Two inspiring artists

Exhibitor : Shakil Huq

Besides being a matchbox collector I am a painter and matchbox designer. My exhibit shows two very different artists who have greatly inspired me.

Vincent van Gogh

There is nothing new to say about the immortal works of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Vincent is one of the world’s greatest painters. His artwork always inspires me. From that inspiration I designed a total of ten designs. My exhibit is dedicated to this great artist. Thank you.

Iam Tongi

William “Iam” Guy Tongi, born September 1, 2004, is an American singer who won 21 seasons of American Idol. Aimee is the first person from Hawaii, the first Pacific Islander, and the first non-Native singer in three years, to win American Idol. I made this matchbox design not a little but a lot out of emotion.

Just 18 years of age, Iam has a different kind of charm in his songs. Those who have heard him will understand what I mean. Iam’s father passed away very recently and he was the man and inspiration behind Iam’s music. Iam without a doubt one of the few people in the world born with a rare beautiful singing voice.  That is why those who have heard Iam Tongi’s songs and stories shed tears. I couldn’t stop the tears either. I was impressed by the love for his father. No one could hold back the tears when Iam sang James Blunt’s – Monster song for his father. An unprecedented scene!

I am a very simple person. Even if I want to, I can’t do much for my means. This boy, thousands of miles away as my child, truly touched my heart. I wish him much love and good health. Dedicating these matchboxes out of love for Iam Tongi. Some day, I will definitely arrange to convey these messages of my love to him through some means.

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Takeshi Yokomizo (Japan)

Exhibit : The enduring Umakubi (Horse Head) brand

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.

Japan export to Europe, Meiji - Taisho era, 37 x 56 mm
Japan export to Europe, Meiji – Taisho era, 37 x 56 mm

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.

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MD Abid Mallick (Bangladesh)

Exhibit : The last five matchboxes in Bangladesh

From my childhood I used to play with matchbox covers. It was not only me in the 1980s, many kids were familiar with this childhood game memory. It was a very popular game to play with matchbox covers here in Bangladesh, but after a while I found that some of the matchbox covers were not available, as we know matchboxes are throwaway objects and their life tends to be short. Then I tried to start collecting a keep them safely.

As a collector my early interest involved numismatic and philatelic items but now realise Phillumeny satisfies me in many ways. All the phillumenists I have met have been supportive and I am particularly grateful for the encouragement and ongoing gifts towards my collection.

My collection mainly focuses on Bangladesh matchboxes, but I also collect Bangladesh promotional matchboxes, foreign bookmatches and labels and I have been collecting match-related items for over 18 years. I am also interested in advertisement matchboxes and a few other themes like motorbikes and cars, women on matchbox covers, cartoons, film, film, movies, cinema, theatre, actors, actresses etc. I have over 3000 items in my collection.

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Masud Ahmed (Bangladesh)

Exhibit : Automobiles

I’m Masud Ahmed, 56, from Bangladesh. I have been collecting match boxes and labels for the past 6 years besides my other collectable addictions. I am also a founder member of Bangladesh Matchbox Collectors Club (BMCC).

Beside my business I spend a lot of time in collecting items all around Bangladesh and the world. It is very fascinating to me to be in this hobby and to be able to share my passion with others.

I greatly enjoy sorting my collection and to make gorgeous albums to share with other like-minded collectors and for display in exhibitions.

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Exhibition Catalogue 2023

Here is our Exhibition Catalogue. The Exhibits are listed in alphabetical order, click on a link below to access an Exhibit or read an Exhibitor’s biography. Most images can be enlarged by clicking on them. An asterisk indicates that the Exhibit is available in dual language. Please remember to sign our Visitor Book and to vote for your favourite Exhibit.

