Recently, I decided to purchase as many brands of strike anywhere matches as I could in order to find the best strike anywhere matches available today. However, I quickly realized something when searching for them online and in stores:
Almost all brands of strike anywhere matches have been discontinued.
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Among others, Ohio Blue Tips, Penley Strike Anywhere Matches, and UCO Strike Anywhere Matches have all been discontinued. The only brand widely available in the US at this time is Diamond Greenlight Strike Anywhere Matches.
Curiosity eventually got the best of me, and I decided to research why so many brands were discontinued. Here are the top two theories I uncovered.
Theory #1: Expensive Shipping Costs Made It Impossible to Make a Profit
This theory has some hard evidence to back it up. After not finding any UCO Strike Anywhere Matches online, I emailed Industrial Revolution, the maker of UCO products, to ask where I could find them.
Here is the response I got:
Turns out, FedEx and UPS both list strike anywhere matches under their “dangerous goods” lists and charge hazmat shipping fees to ship them. USPS doesn’t allow them to be shipped at all, and the UN even classifies them as dangerous goods (UN 1331).
(Before you start thinking that it doesn’t make sense to classify strike anywhere matches as dangerous goods, read about why I’ll never buy strike anywhere matches online again.)
So, at least one brand of strike anywhere matches was indeed discontinued due to expensive shipping fees. If Industrial Revolution was being charged $35 to ship each box, I could imagine that their profit margins were razor thin to nonexistent. Eventually, it seems they decided it was too costly to manufacture their UCO Strike Anywhere Matches and stopped. Other manufacturers could have done the same.
Theory #2: The Matches Were Outlawed Because They Were Hazardous Material… or Because They Were Used to Make Bombs and Meth?
Many online forum threads about strike anywhere matches have comments like this one:
“I was told that due to ‘provisions’ in the ‘Patriot Act’… that
are being discontinued due to their nature, being able to ‘light’ fairly easily, they are now considered to be ‘hazardous material’?”
I have researched claims of strike anywhere matches being illegal in the US and have been unable to find any substance to them. I emailed Jarden Home Brands, the maker of Diamond Greenlight Strike Anywhere Matches, and — despite me asking them directly — they made no mention of strike anywhere matches being outlawed anywhere in the US. They told me they still manufacture Diamond Greenlights:
Also, they told me which stores in the US currently carry Diamond products:
So, strike anywhere matches are still legal to manufacture and sell in the US. It appears they have not been banned by the Patriot Act or any other piece of legislation.
An interesting twist on this theory is that the matches were banned not because they were hazardous material, but for another reason altogether. One that involves bombs and meth.
Let me explain:
Phosphorous is one of the reactive ingredients that causes matches to ignite. But it isn’t used just for matches. The military uses phosphorous in some munitions. Also we know from Breaking Bad that meth producers source phosphorous from matches:
For safety matches, phosphorous is found on on the striking surface as Walter White explains in the video. However, for strike anywhere matches, phosphorous is found on the match head.
Is it possible that, because the phosphorous is found on the match head in strike anywhere matches, it is easier to distill for someone who wants to use it to make bombs or meth? Did lawmakers become aware of this and outlaw the matches as a result?
No. I can find no evidence of any sort supporting this claim, only rumors on online forums. You can still buy Diamond Greenlight Strike Anywhere Matches in many stores across the country. And, as Industrial Revolution told me, there are still some packs of UCO Strike Anywhere Matches at Academy and Cabela’s.
Conclusion: Expensive Shipping Costs Appear to Have Been the Death of Strike Anywhere Matches… But Can We Revive Them?
Based on my research, I believe that so many brands of strike anywhere matches have been discontinued because of the high costs of shipping them. For a product as cheap as matches, it’s easy to imagine that an expensive shipping fee would wipe out your already small profit margins.
However, strike anywhere matches still appear to be legal to manufacture and sell. Maybe one day they’ll become widely available again. For this to happen, the price consumers would be willing to pay per box would have to increase to cover the shipping costs incurred by manufacturers. Once the matches become profitable to make and sell again, they might find there way back to store shelves.
But is that very likely?
I say no.
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According to Google Trends, interest in the phrase “strike anywhere matches” has slowly decreased over time. If this trend continues and most people lose interest in these matches, it’s hard to imagine companies making an effort to bring them back.