Simon Blackman (UK)

Exhibit : Indian Forest Memoirs

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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Mike Tree (UK)

Exhibit : Attema 75

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.

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.

I recall these are 2 of the earliest Russian labels given to me from a visiting coaster
I recall these are 2 of the earliest Russian labels given to me from a visiting coaster
Examples of the first Dutch labels
Examples of the first Dutch labels which had me wondering how many there may be in this set, especially as numbering bearing A, B, C, D & E prefixes were being acquired!
Another Russian treasure
Another Russian treasure acquired and followed by other images in the set










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Mike Pryor (UK)

Exhibit : Holloway’s Pills and Ointments

Specialism – Spain

Since meeting the legendary collector and founder of the Cornish Match Company in 1971, David van der Plank, I have had a deep interest in Spanish Matchboxes and the history of the Spanish Match industry which began in 1836.

Gremio box, ca. 1895
Gremio box, ca. 1895

My collection contains Spanish examples from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, and although the majority of these are labels I do have a good number of beautiful complete boxes.

Like most collectors I also have many examples from other countries, and prefer complete boxes wherever possible. I also always enjoy exchanging information with other collectors and learning new things about our wonderful hobby of phillumeny.


Publications and Web sites

I write regular articles for the Match Label News, which is the journal of the British Matchbox Label and Bookmatch Society.

I have also developed two web sites which focus on specific aspects of my collection :

  • Gross packet label, a few Spanish Inserts
    Gross packet label, a few Spanish Inserts

    The Old Cornish Mine web site describes the history of the series which first got me interested in collecting, and shows illustrations of all the labels known to have been issued

  • Spanish Matchbox Inserts (Fototipias) web site is dedicated to the history and beauty of the Insert cards which were issued in Spanish matchboxes between 1897 and 1910

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Joel Viana de Lemos (Portugal)

Exhibit : The Portuguese presence in India

I have residency in Lisbon, Portugal but I am currently living in Växjo, Sweden.

I was born in 1955 and started collecting matchbox labels and matchbooks when I was about 4 years old. Knowing about my interest in the hobby some of the phillumenists in the city of Porto encouraged me with some interesting offers. The publication in 1962 of the first catalogue of matchbox labels in Portugal allowed me to properly organize my collection. The 2nd edition of the catalogue published in 1965 and the monthly edition of the magazine “Filumenismo” gave a great boost to my development as a phillumenist. 

I went on to specialise in all the material related to Portugal or that circulated in the Portuguese market and its colonies, namely Macau. My collection of Italian matchboxes/panels that circulated in Portugal in the 19th Century is very significant and formed the basis of my Exhibit in 2021.

I am a founding partner of the APF – “Associação Portuguesa de Filumenismo” (founded in 1972), and currently its President.

I have published the following phillumenistic works, which can be purchased from APF :

  • Catalogue of Portuguese Matchbox Labels. Edition 1992 (co-author, text in Portuguese):
  • Catalogue of Matchbox Labels – Companhia Portugueza de Phosphoros – Series – 1895-1926. 1st edition 2003; 2nd edition 2008; 3rd edition 2020
  • Catalogue of Matchbox Labels – Portugal – XIX century. 1st edition 2011; 2nd edition 2014; 3rd edition 2022
  • Catalogue of Italian Matchboxes imported by Portugal – XIX century. 1st edition 2013; under publication 2nd edition
  • Addendum to the Catalogue of Matchbox Labels – Macau – 2016 edition (co-author, text in Portuguese)
  • Advertising Skillets and Bookmatches List – Macau – 2016 (co-author, text in Portuguese)
  • Phillumeny records – Portuguese Phillumeny Exhibitions – 2022
  • Phillumeny records – Portuguese Phillumeny Catalogues and publications – 2022
  • Phillumeny records – Matchbox labels produced abroad to Portuguese speaking territories – 2023
  • Phillumeny records – Postcard in Phillumeny – 2023
  • Portuguese matchbook holders records – 2023
  • Matchbox holders (grips – slides – match safes) records – Portugal – 2023

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Holloway’s Pills and Ointments

Advertising label for Holloway’s Pills and Ointments, Sweden, early 20th century (57 x 35 mm)

Exhibitor : Mike Pryor

In September 1974 my university course started at Royal Holloway College in London, studying Chemistry. Although I had chosen the college due to its excellent reputation and great location, I had no knowledge of the history of the place nor of its founder Thomas Holloway (1800 – 1883).

Thomas Holloway. Photo credit: Thomas Dewell Scott, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Of course I took my matchbox collection with me, and spent many happy hours between lectures soaking off labels. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that I became aware of some lovely labels advertising Pills and Ointments from the very same Thomas Holloway.

