband made a comment that made me super worried about what a fire hazard they might be. I started to just pull the matches out of all of them, but ultimately I got rid of all of them. Kicking myself now. So fun to see your collection!

  8. Hi Diane,
    I love your collection! I would love to sit and sift through it and hear the stories- just wonderful! When I was a girl I fell in love with Holly Hobbie. I treasured my pieces, but outgrew them eventually. Now I pick up Holly Hobbie things when I can find them at a reasonable price. I wish I had kept the ones from my childhood, but I truly love building my “new” collection too. I’m glad you’re making your collection part of your decor.

  9. Debbie Mayfield says:

    I have a large collection of matchbooks, too. I keep them in a large pretty glass bowl I bought from Pier 1 many years ago.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Debbie –

      That is a great idea to use a big glass bowl so you can see many at once. They are so colorful – perfect as a unique decorative accessory.