Antique Vocabulary for Match Holders Can Be Confusing

This tiny billiard table is actually a box to hold matches. It was kept on a table before it was auctioned by Wm Morford for $834.

Antique shoppers must learn the vocabulary of collectibles to read catalogs, make online searches or understand words with double meanings like commode (dresser) and commode (toilet.) You also need to know that Wedgwood and Wedgewood are two unrelated, different companies.

What is the difference between a match strike, match safe, match case and match holder? They all were made in the 19th century to hold wooden matches.

A match strike is a small vase kept on a table. It holds matches with the heads up. There is a rough surface used to strike the match and get a flame.

A match safe or case is a rectangular box about the length of the wooden match. The box has a hinged cover that snaps shut to avoid letting the matches be accidentally lit. The first wooden matches were not the safety matches used today. The match safe was often made of sterling silver with elaborate raised decoration. It was carried in a suit pocket or purse and used to light a cigar or cigarette.

The match holder usually was used in the kitchen. It was kept on a shelf or hung on the wall. An advertisement was sometimes on the front; it held a bunch of wooden matches used to light the stove. Don’t be surprised if you find that the match names are misused. Many people call them all “match holders.”

This small 2-by-3 5/8-by-2-inch miniature pool table (pictured above) is a match holder for a table. It is made of brass, felt and ivory. The lid slides open, and there is a striking surface on the side. Its unique shape led to a price of $834 at a Wm Morford Antiques auction in New York.

Q: I have an old wooden ruler with “A Good Rule, Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You” printed on one side and “Compliments The Coca-Cola Bottling Co.” printed on the other side. Any information you could tell me about it would be greatly appreciated.

A:  Rulers like yours were popular advertising and promotional items given out by Coca-Cola bottlers for years. From 1925 until the early 1960s, they were distributed to schools throughout the United States. Because they were made and given out in such large numbers, they are easily found and not very expensive — about $5 to $10.

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