Why I started collecting

Exhibitor : Mike Pryor

In 1965 my mother started working in my aunt and uncle’s newsagent shop in Newquay Cornwall, helping out with marking the papers before they were delivered all around the town. This was an early morning job, starting at 6, and for some reason I went along too in order to ‘be helpful’. I was 8 years old, and although I wasn’t allowed to mark the papers I was given the job of making sure that the shelves were fully stocked with matchboxes and the sweet counter was fully stocked with bubblegum, Fool’s Gold and many other types of confectionery. Maybe this is where I got my sweet-tooth from ?

If a shelf needed filling with matchboxes then I had to do three things :

  • find a Gross packet of boxes (these contained 12 smaller packets of a dozen boxes each), break it open and extract the dozen packets
  • break open the Dozen packet and extract the twelve individual boxes
  • stack the boxes on the shelf
Gross packet label
Gross packet label 275 cm by 168 cm

I noticed that the Gross packet had a beautiful large label on it, stuck onto the blue paper wrapping with many many spots of glue. Likewise the Dozen packet has a lovely large label on it, again stuck onto the blue wrapping paper with spots of glue. I’m talking about the Old Cornish Mine labels here – I’m sure that there were other types of boxes on the shelf (Swan Vesta?) but it was the Old Cornish Mines which captured my imagination.

Dozen packet label
Dozen packet label 93 cm by 64 cm

 

I asked my aunt if I could keep the big labels, because they normally went in the rubbish bin. She said that I could, which was brilliant.

 

 

 

One of the many things that fascinated me was the contents of the packets :

  • inside the Gross packet, were all the dozen packets the same ? No, they were not, the packets were different
  • inside the Dozen packet, were all the boxes the same ? As far as I can remember they were not the same, but honestly it’s so long ago I can’t really remember now

My older cousin, Adrian, had started collecting matchbox labels and he encouraged me to do the same. He had acquired a lot of Polish and Japanese labels as well as the standard England’s Glory, Scottish Bluebell, Pilot, Captain Webb and Army and Navy ones of the time. Eventually he gave up collecting and gave me his collection, which was really kind. 

But it was the Old Cornish Mine series which really intrigued and inspired me, and so began my lifetime interest in Phillumeny.

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