This is Navneet Kulkarni from Pune, India. I am 46 now and have been collecting matchboxes since 1983. In our childhood games, losers had to give penalty to the winners. The currency was front labels of matchboxes. The catch was, if the matchbox was very common, we had to give 10-15-20 of them but if it was something different, unique, then you could get away with two or three.
That sparked the drive to get unique matchboxes in me. As I grew older, the childhood games were left behind, but the matchboxes were still with me.
Now I try to collect whole matchboxes with trays as far as possible. I have blog pages on Facebook and Instagram. It would be lovely to see you there and share my joy of collecting.
Matchboxes caught my attention when I was 11 years old. I started the collection imitating a cousin. At first it was a game and an excuse to escape from the family farm to explore the shops and tobacco shop.
Exploring the attics didn’t turn out, but I found “Casque d’or” box, dated mid-1920s, in a drawer at my grandparents’ house, a treasure for me at this time !
The virus for good infected me in 1994, at random from a newsstand, when I discovered the existence of of L’Association Vitolphilique et Philumenique Francaise (AVPF) through a classified ad from a collector in a specialized newspaper. I was then 22 years old and began to search for old boxes.
I immediately made the choice to limit my collection to complete French boxes and to go back as closely as possible to the origins of this everyday object. My oldest box is from the end of the 1830s.
From before 1950 I have about 3500 complete boxes including 1000 from before the monopoly established in 1872. Over time I have also collected labels, especially for advertising boxes from the 1920s / 1930s some of which are very rare. Since 2008 I have been in charge of writing the magazine of AVPF and since 2011 chairman of the AVPF.
As a new member of the British Matchbox Label and Bookmatch Society it is interesting to discover so many like-minded people, and through the ongoing development of their website and new Instagram account I now have the opportunity to share with you a small selection of labels acquired over the years.
Grandfather Alan Middleton joined the society in 1969 and son Mark and grandson Padraig joined earlier this year in 2021.
Alan’s interests in phillumeny are mainly pre World War Two labels and British Bookmatches, and he enjoys researching the history of labels. He has written a number of books and articles about the match manufacturers in the North of England.
On the other hand Mark and Padraig are interested in the designs and artwork of matchbox labels.
From the early beginnings of the match industry the labels applied to boxes have depicted a wide variety of topics, those of a purely typographic design but many depicting pictorial images or interpretations of animal, vegetable and mineral subjects, in fact just about anything you can think of. However the match and its box have become iconic images of their own and can be found to be represented in many products both practical and whimsical. Here is a mere sample of some I have come across.
Fuel lighters:- From the top; a wooden match with plastic head, eighteen inches in length the head is removed to reveal a disposable lighter concealed inside. The “Big Match Lighter” thirteen and a half inches long seen below its box and to the left below that, are two gas lighters operated by electric switches, to the right another gas lighter worked by thumbing the head back (see inset). At the bottom of the page is the “Ever-Light” here the head unscrews to withdraw a petrol retaining tube with a steel plate designed to be drawn across the pyrite striker in the stem (see inset) this system is often found under the title of “The Permanent Match”.
Bar ware:- A large ceramic match measuring thirteen inches, inscribed “MADRIGAL STONEWARE MADE IN ENGLAND” on the base. These are generally described as match strikers where the matches would be sitting loose in the trough for customers to take and strike against the rough body of the piece.
Useful implements:- Top and below; plastic pens where the head is removed to reveal the ballpoint nib. Third down; similar to above but a pencil. Bottom; a box of matches where the heads are rubber erasers. Right; ball point pens in an oversized bookmatch cover.
Consumables:- Top left; a miniature whiskey bottle made for a matchbox sized container. Right; chilli samples from a modern range of different novelty food samples. Bottom; two different Bryant & May small size boxes with Ark labels produced for Maynards.
Whimsical and practical:- Top left; One from a series of plastic scenes made to be inserted into what are genuine England’s Glory boxes with a label added to the side panel (see inset). Below; a music box in a matchbox. Right; two plastic matchbox pencil sharpeners.
