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October 8, 2003 10:30 AM

Broken: Match heads

Manuel Razzari writes from Argentina:

These matches' heads are black - the same color a match becomes after you burn it.

As many people place used matches back into the box, it gets harder and harder to pick a new one, as the new ones look like the used ones.

Kind of the same issue with links and visited links, which webmasters often color the same for aesthetics, but then you can't tell where you've been.


Wait a second ... "many people place used matches back into the box" ?!?!

They DO? What in the world for? I don't get it.

Posted by: Mark Smith at October 30, 2003 04:33 PM

Maybe to keep from littering? I dunno.

Posted by: Mark Hurst at October 30, 2003 06:25 PM

Especially weird since the matches picture on the box are red

Posted by: Daniel at October 31, 2003 09:23 AM

Good point - another broken aspect... I'd guess that the red on the box was meant to display the match being on fire. Not a great choice of color..

Posted by: Mark Hurst at October 31, 2003 03:43 PM

Err, matches with black heads are safety matches and can only be struck on the box, whereas matches with red heads can be struck on any rough surface, IIRC.

Posted by: Mike Dimmick at December 3, 2003 04:23 PM

Put used matches back in the box?? Who does that? It would seem to me that it would be way too easy to put a barely extinguished match back into the box thus lighting the entire box on fire.

Bad, bad habit ... stop that!!

Posted by: J. Ricketts at January 9, 2004 12:19 PM

Generally if a match is "strike anywhere" it has a white fine tip and in my experience, the rest of the tip is red or blue. Solid colored tips tend to be "strike on box". Green I've seen as waterproof, and I've never seen black. I digress...

If the ambiguity of used/unused matches has caused you to think twice about putting used matches BACK into the box, then I declare this a FIX! Darwin must be rolling in his grave.

Posted by: Two-Bits at April 10, 2004 03:54 AM

I still can't understand why people would put burnt matches back in the box. Unless you're lighting a cigarette or a pipe, you could just throw the match in with whatever's burning (say, a fireplace or barbeque) and voila: no litter! Only the most casual of smoker would resort to box matches, anyway. Disposable lighters are the item of choice there.

Posted by: Jaycatt at May 28, 2004 06:08 PM

I read with great interest all the comments on this subject. I can give you all a very good reason why people put burnt matches back in the box.

Eight decades ago family and friends put burnt matches back in the box and mailed them to my late father who was a Merchant Mariner.

When his tiny tramp steamer arrived in port he would collect the boxes of burnt matches and created unbelievable works of art with them.

If I have aroused anyones curiosity you can see photos and read the amazing story online at: and at:

Hope you enjoy!

Posted by: Tony Hall at May 29, 2004 10:02 AM

Tony... no offense intended... it's great that your family did that, BUT for the other 6 billion of us who do not think twice about a used match - come on!!! Hey, let's put this hot object in a box with other flammable objects. YAY!!

On the other hand.. what? Color blind people have trouble using regular matches? THEY DON'T KNOW THAT RED MEANS GOOD AND BLACK IS BAD!?!?!? HOW WILL THEY KNOW IF A MATCH IS GOOD OR NOT!?? OH MY GOD!!! Is it black? Is it red? Will it work?! A puzzle, for all to enjoy!

Oh, wait, they're color blind, not stupid. They probably even throw out the old match... Silly wasteful hooligans.

Posted by: please at June 20, 2004 03:23 AM

I like the idea of having visited links the same color as the other links. It looks pretty.

Posted by: Leekolas at June 24, 2004 12:35 AM

Place a used match back into the box and FOOOM!!!! Sorry Manuel, I don't want to be at your house after you have lit a candle.

Posted by: Dizoctor at July 17, 2004 06:57 PM

This whole process seems pretty simple to me. Assuming you were either lacking the intelligince and put the matches back in the box, or decided to not litter which brings us back to the first, but anyways. You light it and take the few extra seconds and let the wood burn PAST the matchhead, viola, the match looks different than the others. Also if your eyesight is too poor to tell the difference between a lit and unlit match maybe you shouldn't be lighting anything on fire.

Posted by: David at August 28, 2004 09:31 AM

What idiot puts an already struck match back into a box of matches. Everyone knows that immediately after your match is extinguished, promptly before the ember cools, you are supposed to drop the match in the nearest tank of gasoline.


Posted by: Chris Baker at September 8, 2004 01:24 PM

It would seem anyone tedious enough to put matches BACK into a box, would be tedious enough to have a separae box for safety's sake at minimum.

to the beach

Posted by: imnotright at May 3, 2005 07:16 PM

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