Sunday, 15 March 2015

Got a Light? - (Volume 2 Addition)

These days it is hard to find a convenience store that still sells matches, but of course for most of the 20th century matches were extraordinarily commonplace, especially before the health dangers from smoking were well publicized. Because businesses soon realized that matchbooks were ideal mobile advertising platforms that consumers would pull out and look at scores of times per day (at least until they died of lung cancer), all manner of commercial enterprises were soon illustrated on matchbook covers.

This extended to sports teams in most leagues, despite the inherent contradiction of athleticism versus smoking (and of course tobacco cards is where the sports card industry first established itself). Especially prevalent before World War II, there were hundreds of matchbooks featuring players for baseball, hockey, NFL football and basketball issued during the thirties and forties by such companies as the Diamond Match Company. Many regional team player sets were also produced and if you add the generic team matchbooks as well as local businesses that helped to sponsor their services by associating themselves with the various sports (including many college athletic programs), there are literally thousands of sports related matchbooks to collect.

Not so in the world of Canadian football, in fact the number of matchbooks I have seen relating to Canadian football teams or players can be counted on the fingers of one hand (although more undoubtedly exist). This matchbook featuring the Winnipeg Arena referenced the Blue Bombers as well as other Winnipeg sports teams, even though the Bombers played next door to the Arena at Winnipeg Stadium. It dates from either the late fifties or the early sixties and is currently the only known generic team matchbook.

Recently the Ebay wayback machine unearthed these two gems relating to three Toronto sports personalities including Canadian football hall of famer - Joe "King" Krol of the Argonauts. Krol partnered with notable local Toronto boxing and baseball athletes to open the Mercury Club which was apparently one of the more popular nightclubs in town during the fifties. The items are still available on Ebay today, indicating that perhaps the $75 US asking price per matchbook is a little too steep.

Another matchbook that was player focused (and was the only one to be listed in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 2) was also manufactured to advertise the local eating and drinking establishment owned by Canadian football hall of famer Bob Simpson. As with the Toronto matchbooks Simpson's relationship to the Ottawa Rough Riders is not explicitly noted as the team is not named on the matchbook. The matchbook dates to the late fifties.

The final known matchbook is advertising for a Montreal Chrysler car dealership and features a third Canadian football hall of famer, John "Red" O'Quinn. Here O'Quinn's accomplishment as GM of the 1970 Grey Cup winning Montreal Alouettes is noted. The format would suggest that perhaps other Alouette management or players might also have been featured on these matchbooks.

If any blog readers have further examples, either team or player related in their collections I would love to hear about them.

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