Del Mar man has yet to meet his ‘match’ in world record
By Claire Harlin
At the age of 16, Del Mar resident Ed Brassard got caught with matches, and his mom wanted an explanation.
“I was sneaking smokes, but I told her it was a collection,” he said. “So, I started collecting them.”
Thirty years later, Brassard has traveled the world collecting matchbooks and his collection has grown to more than 3.2 million. He’s held the world record in the hobby for more than a decade, having gone down in history in both the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
Brassard isn’t alone in his hobby — he’s one of more than 100 who are part of a community of matchbook, matchbox and match cover collectors who make up the San Diego chapter of the Associated Matchcover Clubs of California (AMCAL). Brassard is an officer in the group and holds monthly meetings at his Del Mar home. Chapters from across the state — and worldwide — also met April 19-21 in North Park for the 57th annual AMCAL convention. At the event, collectors competed for prizes such as “best display” and they went “room hopping.”
“It’s like trick or treat,” said Brassard. “Everyone puts out their miscellaneous matchbooks and we grab a bag and go from one hotel room to another.”
For Brassard, matchbook collecting has been one of the best excuses to travel. In his first years of collecting as a teenager, he said he went to more than 44 different countries, and he’s continued to travel throughout his life, between writing books, working as a technician at General Atomics in La Jolla, and doing some modeling and acting. One of his most memorable acting roles, he said, was standing across from Richard Gere playing a bank teller in “Pretty Woman.” His book “Body for Sale” also earned him national notoriety for exposing the medical technology industry and organ trade.
Ask Brassard what his favorite matchbook is and he’ll ask “What category?” He has his collection organized into at least 100 categories, and he knows where each matchbook is, he said. His favorite category is national parks and caves, but there are countless categories, ranging from bars to politics to hotels to even categories for specific hotels, like the Hard Rock.
How far would Brassard go for a matchbook?
“I’ve run out in the middle of the road to grab a matchbook and almost got run over,” he said. “I’ve gone from here to Yosemite just for one matchbook … Anytime we collectors go to a hotel, they tell you to take one matchbook, but we empty the whole bowl. We trade, so it’s like we are grabbing one for everyone, all the other traders too.”
Unfortunately for collectors, the upswing in smoking bans across the country has caused the hobby to die down, and Brassard said he has started to take up toothpick collecting because it’s become a more common form of advertising for many establishments.
“I’ve never really been a smoker; I’ve just always liked the matches,” he said. “It’s one of the cheapest hobbies around. The only two free hobbies left are matchbooks and beer coasters. And now places are coming out with toothpicks ... But there are still 50 or 60 places in San Diego that have matches.”
For more information on matchcover collecting, visit www.matchcover.org. To find out about joining the San Diego AMCAL chapter, contact Brassard at (858) 755-2311.