Miniature book:- An illustrated copy of Robinson Crusoe the size and design of a Bryant & May Ark box on the cover.
Trick box:- A box where the bottom side has a compartment where a coin could be concealed with a nice label that could pass for the genuine item.
Calculators:- Two diminutive pocket calculators one as a bookmatch and one as a matchbox.
Various:- A sponge, a tin, a patch, and a metal match that may have been given as a token to a couple.
Stationery:- Top left; notebook, below; plain paper pad, centre; and inset bookmatch style memo pad, right; matchbox label card set.
Vera Robertson, an esteemed late member of the Phillumeny Club of South Australia, got me interested in collecting these items. The series is defined as a skillet or bookmatch having a logo or symbol printed on a range of booklets on one panel of exact design with a business name on the other panel.
Another noted late member, Joe Dulf, encouraged me to turn a list I compiled to note the items I had in my collection into a full catalogue on these series. This turned into a daunting task as I never realised how many series there were. Interest was seeded by many members with lists being supplied to me.
The catalogue grew to over 150 series with over 15,000 items. Items are still being found today.
Here are a few pages from my album showing some of my Australian Logo Series, click on an image below to enlarge it.
Like most countries, Australia was home to numerous match factories with four of the mainland states laying claim to at least one factory. The State of Victoria had the most factories and was the seat of our first Federal Parliament in 1901 until it moved to Canberra in 1927. Unfortunately, today there are no match factories in Australia but our iconic Miss Redheads, born in 1946, still lives on but in Sweden.
This exhibit takes a very brief look at each of the major manufacturers and their subsidiaries including name changes and mergers showing a selection of their brands. Matchbox labels, pillbox tops, bookmatches and skillets were all produced at some stage in Australia.
Further details can be found on the first page of the display, click on an image to enlarge it.
In the past the habit of smoking was not a practice that was generally conducted indoors, smokers had to brave the elements, over the years there have been many types of windproof match designed to combat windy conditions. While the match companies provided chemical solutions to deal with this and other situations, the makers of match hardware were using their ingenuity to create designs intended specifically to help the windswept smoker.
The “Stay-lit” matchbox holder employed a mechanical system that held a match clamped within the case, when the internal slide was drawn out [1a] the match would be angled down to engage the striker of the small size box held within, the motion of the box’s striker being drawn along the match head would ignite it and allow a protected flame to emerge from the eight holes located above.
The “Anti-Storm Pocket-Slide” was designed to take a regular sized matchbox, an ingenious design but the execution of lighting a cigarette was a rather convoluted process.
First an inner slide that held the matchbox was drawn out sideways to allow the drawer of the matchbox to be opened and a match retrieved [2b].
With the box now safely closed the match would be inserted into a hole on the side of the case which had a sliding mechanism running lengthways and allowed the match to be struck on the box striker.
With the flame protected from wind and rain the cigarette could be inserted through the hole and ignited. When fully closed up the drawer of the match box was secured and could not come open [2a]. The design was patented in 1901 by Robert Schules and C Fladerer from Bohemia (Czechoslovakia).
The Edward VII 7th coronation tin initially looks like a regular matchbox slide but is technically a vesta case as it holds the matches within its own metal drawer and has a ribbed surface on one side of the tin for striking.
When it was given to me it was described as a trick box however named on the drawer as “The Surelight” [3a] and having no obvious trick function I believe it to be another piece designed to combat windy conditions. The outer case is a typical slide with small folds over one end so that the drawer can only open in one direction.
[3b] The drawer is a double skinned affair the outer section having a cut out that allows the inner drawer to be pushed shut protecting the unused matches, this leaves the outer section open providing a wind shield for the ignited match which would be placed in the slot at the end of the drawer.
I wonder if the Bryant & May matchbox covers made for the soldiers in the first world war might have been used by the troops in the same manner, they may have even hid the flame from night time snipers – three cigarettes on a match anyone?
This exhibit shows part of my collection of Bengal matchbox labels. I am particularly interested in Bengal matches as they combine two of my main interests: match paraphernalia and fireworks.
