World War II propaganda bookmatches made in Canada

This cover has no Excise tax imprint. It has private advertising on the front and shows the standard message printed inside to the troops.

Exhibitor : Ed Wright

These sets of covers with 12 different war propaganda designs were issued for sale in Canada in the early 1940’s by ‘The Book Match Mfrs. Ltd. Toronto’. They were issued in various colours and may even have come in other colours as well.

Note the stock-design on the front cover which states that the Book Match sold for 1c for 30 matches. Note also the 3/10c Excise Tax Paid imprint which further verifies when made. This value was required by law to be printed on match books of this size (30 matches), made for the home market, to prove the necessary tax had been paid and was in use between June 25th 1940 & March 22, 1949.

Inside printing for private advertisers was an available option, at I am sure a nominal cost.

A cover with an Excise tax denoting made for Private advertiser for home use. The inside is blank.

These sets were also offered to private companies who could have their own specific message and/or address printed on the front cover instead of the stock design previously mentioned.

Sets are known to exist with or without the Excise tax imprint, sometimes with adverts inside. Many of these companies sent their matches to Canadian troops overseas on which no tax levy was imposed and therefore the imprint was not required. These covers were printed on the inside with a standard message for the troops and were distributed through ‘The Overseas League (Canada)Tobacco Fund’.

Propaganda sets md in Canada are highly sought-after by collectors around the globe. Due to National unrest and constraints, caused by the war, especially product shortages and rationing, hobbies and collecting items were not a priority so one must assume supply was limited. Many company flats have shown up, so collectors can still document these gems.


Twelve different propaganda covers


On the right are the twelve different propaganda designs that the match company used. Sadly, I am missing one from the set I have, so am obliged to use the missing design from another set.  All the covers are all blank inside, and have the Excise Tax Paid imprint so were made for the home market.





Cover with no excise stamp



The cover on the left has no excise stamp imprint, because it was made for export to send overseas to the troops.

There’ll always be an England

Inside is handwritten “Approved. May 11, 1942 for Export. Signed by Commissioner of Excises W.W. Stinson.” Note also the sticker on the car window which says “There’ll always be an England”


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My electric bicycle

Exhibitor : Mike Pryor

Back in 2017 my wife and I decided that we wanted to start cycling, after not having done any for about 40 years. But we live on a hill, in a town full of hills, so we knew that a regular bicycle wouldn’t work for us. That’s why we decided to invest in a couple of (folding) electric bicycles, and enjoyed using them so much that last year we invested in a couple of full size electric bikes.

They have changed our lives ………


I have a history with tandems. While at University my keen-cyclist friend suggested we cycled to a party about 20 miles away, which we duly did. On the return journey we we cycling through Eton when we approached a building with scaffolding outside it, at speed. My friend was at the front and looked as if he was going underneath the scaffolding, whereas I wanted to go around it. We crashed into the scaffolding, bending the tandem and puncturing my friend’s leg with a scaffolding pole. Needless to say, I have never ridden a tandem since.

Sweden label
Belgium label

But that doesn’t prevent me from enjoying matchbox labels depicting tandems.

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Mike Pryor (UK)

Exhibit : Cycling

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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Exhibition Catalogue 2024

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  
Angola * Joel Viana de Lemos Portugal
Cycling Mike Pryor United Kingdom
My Romanian adventure Ian Macilwain United Kingdom
Patriotic WWII War Slogans David Figg Australia
Portefeuille Stephane Pinaud France
Thumbtack labels Hans Everink Netherlands
Union Allumettière Equatoriale Alan Downer United Kingdom
US Navy bookmatches Gísli Jóhann Sigurðsson Iceland
World War II propaganda bookmatches Ed Wright Canada
Döbereiner lighters Tom O’Key USA
Extraordinary Matches Phil Stringer United Kingdom
From error to deception * Jesús María Bollo García Spain
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
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 Swiss Chamois * Stefan Joset Switzerland
Two inspiring artists Shakil Huq Bangladesh


Gísli Jóhann Sigurðsson (Iceland)

Exhibit : US Navy bookmatches

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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