Exhibit Exhibitor Country  
A. Dellachá Matchboxes Alan Downer United Kingdom
Attema 75 Mike Tree United Kingdom
Automobiles Masud Ahmed Bangladesh
Beautiful flowers on matchboxes & labels Himel Rozario Bangladesh
Cleveland Match Company Alan Middleton United Kingdom
Döbereiner lighters Tom O’Key USA
Extraordinary Matches Phil Stringer United Kingdom
Festive Icelandic Matchboxes Gísli Jóhann Sigurðsson Iceland
French matchbox labels (1830s – 1870s) * Stephane Pinaud France
From error to deception * Jesús María Bollo García Spain
Holloway’s Pills and Ointments Mike Pryor United Kingdom
How the humble matchbox shaped my life Ian Macilwain United Kingdom
Indian Forest Memoirs Simon Blackman United Kingdom
Match related postcards and covers Fernán Pacheco Costa Rica
Norm – everyone’s favourite couch potato Jerry Bell Australia
Pillbox tops found on the Australian market David Figg Australia
Sets of Six Vladimír Steiner Czech Republic
Some Japanese Favourites Chris Hime Australia
Swedish Favourites Al-Razee Anonnya Bangladesh
The Eight Immortals of Henry Waugh & Co Badrul Hisham Jaafar Malaysia
The enduring Umakubi (Horse Head) brand * Takeshi Yokomizo Japan
The Harlequin Match (by Bryant & May) Rupert Harris Great Britain
The last five matchboxes in Bangladesh MD Abid Mallick Bangladesh
The man who designed Spain (also designed matchboxes) *  José Ventura García Spain
The Portuguese presence in India * Joel Viana de Lemos Portugal
The Swiss Chamois * Stefan Joset Switzerland
Two inspiring artists Shakil Huq Bangladesh


The last five matchboxes in Bangladesh

Matchbox (proof) from Dhaka Match Industries (closed) depicting the National Bird of Bangladesh the Doyel

Exhibitor : MD Abid Mallick

Bangladesh has a glorious past of matchboxes. Around 1980, teenage boys in this country used to play with matchbox covers, which are no longer seen. As far as is known, there were about 38 to 45 matchbox factories in Bangladesh. They produced many beautifully designed matchboxes.

However, people started using imported lighters as their prices were low, leading to a gradual decrease in matchbox usage. Presently, the price of matchboxes is relatively low, with a per matchbox cost ranging from $ 0.018 to $ 0.028 USD.

Two remaining match factories

Currently, only two match factories remain in Bangladesh.

One of these factories is Akij Match Factory Limited, established in 1992 at a picturesque site near Muktarpur Ghat on the banks of the River Sitalakshaya. It is a fully automated match factory producing high-quality, 100% carborized safety matches.

Current boxes from the Akij Match Factory

Akij Match Factory currently produces three matchbox brands:

  1. Dolphin (20±3 Sticks, Production Year 2023, 38 x 35 mm)
  2. Firebox (35±3 Sticks, Production Year 2023, 51 x 46 mm)
  3. Lighthouse (35±3 Sticks, Production Year 2023, 51 x 46 mm)



Current boxes from the Abul Khair Match Factory

The other factory is Abul Khair Match Factory Limited, established in 2009 at Charipur, Feni. It is also a fully automated match factory that produces high-quality, 100% carborized safety matches.

Abul Khair Match Factory releases two matchbox brands:

  1. Flame box (35±3 Sticks, Production Year 2023, 51 x 46 mm))
  2. Salmon (20±3 Sticks, Production Year 2023, 38 x 35 mm)


Although many matchbox collectors in Bangladesh have numerous rare matchboxes in their collections, only these two companies offer the five mentioned matchbox brands in the market. No other company is currently producing matchboxes.

Occasionally, cigarette companies or some hotels release promotional matchboxes. These five matchboxes are currently the last ones being produced and marketed in Bangladesh. If these two companies cease matchbox production in the future, no more matchboxes will be available on the market. The matchbox industry in Bangladesh is therefore at significant risk.

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The Harlequin Match (by Bryant & May)

Harlequin Matches

Exhibitor : Rupert Harris

I acquired my first Harlequin box over 40 years ago at the age of 11. In 2008 I examined the Harlequin Collections held by other Phillumenists, undertook research at the Bryant & May Archives in Hackney, London and then in 2008 published the first edition of Harlequin Matches. As more information has come to light two further issues of this book have been produced. The third edition came out in 2021.

Harlequin” is the brightly coloured diamond shape pattern most commonly associated with clown costumes. The distinctive “Harlequin” pattern dates back to the Italian commedia dell’arte, the improvisational stage comedies popular in Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries.

A comic character, called the Harlequin is depicted in this first image, often dressed in brightly coloured diamond-patterned tights, an ornate mask and carried a wand or stick (which became known as the slapstick).

The first Harlequin boxes

In the late 1920’s Bryant & May realised other European Match manufacturers were beginning to successfully sell into the UK market, luxury and decorative match containers.