Bengal Matches are a special type of pyrotechnic match that generally burn for a longer time than ordinary matches and give off a brightly coloured flame when burning. They have a wooden splint and two composition parts : one at the tip to initiate combustion, and the other adjoining the head along a long length of the splint. Bengal matches are still manufactured today that flare either green, red or silver, and most are made in India.
The labels in this exhibit are only a fraction of my Bengal match collection, which also includes skillets and empty boxes. Click on an image below to enlarge it.
Further details can be found on the first page of the display, click on an image to enlarge it.
This exhibit explores two interesting and rare Italian matchboxes presenting beautiful decorations on all sides. Each shows us their respective match factory on the back panel. We see the factory of A. Dellacha at Moncalieri near Turin (Northern Italy) on one box [Fig 1 – Fig 6], and L. Baschiera of Venice on the other [Fig 7 – Fig 13]. Each measures the same size 117x52x28mm approximately.
These are large boxes for use in the home, not in the pocket. The intricate artistic designs show us how fine the work of the artist was in the late 19th century, when these boxes were made, sometime after 1876 and most likely within about five years of this date.
We can see by the illustrations of the match factory that these were big factories. Baschiera has marked the box with the model reference “No.8” on one of the long side panel’s, and Dellacha has marked his box; “No.18”. Both boxes are also marked with the word; “Camera“, this is a reference to this style or model of box design.
The sliding match tray is furnished with a tab, for pulling out the match tray, cleverly punched and integral to the plain card used to make the match tray. We can see this most clearly in the photograph that shows the end of the match tray view on the Dellacha box. The end would have had a separate label pasted to it, which has gone missing from this box, but which we can see how it would have been fitted by looking at the Baschiera example. The match tray label measures 50mm wide and 26mm vertically. It folds over the top edge of the tray and then folds down into the inside of the tray end by 12mm.
These matchboxes are known to have been made by printing the design onto large paper sheets with multiple designs, which were then laminated onto a card backing, and lacquered (glassed) over the picture design. (Two Printer sheets, or more correctly part of two printer sheets, are also shown in this exhibit) They were then cut out, folded and pasted to form the finished matchbox outer, approximately 0.4mm thick. These outer boxes are made from two pieces, which fabricate together to make the matchbox outer.
The inner (match tray), made in one piece, was cut, folded and pasted from plain card boards approximately 0.3mm thick.
The printing technique or method used to print these matchboxes was chromolithography. Chromo means colour and the lithographic process is made up of lots of dots which can merge together to form stippling or blotchy patches in some spots.
The match label designs and the match tray end labels would have been printed on the same Printer’s sheet. The closed end of these matchboxes carried the match striking surface. On both of these boxes shown here is a small number printed in red ink, “157” on the Baschiera box and “168” on the Dellacha box. This is the print design reference. Below the view of the factory on the Baschiera box is printed; ‘Premiata fabbrica fiammiferi d’ogni qualita’ (Leading factory producing matches of all quality) and below this ‘Torino, Lit. Doyen.’ This is the mark of the lithographic Printer; Doyen of Turin. This panel, printed in black and red, forms the bottom part of the box. The beautiful colourful top and side panels were printed by another Printer. We know this because the top design has printed ‘LIT • ARMANINO • GENOVA’. This is the mark of the lithographic Printer, Armanino of Genova, which is the capital of Liguria and the sixth largest city in Italy today. The Dellacha box has printed below the view of the match factory; ‘STABILIMENTO DI AMBio DELLACHA IN MONCALIERI’ (Establishment of Ambrogio Dellacha in Moncalieri). The panel showing the factory view is printed in blue and does not show the name of the Printer. The beautiful colourful top and side panels again have the mark of Armanino. This mark is on the top main panel and is presented as; ‘GENOVA • LIT • ARMANINO •’. Also on the main top panel, below the picture of a woman washing a small naked boy in a water fountain, is the text; ‘UN BAGNO PER FORZA’ (A bath by force). The side panel with the mark of ‘A. DELLACHA’ illustrate two prize medals gained in ‘FILADELFIA’ (Philadelphia, U.S.A.) in 1876 and ‘VIENNA’ (Austria) in 1873.
