In the 1930s, the Diamond Matchbook Company printed several sets of unique collectible matchbook covers. Featuring baseball players, the popular collectibles are still sought after to this day. Here’s a closer look at the affordable Diamond Matchbooks sets.
The Diamond Matchbook Company produced four sets of baseball matchbook covers from 1934-1937. Cataloged as U1-U4 in Jefferson Burdick’s American Card Catalog, they help fill a void in what was at the time, a pretty lean era for baseball card-type collectibles. It is worth noting that Diamond also produced sets for football and hockey players. Football, in particular, was gaining in popularity and those matchbooks are heavily desired. For many players in all three sports, their appearance on a matchbook is the only card-related item from their playing days.
Unfolded, each matchbook cover measures approximately 1 1/2″ wide by about 4 1/2″ long. The exterior covers had various colored borders. On one side, a player’s image was shown and on the other, a biography was printed. The player’s name and team also appeared on the covers.
Today, you will mostly find these with the matches removed. Collectors no doubt used most of the matches and saved the exteriors with the baseball player.
One downside is that condition is often an issue with these. Because they were intentionally folded to produce the matchbook, there is almost always some significant creasing to the spine area. In addition, matchbooks with the matches used will usually have some wear to the striking area or have that area torn off completely. Other common damage includes rips/tears or other creasing to the surface.
1930s Diamond Matchbooks Sets
In all, a total of five Diamond Matchooks sets are recognized.
- U1 – Printed in 1934, this set is the largest, containing a total of 200 players
- U2 – Printed in 1935, this set also is a miscellaneous group of 24 players
- U3-1 – This set was printed in both 1935 and 1936, and has 156 players featured
- U3-2 – This 1937 issue featured only 23 members of the Chicago Cubs
- U4 – Printed in 1936, this was the last set cataloged by Burdick and included only 12 players
There are all sorts of stars that appear throughout the matchbook sets. Some of the biggest names are: Dizzy Dean, Mel Ott, Paul Waner, Casey Stengel, and many other Hall of Famers. The set is missing several big names, partly due to the time of its production. There’s no Lou Gehrig, for example, but there are plenty of Hall of Famers across the five sets.
The Cubs issues may have been distributed only regionally but unlike other regional issues, there isn’t much of a premium with them. Like the others, they remain very affordable. The rarest one among the five is probably the 1935 U2 set. These matchbooks had black borders and are generally the most difficult to find.
Various border combinations also are found for most of the matchbooks in the series. That makes assembling complete master sets a difficult proposition.
1930s Diamond Matchbooks Prices
Part of the reason collectors are still drawn to these sets more than 75 years later is their absolute affordability. The biggest hurdle to completing the sets isn’t their price – rather, it’s finding them all. Matchbook covers in decent shape can be bought for under $10. Stars command more, obviously, and there is a premium for books still complete with the original matches. But even completed matchbooks can sometimes be found for as little as $10. Dizzy Dean is often the most expensive, but even his matchbooks are found under $100 in mid-grade shape.
While the U2 black-bordered matchbooks are the rarest, they don’t generally sell for much more than those in the other sets.
eBay almost always has hundreds of Diamond Matchbooks available. You can see them here.