Simon Blackman (UK)

Exhibit : Merwanjee Nanabhoy Mehta

I was introduced to the collecting of matchboxes, matchbooks, labels and more by a family friend who had worked in the Far East and who had a nice album of labels and skillets from Hong Kong that he would show me occasionally. Early on I fell into the same trap as many fledgling collectors with skillets thinned and trimmed; matchbooks bobtailed; and everything stuck into albums with rubber glue and Sellotape. So, 10 years in, my collection had to be thrown out and I started all over again!  

In the intervening years I had come across a presentation pack from the Cornish Match obtained when I went to Cornwall on holiday; and learned of the existence of the British Matchbox Label and Booklet Society. A lifetime friendship with David Van Der Plank would later follow.

Three complete rare Indian matchboxes, from WIMCO

 

Initially I started collecting Indian labels because they were cheap, numerous in number and easy to purchase.

Slowly I branched out to other Asian countries though, somehow, I have never had the desire to collect labels from Japan or Sri Lanka (Ceylon). 

Gradually I became more interested in researching matchbox history and making my findings available to other collectors.

Two pages from my book

 

I was in an advantageous situation as my daytime job as a computer support officer at the University of Liverpool allowed me access to research resources only available to academics. I then took night school classes in Mandarin Chinese so that I could understand labels bearing Chinese characters. A book followed (“Towards a Better Understanding of Chinese Matchbox Labels: A Beginners Guide to Translation”) and now that I have retired am working on updating and extending it.

Today I am as interested in researching the history of match manufacture as collecting matchbox labels!

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