Dellacha obtained another medal in “Milano in 1881” (Milan, Italy), and as this medal is not shown on this matchbox, it is more likely that the box was printed before that year.
Also included in the images is a plain paper mock-up of the two outer-box pieces, that illustrate the construction of the outer-box when fitted together.
Here are the images of the two Camera Quality boxes described in the text [Dellacha box Fig 1 – Fig 6] and [Baschiera box Fig 7 – Fig 13], the mock-up of the outer-box pieces [Fig 14], and two Printers sheets [Fig 15 and Fig 16]. click on an image to enlarge it.
Fig 1 - Dellacha Camera matchbox - side view
Fig 2 - Dellacha Camera matchbox - side view
Fig 3 - Dellacha Camera matchbox - end view (separate panel missing)
Fig 4 - Dellacha Camera matchbox - enlarged part side view showing award medals
Fig 5 - Dellacha Camera matchbox - enlarged part side view showing model number 18
Fig 6 - Dellacha Camera matchbox - underside view
Fig 7 - Baschiera Camera matchbox - front view
Fig 8 - Baschiera Camera matchbox - underside view
Fig 9 - Baschiera Camera matchbox - side view
Fig 10 - Baschiera Camera matchbox - side view
Fig 11 - Baschiera Camera matchbox - side view
Fig 12 - Baschiera Camera matchbox - side view
Fig 13 - Baschiera Camera matchbox - end view showing separate panel
Fig 14 - Mock-up of the two outer pieces (using plain paper)
Fig 15 - Printer sheet (part) Eliezer and Rebecca - Lavaggi Camera matchbox
Fig 16 - Printer sheet (part) - Lavaggi Camera matchbox
These matches started to appear in Australia in the late 1970s, undercutting the locally made Redheads matches in price but not quality, and were given the name “Cheapies“. There was also a similar range of labels and skillets issued in New Zealand. Manufactured overseas, some brands were subject to complaints and the odd recall was implemented. They were sold by smaller supermarket chains, tobacconists and discount variety stores. Not all were sold in all the states of Australia with them being mainly for sale in the Eastern states like New South Wales and Victoria.
They were issued as a single label or skillet and in sets featuring Coats of Arms of Australian cities, flowers, Australian animals, Americas Cup, cars and pictures of world cities. Some series were on sale for a longer period than others. Indonesia was a country of manufacture for most with Korea, China, Sweden and France adding to the mix.
Here are the pages from my album showing some Cheapies, click on an image below to enlarge it.
I hope that fellow phillumenists will excuse my wide interpretation of phillumeny (literal definition – lover of light) to include the ancient fire lighting devices known as Chuckmucks.
Chuckmucks come from the Himalayan region, Tibet, Mongolia and Northern China. They usually consist of an approximately rectangular leather pouch closed at the top by a flap, with a ring in the fold to suspend from a belt and a long steel with a curved edge fixed to the bottom.
Chuckmucks are used to carry the means to start a fire, using a flint and some tinder carried inside the pouch, and would be utilised either at home or as part of a nomadic life.
It has been difficult to find a date at which they started being used but following a literature search I believe they have been in use in their basic form for at least 3 centuries.
For decoration engraved plates of brass, iron or very occasionally precious metals are rivetted to the front and sometimes back of the pouch.
Below are some more images of Chuckmucks, with a ruler alongside to show their actual size. Click on an image to enlarge it. The final image is of two extremely well used examples that must have been used many thousands of times – if only they could tell their story !
Six well-preserved Chuckmucks
Three all-metal Chuckmucks with different clasps
Four featuring decorations of various animals/fish
My exhibit displays French matchboxes from the 19th Century and early 20th Century, including some very beautiful and intricate boxes that have survived intact to this day. The French match industry was one of the earliest in the world, starting around 1832. The well-known match factories of Caussemille Jne & Cie and Roche & Cie were among the world’s largest and well developed, employing exceptional graphic designers and operating extensive printing facilities. My exhibit focusses on some of the lesser known manufacturers and rarer boxes.