A Victorian entrepreneur, philanthropist and master marketeer

Thomas Holloway made a considerable fortune by selling first his Ointments and then his Pills to the Victorian people. His started his business in 1837 and quickly realised that advertising his products was absolutely crucial, and probably much more important than the efficacy of the pills and ointments themselves. His medicines became a Victorian households, and his advertising dominated the newspapers of the day. He also greatly increased his wealth from successful speculations on the stock market. By the time of his death in 1883 he was one of the richest men in Britain and was spending over £50,000 a year on advertising. 

Thomas Holloway was married but had no children and was looking for ways to spend his fortune which would provide benefit to society at large. He left two magnificent buildings as legacies to the nation, which reflected his philanthropic nature :

  • Holloway Sanitorium in Virginia Water, opened in 1873 to provide mental health treatments for the middle-classes
  • Royal Holloway College in Egham, Surrey, opened in 1886 originally as a college for young ladies
Two wooden Swedish boxes, 35 x 59 x 18 mm

Holloway’s Matchboxes

In my collection I have two complete Swedish matchboxes advertising Holloway’s Pills and Ointments using the Little Boy Blue brand which was registered on 27th March 1911. They were clearly commissioned by the company long after Thomas Holloway’s death. However, I am sure that he would have wholeheartedly approved of this marketing approach.

Here are some variants of vertical labels advertising Holloway’s medicines.

Did the Pills and Ointment work ?

Holloway made claims that his Ointment possessed a “healing genius” but a subsequent analysis revealed that it contained only yellow and white beeswax, resin, lanolin and olive oil. Similarly, Holloway stated that his Pills would cure almost anything (skin diseases, general paralysis, venereal disease) although it seems that the Pills would only have had, at best, a mildly laxative effect due to their mixture of aloes, rhubarb root, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, saffron, Glauber’s salt and potassium sulphate. Perhaps we should consider them to be early forms of placebo ?

Here are some more labels claiming the efficacy of the medicines. They are probably back labels but it is unknown what was on the other side of the boxes.

The business was sold to Eno’s in 1930 which was then acquired by Beecham in 1938, who had been Holloway’s main competitors before then. 

I will always be grateful to the education I received at Royal Holloway College, and now have a much better appreciation of the complex, generous man who made it all possible through his creative approach to advertising.

Further Reading

Palaces, Patronage & Pills, by John Elliott, 1996.

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Festive Icelandic Matchboxes

Four Festive matchboxes, 110 x 65 x 20 mm each
Four Festive matchboxes, 110 x 65 x 20 mm each

Exhibitor : Gísli Jóhann Sigurðsson

I always say I collect matchbox labels, but then there are always some exceptions. I am very fond what are known as “Festive Matchboxes”, which are produced for Christmas here in Iceland.

Of course, you have to collect the complete boxes even though they take up a bit of space, but this part of my collection is growing very slowly. I keep these Festive Matchboxes in protective plastic boxes, and I start to get excited when it comes to the middle of November and I go and open the plastic boxes and look at these treasures, because it’s almost like meeting an old acquaintance again. I spread some of them on the shelves in my apartment and admire them until after Christmas when it is time to put them away again for another year.

The story of the Festive Matchboxes

Festive matchbox showing the wooden matches
Festive matchbox showing the wooden matches

These boxes started appearing the shops here in Iceland quite a few years ago, shortly before Christmas. Each one contains 45 wood matches and features a lovely drawing of a festive decoration on the front and on the back of the box, designed by the Icelandic artist Hekla Björk Guðmundsdóttir.

Side panel of a Festive matchbox
Side panel of a Festive matchbox

On the side of the box it says “matches” in three languages : Icelandic, English and German as well as a warning to keep away from children.

Until I visited Hekla recently I had only 16 of these matchboxes, but she allowed me to complete my collection so I now have 18.

Here are pictures of all my Festive matchboxes, click on an image to enlarge it. The last matchbox is not really a Festive matchbox : it shows a typical Icelandic Lopapeysa / Icelandic sweater.

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Gísli Jóhann Sigurðsson (Iceland)

Exhibit : Festive Icelandic Matchboxes

Land of ice and fire – how I started collecting matchbox labels

When I started collecting matchboxes in 1962 or 1963 (10 – 11 years old) it was very common for boys in Siglufjörður to do so. Siglufjörður is a small town in northern Iceland that is surrounded by high mountains and in those years was only open to cars due to snow for about 4 months of the year. Other transport was by sea twice a week.

During the summer, a lot of life moved into the town because ships came there from Europe for the herring as well as other people from other parts of Iceland to work with the herring. The harbours were not fenced off and closed as they are today and we went on board every single ship that came to get matchboxes in exchange. I usually went with a few packets and offered an exchange, but usually opened the packages and exchanged 1 for 1 box.

