This past July, my mom and I had the pleasure to speak over the phone with Loren Moore, a building engineer owner of BGS Plan Co. and matchcover collector for more than 40 years. He first started collecting in the 1970s, when he came across an album of beautiful matchcovers priced at $1 at a local flea market in Roseville, California—his hometown. Loren collected matchcovers for 5 years, going from yard sales to garage sales before finding out about other existing collectors and clubs in the area. He discovered a group in Sacramento and decided to join it and with that came weekend conventions, monthly auctions, and meet-ups with other regional clubs and phillumenists like himself.
Several years ago, Loren was contacted out of the blue by Louise Alfonso, daughter of Ernestine Abbott—bulletin editor at The Rathkamp Matchcover Society (RMS) from 1957 to 1973, the oldest and largest matchcover and matchbox collecting club in North America, dating back to 1939. Louise was in failing health and ready to sell and let go of her fabulous VIP Signature Collection she had helped her mom produce between 1960 and 1963. "The VIP Signature Collection is unique and just totally different than the rest of the matches I have in that these matchcovers don't have any advertising, they're just blank, white," Loren told us.
"Louise and Ernestine mailed these out to all different kinds of celebrities, movie stars, TV stars, singers, and also politicians requesting their autographs, and they got about a little over 600 of them back. Back then the movie stars responded to their fans and there was a lot of correspondence going on. That kind of thing is not happening today." Loren is guessing that the mother-daughter duo probably had to send out 2000 requests to get that many signed matchcovers back. Definitely something a lot more labor-intensive to be doing back then than nowadays with the internet, Loren added.
Ernestine and Louise worked with a graphic designer to create a page for each 'star' complete with movie magazine cut-outs. "They worked with a third person on the team who was a graphic artist. He did all the lettering of the celebrities' names on the pages and did some borders so that they could look good and really definitive," Loren explained to us. "And then they also collected the movie magazines and just did cut-outs out of them and glew those to the pages and so that was the "stars" page. Sometimes there was also a regular matchcover associated with a certain VIP and if they owned a restaurant that type of matchcover could be on there."
Loren considers himself extremely lucky to have obtained the VIP Signature Collection from Louise a few years ago. He was allowed to purchase it because she knew that the collection would be kept as such and never dismantled. Housed in 9 albums, which can all be seen on Loren's website, the VIP Signature Collection is now one of his most treasured possessions, among the 28,500+ matchcovers he has amassed over the past 50 years and meticulously organized by category as shown on his homepage. "Six years ago I had so many of them, over 250,000, that I just kind of thought, well now what?" Loren confessed to us. "I mean I could keep going and get to half a million, but why?" Because of that, Loren has kept only the best of the best for each album category and sold off all the rest. His total collection, which also includes the VIP Signature one, has four concurrent categories among which we can find his precious low digit phone number matchcovers. But that, our dear phillumenists, is another story...