Some of the first Harlequin boxes

Bryant & May responded in 1927 with the launch of the first Harlequin boxes. The brand was built around colour, both in terms of the multi-coloured match heads and the variation either of the paper coverings of the cardboard boxes, or many decades later the various colours of the plastic containers.

Those early cardboard boxes that have been treasured over the years, that have not suffered the knocks and bruises of life, that have been kept out of sunlight and that still contain their full content of neatly arranged coloured matches, are vividly coloured beautiful works of art.

The box shape is determined from an aerial view. The early shapes were the plain vertically sided ‘round’ – (top right) and ‘hexagon’ (bottom left) shapes. All stood 5.5cms high. The earliest examples had a sandpaper striker on the top, later it was underneath.

Three Stock Boxes

Subsequently Bryant & May marketed Stock Boxes, also 5.5 cm tall, 5.5cm deep and 12.5 cm wide.

They held 600 matches.

These ‘fancy’ boxes were selling well so Bryant & May were keen to increase the Harlequin product range. They then created a wonderful array of different shapes and sizes, including caskets and other elaborate designs.


In their advertising and with good justification, Bryant & May refer to the Harlequin as ‘The Match Deluxe’ as per their advertisement on the front page. The largest boxes were the Caskets. Later small boxes were designed that had a flare half-way up the box. There were also many other shapes and sizes between these smaller boxers and the Caskets.

For smaller boxes there would be a label on the inside of the lid, on larger boxes this label was placed on the bottom. The label displayed “Bryant & May’s – Harlequin Matches, British Made -Royal Appointment details and sometimes also stated the contents, if bound for the US market.

The original casket box


The picture on the right is of the original casket, a vertical sided hexagon with plinth base. A coloured silk ribbon was provided to open the lid and act as the hinge to the base.

‘Lift here’ tabs enabled the user to extract the first few matches that the maker had carefully put in by hand often creating a colourful pattern.

This particular example was exported to the US, the label on the lid inside reads “penitentiary offense to send these through mail”. Measurements 9.8 cm at its widest width, 8.5 cms at its narrowest and again 5.5 cms high.

Classic Casket boxes

It is however the Classic Casket shape of the flare-sided hexagon with the widest flare about halfway up the box which is perhaps the most pleasurable to behold and the crowning glory of the Harlequin Range. It is 8cms tall, 10cms across the widest part of the base and 13cms across the widest part of the flare.

A Classic Casket box

On this near mint example there is a second label in the inside of the lid and translucent tissue paper.

Other casket shapes include: a hexagon with a flare toward the bottom of the box, a caddy, an irregular shaped octagon and the kiosk.

Two casket-type boxes


On the right are two examples where the top of the box is pulled upward to reveal the matches.


You will note the first box shows the colour difference caused by light damage between the outer (greyish) and the lifted inner (clearly blue and gold).




A medium-size box

Medium and small sized boxes

Medium sized boxes are 6.6 cm tall, they came in square, hexagon (shown left), a 5-sided triangle shape (aerial view shown below) and also some had cut outs at the bottom leaving a ‘leg’ design, see below for a hexagon version of this design.

There was also a range of small boxes which have flared sides. The same height (5.5 cm) as the Plain Small shape these boxes have a narrow top and bottom, with a wider flared middle holding the same ‘aerial view’ shape throughout. The lids are shallower than those of the Small Plain boxes. The flare is usually halfway up the box, except for the regular hexagon shape where the flare is nearer to the top.

The pictures below show some medium, small and unusual-sized boxes.

Portable Harlequin Boxes

By May 1928 Bryant & May had made the decision that there was also likely to be a market for a portable harlequin box and they launched the Vanity box, they were marketed to ladies for the handbag.

The boxes are 5 cm high by 5 cm wide by 1cm deep. Typically, they would hold 20 matches of assorted colours. The lid folded over with the rounded part of the lid going into a slot to close the box. The below pictures show an open and a closed box (with the striker being visible on the bottom edge of the closed box). The whole of the outside back, front, top, bottom and sides are the same colour, and numerous patterns and colours exist.

The Dinky Box was launched shortly after the Vanity Box. Bryant & May were trying to widen the appeal of Harlequin, “THE NEW “DINKY” BOX” was “FOR THE POCKET and HANDBAG” and thus both men and women. It came in Blue, Red and Green.

The depicted Dinky box is the more commonly found second product design, patent 402534. Some examples exist of the earlier less successful patent 386577. The same dimensions as the Vanity except for a slightly larger band that runs around the top. When this band is pulled downward the 20 or so multi-coloured match heads are revealed.