Most of the boys kept their collection in boxes from biscuits or shoeboxes, and for me it was 2 or 3 drawers in a chest of drawers. The biscuit boxes and shoe boxes then often end up in the attic. When I got a little collection started my father saw that I was very interested in this. He was a fisherman on herring boats and trawlers, he started collecting with me and was soon in touch with a Danish woman who was a collector, he read an article she had written in a Danish book called Hvem Hvad Hvor. From her he obtained information about the BML&BS which we joined. When I was 19 years old, I moved to Reykjavík and set aside the collection for many years.

From time to time I flipped through the album collection when I came to visit my family home.  About 20 years ago my father called me and said that now I had to come and take the collection, because he was starting to lose so much sight that he could not continue anymore. He wanted me to have the collection and take care of it but he was going to view the collection from time to time in a similar way as I had done. So I drove north with a trailer on the back of our car and picked it up. The collection is now 155 books of labels.

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David Figg (Australia)

Exhibit : Pillbox tops found on the Australian market

It was 1960 when as a 9-year-old boy walking to school that I kicked over a matchbox in the gutter only to find that it had a picture on it (Brymay Birds & Animals issue) so took it to school, showed my mates and we started collecting. They soon lost interest and so I acquired their holdings to complete my set.

Article from "Observer" February 1970
Article from “Observer” February 1970


I had a Great Aunt in the UK who also sent me labels and so my collection slowly grew. The labels were soaked off and pasted in an exercise book.


In 1967, I learnt of the existence of the Australian Match Cover Collectors Society (AMCCS) through a work colleague of my late father at Parker Brothers Bakery who took his son to the meetings. This was to be the start of a life-long passion for the hobby.


In 1970, this Profile was published in the AMCCS magazine, the Observer and yes, I did meet a “little Miss” marrying Dianne in 1977. Children followed in 1981 & 1983 and three grandsons in 2014, 2019 & 2020.




Secretary AMCCS (SA) 1984-1986
President AMCCS (SA) 1987 to present
Observer Editor May 1990 to February 1999
Life Membership AMCCS 2002
Honorary Life Membership (International) Bangladesh Matchbox Collectors Club 2022
Observer Distributor since 2009
Annual Postal Auction Coordinator since 2009
Coordinator of National Match Exhibitions held in Adelaide in 1999, 2003, 2009, 2014, 2018, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024
Attendee & Trader at BML&BS Exhibitions held in 2000, 2005, 2009 & 2017


Collecting areas for labels, booklets & skillets are Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea & South Africa. World-wide hardware produced by or for the match manufacturers together with any ephemera allied to the match industry, particularly picture postcards are also collected. 


Author of –
Duncan’s of Australia
E.L. Bell & Co, Australian Match Works & Commonwealth Match Works

Co-Author/Contributor to –
Bryant & May Australia Parts 1 & 2
Federal Match Company, Australia
Redheads Skillets
Plyfiber, Australia
The Cheapies (Imports to Australia)
New Zealand Catalogue 2023

Numerous articles in the Observer, Match Label News & IMSA News

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Badrul Hisham Jaafar (Malaysia)

Exhibit : The Eight Immortals of Henry Waugh & Co

I have been a collector for over 30 years. My early interest involves numismatic and philatelic items.

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.

Some famous imported match labels of “Elephant & Cock” from Sweden by Paterson Simons & Co Ltd for use in Straits Settlements ( Straits) and Federated Malay States ( FMS) which are now Singapore and part of Peninsular Malaysia



My phillumeny collection is geographically focused towards anything Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia originated or related.


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Alan Downer (UK)

Exhibit : A. Dellachá Matchboxes

Inspired by a friend who had just started to collect matchboxes, my collection started on the 7th April 1966, at the age of 14.

The initial collection, included matchboxes and cigarette packets. However, I soon decided to concentrate on matchboxes. Not only complete matchboxes, also the labels, bookmatch covers, match hardware, in fact any item connected to the match industry. My collection still remains a general collection, although I have a special interest in a number of subjects. These include Spanish (1840s-1950s), labels marked Foreign Made, and the brand Swan Vestas. I also have a deep interest in the older issues of countries such as Mexico, France, Italy, Cuba, and some Central & South American countries, as well as the older British matchboxes and labels.

In 1972, as part of my mechanical engineering studies at college, I was required to give a lecture to the other students. The research for this led to the discovery of the existence of the “British Matchbox Label & Booklet Society” (BML&BS), now known as the “British Matchbox Label & Bookmatch Society”, through two books written by Joan Rendell. I joined the BML&BS in October 1972 and have remained a member ever since.

My interest in phillumeny has allowed me to see some impressive collections by visiting many fellow collectors and attending meetings in a number of countries in Europe. This has enriched my life and I have gained many friends directly because of this hobby.

I have been part of the committee of the BML&BS since 1995, and from October 2006 I have been the Editor of the “Match Label News”, their magazine.

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