Back when they were easily obtainable in every restaurant and shop in the United States, I “collected” matchbook covers. I may have started on my accumulations as early as junior high school (10 or 11 years old?) and continued through until roughly my high school graduation.

I never picked up the habit but my mother smoked cigarettes for a short while in the 1970s but had largely quite by the early 1980s as I remember. My dad never really smoked at all. Still, they would pick up a book of matches for my budding collection whenever they saw one. I grabbed them myself as often as I could, too. Nobody really batted an eye when a teenage boy asked for matches in 1980s America!

I never was a serious collector, however. It was just another type of item to fill shoe boxes with, similar to as my refrigerator magnets, patches, pins; these were the opposite of my “serious” stamp and coin collections. I certainly never displayed any of my matchbooks I had although sometimes I would show off a particularly interesting one to a relative or friend. I have no memory as to how or even when I discarded the majority of them.

I have held on to exactly one matchbook for all these many years — the Air Force One folder featured here, still with the matches inside which I imagine is a big no-no!

Air Force One is the official air traffic control designated call sign for a United States Air Force aircraft carrying the president of the United States. In common parlance, the term is used to denote U.S. Air Force aircraft modified and used to transport the president and a metonym for the primary presidential aircraft, VC-25, although it can be used to refer to any Air Force aircraft the president travels on.

The “Air Force One” call sign was created in 1953, after a Lockheed Constellation carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower entered the same airspace as a commercial airline flight using the same flight number. Since the introduction of SAM 26000 in 1962, the primary presidential aircraft has carried the distinctive livery designed by Raymond Loewy.

Other aircraft designated as Air Force One have included another Lockheed Constellation, Columbine III, three Boeing 707s, introduced in the 1960s and 1970s, and the current Boeing VC-25As. Since 1990, the presidential fleet has consisted of two highly customized Boeing 747-200B (VC-25A) aircraft.


This is the only matchbook that I ever paid money for, although it wouldn’t have been too much (likely less than US$10). I was still in high school at the time I purchased it and being able to buy hamburgers after school was a higher priority for me than presidential collectibles which is what I view it as now.

We had found ourselves as we often did on a family outing to the local shopping center (Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kansas; I am amazed that it’s still open!). There was an exhibition on the top floor of presidential memorabilia that included a bourse of dealers selling all sorts of items. Amongst the White House ashtrays, presidential Christmas cards and more than a few pens used to sign various bills and other documents, I saw several matchbooks for sale. The most expensive was a striking blue with the gold Presidential Seal from the Oval Office.

Finally, I spotted the one item — this white matchbook from Air Force One — that I could afford with my hard-earned pocket money (payment for mowing the lawn at my father’s workplace). It is hot-foil gold-stamped with the Presidential Seal and an Air Force One logo. I have no idea how much I paid for it circa 1983-1984 (likely less than ten dollars) and have long since lost the certificate of authenticity it came with. I am still proud to own it.

Air Force One SAM 27000 served presidents Nixon to George W. Bush. Photo from Wikipedia.

Other presidential collectibles that I still own include a t-shirt my sister bought during a visit to the White House, a couple of nice medallions featuring President George Washington, an invitation to a charity event in Albuquerque by President Bill Clinton and a challenge coin from President Biden’s Inauguration. I also have a nice collection of stamps and covers honoring many of our past Presidents. Many of these will probably be featured at some point on this blog.

Happy Collecting.

Air Force One lands at Hickam Air Force (AFB) with US President George W. Bush on board for his first visit to Hawaii while holding office. On the ground, the second Boeing VC-25A. Photo taken by CPL Roman Gray, USMC, 23 October 2003.

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