A special edition of the Dinky was produced for the Empire Exhibition (Bellahouston Park, Scotland 1938). One side of the box showed the normal gold wording, but the other side depicted the Exhibition Lion in chequered pattern and beneath this “EMPIRE EXHIBITION SCOTLAND 1938” again in gold. Even rarer are the Dinky boxes produced for the Masons. 

1956 relaunch, plastic boxes

A round plastic box

The Harlequin brand was again relaunched by Bryant & May in 1956. This time in plastic not cardboard. They were initially sold for 1/10d each. They were made in two shapes, round and square. There are 8 colour variations for the square shape: Red, Pink, Blue, Green, Cream, Yellow, Salmon & Black and I suspect also for the round shape, but I haven’t seen a cream-coloured circle to confirm this).

Both round and square containers measure 4.9 cm tall and have a slightly narrower base than top. The round container has a 5 cm diameter at the top, the square container has a 4.5 cm edge.

The clear lid has “Bryant & May’s Harlequin Matches” upon it and sometimes also states the number of contents.

Rectangle flip-top plastic boxes

The other often seen plastic shape is the more recent rectangle shaped flip top. This also comes in many colours. It has a clear lid which hinges upward from the front. These were launched in 1969. They were made by Wragby Plastics Ltd of Lincoln and were injection moulded.

All these boxes measure 5.3 cm high, with a base of 7.3 cm by 4 cm and a top that measures 6 cm by 2.8 cm. The original box colours were red, yellow, blue and green. Other colours followed, black, orange, mustard yellow, turquoise blue and mauve.

The boxes of the earlier colours had “Harlequin Matches – Bryant & May” stated on their front, whilst the boxes of the later colours had “Harlequin – Bryant & May” (and not the word ‘Matches’) stated on the front in a slightly different layout. The old “Harlequin Matches” style of writing can be in either white or gold. Only gold examples of the later “Harlequin” only style is known.

On the back of the box, upon the plinth both styles state “Made in England Average Contents 100”.

The striker seems to always be of a light brown colour and is on the bottom of the box in the recess of the plinth base.

Looking back

In the mid 1920’s it was the threat of the German ‘Chintz’ decorative boxes being imported to the UK from Belgium, that stirred Bryant and May into action to create their most successful and popular fancy line ever. Without this threat Bryant and May would not have produced The Original Classic Casket that they appropriately called the “The Match De Luxe”.

Nor would they have gone on to create the rest of the fantastic, colourful artistic wonder of the Harlequin Brand. A brand which has given pleasure to so many people over the years, originally to the consumer and now to the collector.

For further information or if you would like to buy a copy of the Harlequin Matches book, please contact me via my BMLBS membership listing details.

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The enduring Umakubi (Horse Head) brand

1) Product of Kita-Kou and Riosui (Ryosui) Limited Partnership, registered in 1889 (55 x 35 mm)

Exhibitor : Takeshi Yokomizo

Click here for Japanese language version


It has been a while since a box of matches had a role as an essential item of our everyday life. But in Japan, we still see it alongside candles and incense on the household-goods shelves in supermarkets. It sits there because the main occasion for us using matches nowadays is to light incense – for family altars at home, or when visiting ancestors’ graves. In general, a box of matches is kept unused at home as an emergency item, but during the summer when kids play with fireworks in the evening, adults need to accompany them and a box of matches is often in their hands.

The sales of matches dropped significantly but there are still 12 manufacturers in Japan, and about 45 different brands are in circulation today. Each brand-label was very much loved by the manufacturer’s local customers, and the label design has been handed down throughout the ages. The example here is the label design of the “Umakubi (Horse Head) Brand” which has been almost unchanged for 130 years. It still is a very familiar and known brand throughout the country.

Tracing the design transition

“Umakubi (Horse Head) Brand” has been taken over by many manufacturers over the years, and when the hand-over happened, it required a renewal of the label.  Even though the overall design was maintained, the name of the manufacturer had to be amended. The woodblock was hand-carved by an engraver so that the expression of the horse’s face was altered slightly each time of the renewal. In the past, the original wood-engraving was replicated by electroplating many times and printed by letterpress. Today, the label is printed by offset printing on card-paper using skillet box packaging technique. It allows the same printing plate to be used repeatedly with a simple name replacement.