These small boxes are from the factory of Romain Mallet in Bordeaux. They date from around 1870 and measure 49 x 28 x 8 mm. Mallet produced many of these small boxes containing candle matches and mainly illustrated with female nudes.
After the establishment of the monopoly in France in 1872 and the creation of the “Compagnie Générale des allumettes Chimiques“, the first boxes were based on Caussemille designs. This is the case for type 11D boxes, shown on the right, which date from around 1875. Boxes in the first two rows use patterns from Caussemille. On the top of the first box we can see the tax stamp with value 5c. The company operated from 1873 to 1885.
Type 11D boxes were sold until the early 1940s., by which time the matches had become too expensive. The beauty of the boxes had continuously decreased, and the last illustrations were in black and white.
Large boxes of 500 wax matches from Compagnie Générale des Allumettes Chimiques, which changed its name to Compagnie Générale des Allumettes Chimiques pour la France et l’étranger in 1885 and closed in 1889. We can easily imagine that the sales volume of these boxes was low.
Tisons matches were found in several countries including Sweden and Great Britain. The first Tisons were imported from Sweden in the mid-1880s before being manufactured in France from 1887 to around 1940. The size of the matches, the contents of the boxes and the selling prices evolved over time and allow the boxes to be dated. More Tisons boxes are shown in the gallery below, click on an image to enlarge it.
Tisons, 1910s - 1932
Tisons, 1926 - ca. 1940
In the early 20th Century it became common to use matchbox labels for advertising. Match advertising in France began in 1924. These are some rare advertising boxes from the late 1920s, all for Cigarette brands except the very rare box “Engagez vous dans la marine”. The gallery below includes some larger advertising boxes (100 matches) from the 1940s which are also rare, click on an image to enlarge it.
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.
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.
The chamois is the trademark of the match company Diamond SA in Nyon (Switzerland). Later this sign was also adopted by the company Etincelle SA. They were sold under the name “Gemsen-Hölzer (chamois-matches)” between 1938 and 1982.
There are countless different bookmatches with and without advertising which I would like to exhibit here. I hope that you like this splendour of colours and variety and I would like to thank the organizers for the invitation to participate in this wonderful exhibition.
Bookmatches up to 1940
Bookmatches from 1940 – 1950
Bookmatches from 1940 – 1950
The crossbow was also used more and more often as a symbol of Swiss work. The lettering of the match advertising was always in French and German. The chamois always stood on a rock and looked to the right. In the background it had stylized mountains.
Bookmatches from 1950 - 1960
Bookmatches from 1950 - 1960
Bookmatches from 1950 - 1960
Bookmatches from 1950 - 1960
Bookmatches from 1950 - 1960
From 1961 onwards, the logo with the chamois was used more and more often in a small, round format. It was not until the beginning of 1967 that the logo changed and the chamois sometimes looked to the left and at times only the half-portrait was visible. The image of the whole chamois on the rock was also presented in an abstract way.
Bookmatches from 1960 – 1970
Bookmatches from 1961 onwards
Bookmatches from 1967 - 1982
Bookmatches from 1967 - 1982
Bookmatches from 1967 - 1982
Bookmatches from 1967 - 1982
In those years, the logo with the chamois could hardly be found on the outside of book matches.
However, to supplement the self-advertising the chamois was printed on the inside of the bookmatches, below are some examples from my collection.
From 1971, Etincelle only advertised itself on the inside of the bookmatches. In 1982 Etincelle SA ceased production of bookmatches.
Editor’s note : this article first appeared in MLN in April 2003
As a very small boy one of my earliest memories is of sitting on the floor in front of the sideboard, a pseudo-Victorian piece of furniture with cupboards at floor level. These were never locked so became suitable targets for my infant investigation. In one of them was a scrapbook in which my father had mounted matchbox tops. Not only were the subjects fascinating, even looking back 55 years ‘Wigwam‘ remains stuck in the memory, but there was a smell to them, perhaps from the glue used to stick them down, the lingering effects of tobacco, or the wood of the tops themselves, for the labels had not been separated from their backing. I would sit entranced, flipping the pages and remaining quiet for perhaps five minutes.
