Matchcover Collecting

Classifying Your Covers

by Mike Prero

"All those covers! How on earth do I make any manageable logic of them all?" No doubt, that thought has run through all of our heads at one time or another, but it's especially prevalent among newer collectors as the often overpowering scope and variety that this hobby presents begins to set in. Well, let's just dig into those piles and stacks of covers and see what we can do about that disorganized mess.

The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with at least the major collecting categories within the hobby. Going through any decent hobby glossary of terms will enable you to do this. Basically, you come across three general types of categories: manumarks, trademarks, and subject matter.

Manumarks are the identifying manufacturer's text line(s) usually found right under the striker, sometimes found on the inside, and rarely located at the foot of the cover, They tell which company produced the cover (not which company the cover was produced for), although, it should be noted that often, especially for newer covers, the manumark reflects a middleman in the distribution process (an advertising or printing company, for example). The sought-after categories in this area are normally the long defunct match companies: Star, King Midas, Crown, Federal, etc. and their special footers, such as Diamond Quality, Safety First, etc. When you see one of these, you know you've got something to hang onto, the actual advertiser doesn't matter.

Covers are also collected by trademarks, almost always found as imprints on the inside of the cover: Cameo, Jewelite, Uniglo, Contour, and a wealth of others. As with the manumark categories, here too, the actual advertiser on the particular cover doesn't matter. Be advised that not all such covers carry the actual trademark. There are also many cases wherein the cover carries one trademark, but being a conjunctive, also falls within other trademark categories as well. For example, there are quite a few Uniglos that are Cameos and Foilites at the same time. Such covers will only carry one trademark, but they can properly he housed with any of the other qualifying trademark collections. It depends on what your own priorities are in collecting. For a collector of all fancy covers, such as myself, the ideal would be to have enough dupes of the cover available so that it can be housed with each of your categories that it falls under.

In a few cases, there will be more than one trademark on the cover. A Matchorama Billboard, as a case in point is a Universal color-photo 40-strike. Again, you can put such a cover with your Matchoramas, your Billboards, or your 40-strikes.

How do you tell if a cover qualifies for a trademark category if the trademark isn't on the cover? Experience and familiarity with the categories will show you the way. Once you know, for example, that a Cameo is a Universal cover which carries a debossed design, you'll know that any such cover is a Cameo, whether it actually carries the trademark or not.

Finally, there is a myriad of categories that results from classifying covers by their subject matter: Lobsters, Railroads, Airlines, Indians, Holiday Inns, Liquor Stores, American Legion, name it. Here, the manumark and the trademark don't matter. Rather does the cover have the qualifying item (i.e., a lobster, a cat, etc.) or business (i.e., Best Western, V.F.W., etc.)? It can be the most prominent feature on the cover, inside or out or it can be minute. As long as it's there, it qualifies for that category.

It's always been a truism in this hobby that you can make it anything you want it to be. Yet, at the same time, there is a definite guiding structure and logic to it all. There has to be when you're dealing in items by the tens of thousands! It's this blend of structure and freedom that gives the hobby one of its best selling points.

(This article was originally published in the Long Beach Matchcover Beachcomber, March 1998, and is reprinted with permission of the author.)


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