Matchcover Collecting

Some Thoughts On Rules For The Hobby

by "Billboard Bill" Thomas

Well Hallelujah! I never dreamed it would happen, but after years of inviting mail from you readers I finally got a letter! It wasn't very complimentary, but it struck a note that I need to share with you. This reader took exception to my words about collecting full-books and gave me some reasons why everyone should collect his way. I spoke of the fire hazard, and he stoutly maintains that storing full books his way made it impossible for matchbooks to ignite by themselves. Of course they won't; they'll ignite from heat just like the gasoline, paint, fireworks and Irish whiskey stored along side. I spoke of the added storage bulk that full books bring about, and his view was that if someone did not have the room to store full books they should get out of the hobby or go to stamps or coins...sheesh, sounds a bit like an Austrian corporal we once knew..."If you're not blonde and blue-eyed, get off the planet—Achtung!"

We have long enjoyed and taken pride in the fact that our hobby is not governed by a rigid set of inflexible rules. The stamp and coin people have precise definitions for what is fine, kinda fine, not-so-fine, and they adhere to them because their hobby is built upon such precise identity. There's nothing wrong with that, but it does NOT apply to our hobby. We like to feel that we are somewhat loose and unbound by such precision, and it must be that way because matchcovers and boxes are not made to the very precise printing and coining standards that apply to stamps and coins.

Oh sure, we have rules; they have to exist in civilized society or no one would stop for a red traffic light. But notice that all our hobby rules apply to dealing with other collectors...there are NO rules for how we should collect, store, albumize, or categorize our own covers. It's only when we go to trade that we find its proper and accepted practice to trade only unused covers unless arranged beforehand. That and other such rules exist so that we can know what to expect when we trade with another collector.

Okay, so let's agree that our rules exist only for dealing with others, just as the rules for dancing apply only if you dance with a partner: if you dance alone, there's no one to tell you that you're stepping on their toes, eh? Our rules are few and simple—don't trade used covers, or bobtailed ones, or parts of sets, or national ones. Be honest in trading. Don't write a number in ink on a cover (or box). Try to trade what the other person collects. Respond to all mail. That's easy, isn't it? And it's common sense and courtesy, just like your mama saying don't slurp your soup or pick your nose.

Now, when you get your own collection, it's like the rule about two consenting adults—it's nobody's business how you collect, and nobody should tell you that your way is wrong. It isn't wrong—it's YOUR way, not their way. I albumize my Christmas covers by primary color because I like it that way, and I know where to find what I seek; how do you albumize yours? Oh, you're color blind and can't do it my way. Full books? Too bulky and fire hazardous for me, but you keep 'em the way you like, just don't tell me that I'm the wrong one. I keep my Features in a metal box—how do you keep your full books? If you walk to the beat of a different drummer, that's because there's more than one drummer and more than one beat. Please enjoy our hobby with us by adhering to our very few simple rules and by making your own rules for what you do with your collection. Then, no one can call you wrong.

This article was originally published in the RMS Bulletin, May/June 1996, issue #460.

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