I know a group of collectors who are enamored with the Diamond Matchbooks of the 1930s that feature football players on them. Many of these matchbooks are considered the earliest issues of certain hall of fame players, and are therefor hotly pursued when they come up for auction.
There were no league-wide matchbook sets designed when the AFL came into existence, but there is a rare and rather obscure set of matchbooks featuring members of the 1960 Houston Oilers. This 10-book set was produced by Universal Match Corp., and I was fortunate to pick up a complete set last week when it was auctioned on ebay.
This Oilers set featured the team mascot and logo on what would have been the outside of the matchbook, while one of 10 different players was revealed when opening the flap. The most desirable “card’ in the set is of Hall of Fame quarterback and kicker, George Blanda. The other nine players are Johnny Carson, Doug Cline, Don Hitt, Mark Johnston, Dan Lanphear, Jacky Lee, Bill Mathis, Hogan Wharton and Bob White. It is an interesting group of players. A few tidbits on this group:
Blanda, Lee and Mathis represent three of the 20 men that played all 10 seasons of the AFL.
Don Hitt never actually played for the Oilers. During the 1960 training camp, Hitt learned that he had a severe for of diabetes, and thus was forced to end his career before it began.
All of the players are also featured in the 1960 Fleer football card set, with the exception of Mark Johnston. Identical photos were used in both the cards and matchbooks.
I have seen other matchbooks that feature AFL teams or subjects, but to my knowledge this is the only issue to feature individual players. It is an added bonus that this Oilers team won the AFL championship in 1960.