The scrapbook dated from about three years earlier, when in the latter part of the war my father had noticed normal labels enhanced or disfigured with slogans ‘keep on saving fuel’, ‘waste not, want not’, and ‘loose talk costs lives’; this I learned many years later to be from the back of an American box.
He had kept them, breaking up the boxes as a matter of course and then mounted them along with tops from boxes current in 1946 and 1947. Additions were infrequent, every few months or so probably, which to my childish mind equated to eternity.
The collection grew in this way for many years. I began to add to it by negotiating with other children at primary school and all the while every item added was broken or cut up. In 1952 while convalescing from a serious bout of influenza my father decided to deal with the bookmatches. With new sheets of paper, a loose leaf album specially purchased in Aylesbury, a pair of scissors and my enthusiastic help, the two shoeboxes of bookmatches that had by then accumulated were rearranged so that all the print would be the same way up; the strikers were of course chopped off and discarded.
A few of these mutilated gems are still in my collection today and I look longingly at a pre war Bryant & May cover for Prince Line wishing we had more knowledge. This particular bookmatch cover has been reconstituted at least twice in the last 40 years to try to display the panels in their correct order.
We had graduated from scrapbooks to albums by 1952, but it was in 1956 that we took our next step forward: England’s Glory labels were collected, the jokes being separated from the rest of the label and kept separately. In that year one of them advertised a matchbox label exhibition at the Imperial Hotel, Birmingham. We went; my mother also came with little enthusiasm. However, one of my uncles was a policeman in the city and no doubt the pretext for the trip was a visit to him and his family, though I remember nothing of that.
The exhibition was a cornucopia of delights; I think my father and I would have spent the day there if allowed. We discovered other collectors who professed to be interested in swapping, we learnt that cutting up matchboxes and bookmatches was not the done thing. We learnt that labels should or could be floated from the wood. It had been advertised as an exhibition so we took no swaps with us, not I suspect that they would have been any use if we had. We were dragged away from it by my mother, who felt ill in the smoky atmosphere.
Though I believe we found there was a national society, for some reason we did not consider joining it, though on returning home the collection as it was then was modified. The cut labels were floated from the wood, but to ensure permanent damage to them all and not just to the all-round-the-box types, they were now glued down to loose leaf album pages. The one positive move was that cutting up and removing the strikers from bookmatches ceased. My father had never found these interesting and my collection of bookmatches and related material dates from this time.
As I progressed through grammar school and then an architectural course the bookmatch collection grew. Boys make avid collectors and most of my friends put together mini collections, all but one eventually ending up with me. Even the non collectors would contribute.
When I was about 14 one boy brought two booklets for United States Navy submarines to school; USS Nautilus and Skipjack, one the first nuclear submarine, the other the first to travel beneath the North Pole. I feel embarrassment now for begrudging him the sixpence they cost me. Other activities intervened and collecting was rarely continuous but it was always there.
In 1967 we had some further contact with the BML&BS and went to one of their London meetings. I don’t know how this came about but our name must have reached collecting circles, for we had started receiving catalogues from EHW Ltd of Sicilian Avenue, Holborn, though the only time we purchased from them the result was a packet of mint labels which did not excite us.
This was one of the Bonnington meetings; it had a very busy atmosphere, possibly because the facilities were cramped and we found it disappointing. There was no exhibition to speak of and though we came equipped to swap no one wanted to know us. What we came with wasn’t up to par. I remember leaving before lunch feeling disenchanted.
Later that year I went to work in Edinburgh and some time in 1968 my father finally joined the BML&BS. He may have gone to other London meetings in the late 1960s but I don’t recall any mention of it. Edinburgh was my first experience of life in a large city and the opportunities it offered to the match collector. They popped up in the street, were on the tables in bars and in restaurants, hotels and tobacconists. A couple of colleagues in the office turned up with collections; I accumulated a wide range of boxes and booklets including duplicates of ‘Major’ and ‘Sovereign’ booklets which had clearly been those in demand at the London meeting.
