Disney Matchbook Covers

Matchbooks were created in the 1890s but since in the beginning, the covers were blank for the most part, matchbook cover collecting didn't start until around 1918 with the earliest matchbook collecting clubs not appearing until the 1930s. Today, there are more matchbook cover collecting clubs in the United States than any other country.

Just like gum cards or bottle caps or pinback buttons, matchbook covers were used for advertising and were inexpensive collectibles.

During World War II, the Disney Studio produced over a thousand military insignias for various branches of the armed services. These colorful designs appeared on a variety of merchandise including shoulder patches, decals, mugs, glasses, ash trays, stationary, menus, Christmas cards, ceramic tiles, playing cards, stamp albums and...matchbook covers.

The Diamond Match Company inquired whether they could reproduce Disney designed insignia on matchbooks for a Naval Supply Depot. Disney sent its approval along with a notation that "OK to fill orders from official Navy Sources, but not for general sale in retail stores." The Disney Studio was becoming concerned that these designs were being exploited for profit. Walt had authorized that the creation of these insignias be done for free and by the end of the war that contribution amounted to over thirty thousand dollars which was significant for a studio which was over a million dollars in debt thanks to its war work.

The Universal Match Corporation of St. Louis produced at least three matchbooks featuring Disney insignia with Jiminy Cricket and Donald Duck. These matchbooks were produced twice the width of a normal matchbook so they could be used as postcards, because of paper rationing. There were also a dozen or less miscellaneous matchbook covers for various units including the First Motion Picture Unit, Army Air Forces (which featured a cartoony pilot flying a plane and holding a motion picture camera as bullets whizzed by the cameraman). That unit which was stationed at the old Hal Roach Studio in Culver City, California produced military training films and included several Disney artists.

However, there were two series of matchbook covers featuring Disney insignias that are of interest to Disneyana collectors.

The first is a set that appears most frequently for sale on ebay and through collector sites is the Disney Pepsi Set. It is a big set of 48 20-strike covers. It is popular with Disney collectors, World War II military collectors and also collectors of soft drink memorabilia. All of the covers feature a gray background with a red, white, and blue Pepsi logo on the front panel (and the advertising slogan "Purity in the big, big bottle") and the unit designation and logo in blue on the back panel. Inside, it contains more advertising for Pepsi-Cola "the drink with quick food energy" that is "bottled locally by authorized bottlers coast to coast". These also featured a copyright notice appearing as "c Walt Disney".

Disney/Pepsi Matchbook Covers

The set was manufactured by D.D. Bean & Sons for National Match Company. An estimated one million were distributed throughout the United States by the Whelan and United retail chain. There is no record at the Disney Archives of a license being granted to Pepsi Cola for this series. How the rights situation was worked out is just another mystery in the history of Disney collectibles. Reproduction rights were a problem since Walt Disney Productions granted the U.S. Government "exclusive and perpetual right and license to reproduce and use the following motif, device or design."

Patwing Support
Force Aviation
Repair Unit No.1
01 02 03 04 05
26th Material
Squadron 19th
 Air Base
U. S. S. Blue
06 07 08 09 10
11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25
(Aviation Cadets)
 U. S. Naval Aviation.
26 27 28 29 30
Primary Training
 Squadron 11-A U. S.
55th School
31 32 33 34 35
121st Air Corps
36 37 38 39 40
41 42 43 44 45
46 47 48    


Since Coca-Cola was already the soft drink of the American military during World War II, I guess Pepsi was trying to get them to change their minds by appealing to the other popular habit of the armed services....smoking. In later years, Pepsi would team up with Disney for other promotions, including sponsoring the Golden Horseshoe Revue in Disneyland but to my knowledge this is the first merchandise of Disney and Pepsi.

Disney Matchbook Yellow Set

The second one is a set of twenty covers produced by the Maryland Match Company for the National Match Company. These covers featured the insignia in blue and red over a yellow background. The name of the unit appears on the back cover and it appears that these matchbooks were intended for use by the specific units themselves. There is a copyright notice on them appearing as "c Walt Disney". Some of these designs were duplicates of ones that appear on another more popular set.

There is little documentation as to why Walt Disney chose any one military unit to portray, but he did so in two WWII (1942) matchcover sets. Each matchcover shows a Walt Disney cartoon character. The other set, made in conjunction with Pepsi-Cola shown above, contained 48 matchcovers. Known as the Disney/Pepsi Set (within the hobby), and there are three versions of this set, each with a different inside printing. The inside of all Yellow Set matchcovers is blank.


 165th Field Artillery 26th Material Squadron 40th Bombardment Group 45th Pursuit Squadron 46th Bombardment Group 47th School Squadron 56th Pursuit Squadron
US Mosquito Fleet 7th Bombardment Squadron 23rd Pursuit SquadronAlaska Defense Force 133rd Field Artillery US Naval Reserve US Blue
 Utility Squadron 58th Pursuit Squadron 62nd Pursuit Squadron251st Coast Artillery

 Miscellaneous Disney Military Matchbooks

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