Boxes of matches used to be a familiar printed matter and were regarded fondly by people. But as a throw-away object, their life tends to be short. I embrace their fate and continue to collect them as a record of our everyday life.
I have been collecting for 30 years (labels and skillets 50,000+).
My collection mainly focuses on Japanese labels for export matchboxes in the Meiji – Taisho era (1868 – 1926).
I am also interested in Japanese advertisement matchboxes used for pro-war propaganda produced just before Japan’s defeat in WWII.
Some of these labels are shown in the gallery below, click on an image to enlarge it.
I have been a collector for over 30 years. My early interest involves numismatic and philatelic items.
About 8 years ago, I started to pursue phillumeny interest in earnest. Why? As a collector, I was looking for tantalizing factors of something being interesting, teasingly challenging, valuable, historically beneficial perhaps or artistically profound, with the bottom line being simply: satisfying and fun. Phillumeny satisfies all those criteria.
My phillumeny collection is geographically focused towards anything Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia originated or related.
In 1955 there was a joint military base of the American-Spanish army in Torrejón de Ardoz, a town near Madrid. For senior military officials, the American army rented or bought (I don’t know exactly which) a hotel that was located very close to the house where I lived – the Hotel Balboa.
I had to walk past this hotel every day on my way to the Institute where I was studying, and I started noticing and then collecting the matchboxes that the soldiers threw down on the ground when they had used all the matches. These boxes came from the supermarket inside the base which sold only American products.
This is how I started to acquire the wonderful series of “Circus Day”, “Homes of Great Americans”, “The Old West”, “American Folklore” and other examples from Diamond Match Company. Later, I naturally started collecting Spanish labels which became my specialism and passion, but always finding room for a few interesting items from other countries.
In 2018 I published “Los Fabricantes de Cerillas” a 2-volume illustrated book which describes the history of the Spanish Match Industry from 1834 to 1899 based on the archives of the Digital Newspaper Library of the National Library and the Historical Archive of the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office.
At the moment I am preparing a Catalogue of the Manufacturers of Spanish matchboxes, although given the complexity of the subject and the difficulty of finding information about these manufacturers I realise that the Catalogue may never see the light of day.
I have been a BML&BS member since 1968 but have collected all my life starting in the early 1950s or even late 1940s. I am also a member of the West and Midlands Phillumenists for whom I edit a quarterly magazine.
My father was a railwayman and he started to keep boxes during the war when some appeared with propaganda and patriotic slogans.
While my father’s collection comprised boxes and labels mine concentrates on bookmatches, presently only those relating to the British market. Even this is a huge subject and my collection comprises about half a million items.
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My interest in matchbox labels began when I was eight or nine years old. My brother, aged fourteen, had a small collection of match box labels in a tin box, hidden in his cupboard. I ‘acquired the tin box’ and became a phillumenist !!
My collection grew over the years, many of the boxes were given to me by friends but mostly, I collected them from London pavements, from buses and trains and occasionally from bric-a-brac shops.
However, as I got older, although I always kept collecting, the collection was neglected and was stored away in bags, boxes and tins, they were everywhere.
I am now 88 and the match box labels are receiving attention at last.
Rosemarie founded The Cornish Match Company with her late husband David in 1962, and oversaw its rise to the forefront of the UK match industry during the 1970s. Always collectors and researchers, as well as shrewd business people, the van der Planks created many iconic matchbox labels and skillets for their company, including the Old Cornish Mine and Cornish Wreck series.
On Thursday 13th May 1971 they submitted the first of two trade mark applications for Cowgirl Matches. When the Trade Mark application was originally submitted the Registrar found the art work extremely realistic and asked who the model was and if she had given written permission for her image to be part of the registration. David explained that the person was imaginary and christened her “Samantha” for the registration process. However, the drawing is actually based on Rosemarie.
The company often placed newspaper adverts for their products, and in September 1970 this advert for Cowgirl appeared in the West Briton.
It promised a dinner date with Samantha for the lucky winner of a “Complete the Sentence” competition.
Rosemarie explained that a gentleman from East Cornwall won the prize and that she did meet him for dinner in a bistro in Penzance dressed in full riding gear and a Stetson. The evening went well and the gentleman later sent David a thank you letter.
The Cornish Match Company ceased trading in 1986.
Rosemarie is a regular contributor to Match Label News and is co-author of a number of phillumeny books, including :
The Match Box Collector’s Handbook (1979)
The Match Box Label Collectors Index of British Trade Marks (1979) illustrated below, click on an image below to enlarge it
Index of British Trade Marks, page 1
Index of British Trade Marks, page 2
Index of British Trade Marks, page 3
Index of British Trade Marks, page 4
Index of British Trade Marks, CMC applications
Index of British Trade Marks, Cowgirl applications
I am fortunate in that I cannot remember not being a collector of matchboxes and their labels. The fascination was probably started by having a pipe smoking father who consumed more matches than tobacco. I do remember being very regularly scolded by my mother for picking up used boxes in the street. For many years the collection was modest and it was when I was in my 20’s I discovered the British Matchbox and Booklet Society, met other collectors, realised the breadth of the hobby and learned to avoid the 2 classic tools of many uninformed collectors – scissors and the glue pot.
My particular interests have changed and developed over the 50 plus years of collecting with the prime focus now on boxes and labels from Norway and Sweden. Along the collecting route many smaller topics such as labels imported into the UK marked Foreign Made, Bryant and May promotional skillet boxes with a/c 23 and 26, match related ephemera, books about the hobby and match making along with many other aspects of the hobby have particularly taken my attention.
I have gained great value from meeting with other collectors and learnt through sharing knowledge and seeing what and how others collect and present their collections.
I was born in 1954 at Boston in Lincolnshire and have been collecting matchboxes & labels since the early 1960’s, when my Grandfather took me on walks around the local seaport – Boston Dock. This was instrumental in introducing me to matchboxes which were very often given to me (as presents) from crews on the visiting coasters. The many and varied nationalities were indeed a good source and in particular the Russian and Dutch ships proved to be a prolific supply of new items.
One such fleet worthy of mention is that of the Geest North Sea Line, where a group of 5 sister vessels made weekly calls into the Port, and this resulted in numerous bags and boxes of matchboxes being collected for my ever growing collection. See my exhibit.
Having been invited onboard on several occasions this culminated in sea voyages to Holland and spending holidays with families in the Rotterdam area. Needless to say my collection of Dutch items increased significantly during the 1960’s decade.
In the following years my collection has now increased significantly to include worldwide labels and skillets and continues to grow month by month. I have a keen interest in Dutch issues together with Belgian, Australian, Russian, UK market such as Cornish Match, Matchmakers, Bryant and May, England’s Glory and really any other appealing origins.