Notes on the designs :

  1. 3) The design was registered in 1904 by Riosui (Ryosui) Limited Partnership

    Product of Kita-Kou and Riosui (Ryosui) Limited Partnership. The design was registered in 1889. Originally, Mr. Nobumatsu Kita owned the trademark then he passed its rights to Mr. Benzo Takigawa of Riosui (Ryosui) Limited Partnership founded in 1901.

  2. Co-produced by Ewa-Yokou and Chinese company Bakushoho.
  3. The design was registered in 1904 by Riosui (Ryosui) Limited Partnership. Colouring Limited Registration was filed in 1910.
  4. Export label made by Riosui (Ryosui) Limited Partnership. The word “Lucky” was featured on the label as horseshoes symbolised good luck in Europe.
  5. Product of Toyo Match Co. Ltd. Riosui (Ryosui) Limited Partnership merged with another company and founded Toyo Match Co. Ltd in 1917, and continued to produce “Umakubi (Horse Head) Brand”.
  6. Product of Daido Match Co. Ltd. Toyo Match Co. Ltd merged with several other companies in 1928 and founded Daido Match Co. Ltd. due to the inflow of Swedish capital.
  7. Product of Nissan Norin Co. Ltd. Swedish capital pulled back in 1932 due to the impact of the Great Depression. Daido Match Co. Ltd was taken over by Nissan Norin Co. Ltd.
  8. Product of Nitto Co. Ltd. Nissan Norin Co. Ltd ended the match manufacturing and handed over their brands to Nitto Co. Ltd in 2016. Currently, the company uses skillet box packaging technique for manufacturing their products.
  9. “Souma Teitetsu (Pair of horses and horseshoe) Brand” was a version of “Umakubi (Horse Head) Brand”. Product of Riosui (Ryosui) Limited Partnership. The design was registered in 1911. This brand was in circulation until Nissan Norin’s take over.
  10. “Teitetsu Abumi (Horseshoe and Stirrup) Brand” was another version. The design was registered by Riosui (Ryosui) Limited Partnership in 1906. It is unknown whether this brand was actually launched.

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Beautiful flowers on matchboxes and labels

Indian matchbox labels depicting flowers

Exhibitor : Himel Rozario

I like to collect Matchboxes and Labels which contain pictures of flowers. The main reason for collecting these flower themes is that whenever I see these matchboxes, my heart fills up with joy and happiness.

In this exhibition, I am going to show some Matchboxes and Labels collected from India, Germany and Sweden. In those matchboxes and labels, many countries show pictures of their country’s beautiful flowers and mainly their country’s diversity is exhibited.

Indian Matchbox and Labels display many pictures of Indian flowers such as the Lotus flower. In the same manner, on the Matchbox covers of Sweden are some beautiful pictures of flowers from that country.

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Classic auto assortment on matchbox labels

Exhibitor : Masud Ahmed

Ever since I was little, I have been fascinated with cars. The way they worked always intrigued me.

1976 Toyota Corolla 30 De Luxe. Photo credit: Rutger van der Maar on Visualhunt



Back then, my family owned a Toyota Corolla E31. That car drove like a dream. It never gave us any issues.


We replaced it after more than 20 years with a newer model.



At the time we used to get stickers of cars on magazines. I used to collect a lot of stickers of our corolla and other cars. This slowly turned into a habit which is still going on today. For many years I have been collecting die cast model cars of a wide variety. Other than cars, I also have an extension collection of coins, banknotes, stamps, etc. Among them, matchbox labels is one that I like to collect the most. Recently, I discovered that a ton of matchbox labels have been made on cars. So at the moment that is what I have my eyes out for.

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Himel Rozario (Bangladesh)

Exhibit : Beautiful flowers on Matchboxes & Labels

I am Himel Mark Rozario, hailing from the beautiful city of Dhaka, situated in the charming country of Bangladesh. Currently, I am pursuing my studies at the esteemed Notre Dame University Bangladesh. I have been collecting matchboxes and labels since 2020. In my collection, I have almost one thousand matchboxes and one thousand two hundred labels.

I am a life member of “Bangladesh Matchbox Collector’s Club“. Recently I have participated in an exhibition named 2nd International Virtual Matchbox & Labels Exhibition 2022“. That was my first international exhibition. After that I participated chronologically in “Celebration John Walker’s 242nd Birthday” which was an online exhibition and then International Phillumenia Online Exhibition “Phillonex  2023. I collect Matchbox and Labels based on country and subject matter.

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