I returned south in 1969 and we tried a meeting in Brighton in the summer of 1970. I’d judged well the swapping material to aim for. I was surrounded by flies attracted to the honey pot. Generous flies too – ten for one they would give, but departed rapidly when the source had dried up.
It did though make me a regular at the London meetings of the 1970s. These, mainly at Sudbury House, were dominated (as far as bookmatch collectors were concerned) by a group seeking only ‘Major’ and ‘Sovereign’ covers.
There was a league table within their grouping; they even had their own club. Later it became clear they did not even belong to the BML&BS but used its meetings for their own purposes. Their insularity as collectors not only blinded or blinkered other collectors as to what might be available but limited the material that was brought to meetings and auctions.
In the autumn of 1973, during a visit to Southampton, I picked up a box in the street – a Whitbread Wessex public house, a numbered label (74) which was clearly one of a set. My father was more interested than I and for the next year we travelled the south of England discovering the set which amounted to 900 items (later extended to 963). He wrote to inns we could not get to and finally when only four eluded us, one of which had evidently been demolished, to Whitbread asking if there was any chance of obtaining the other labels. These they sent to him, explaining that for one reason or another none of them had ever been available. They also congratulated him on winning their prize for being the first to collect the set. This, a tankard, was awarded at a dinner in the autumn of 1975.
He had arrived in the collecting world, but not necessarily in a very welcome way. At a Bonnington meeting in October 1975 John Luker announced the result of the competition, noting that Whitbread had not consulted the Society before awarding the prize. He observed that some members were unaware of the result and although the winner was a member of the society he knew of several others who had collected these labels seriously and might have come near to completing the set. The implication was that Whitbread had contrived the result. We knew this not to be the case for we had unsuccessfully tried to swap with the collectors he mentioned (what a contrast to half-a-dozen years before). We kept our counsel.
No more Majors and Sovereigns
For the development of bookmatch collections one of the best things that happened was when Bryant & May ceased ‘Major’ and ‘Sovereign’ production in 1979. About half the then bookmatch collectors gave up and the rest diversified. In the meantime I had continued to collect anything and everything but only deliberately trying to obtain British-related items. In the 1980s and early 1990s other interests, marriage and a family pushed collecting to a back seat – well, the passenger seat at any rate (my wife wouldn’t even accept that). Problems with space also took their toll. There were now over 300 albums; something had to go, so most of the American with a lot of the Swiss, French and German were consigned to the attic, where they remain to this day.
The result was not to save space at all, for I became more of a specialist, learning that different card finishes and colours, different staples, tiny printing and shade variations meant almost certainly a different date of issue and an identifiable variation. The British (a term loosely connected with any item associated with British advertising) collection grew to over 90,000 and shows no sign of ever being complete. The retained and interesting items from the rest of the world mainly relating to transport and the military also expand at an alarming rate. There are now more than 10,000 American without considering other countries. Research takes almost as much time as collecting and as each new plateau of knowledge and collecting experience is reached, I wince at the thought of how much a novice I was before. However, the key to collecting at whatever levels remains the same, if you enjoy doing it, it’s worth doing.
Ships from the Geest Line fleet can be seen on many bookmatches from the 1960’s and 70’s which which the company used as marketing material to promote their services. Geest Line is an international shipping company, which operated initially out of Holland under the name Waling van Geest. They are probably best known in the UK for the marketing of bananas, and the Atlantic Banana division was based in the UK at Spalding, Lincs. Many of their fleet were registered in the UK at Boston, Lincs (although the ships were far too large to visit the Port) in recognition of their historical connections with the town and area.
My very first Geest matchbox was an unusual one, pictured to the left.
It is a promotion for the Geest Container Service and resembles a shipping container which opens to reveal the pink-tipped matches inside.
This box still fascinates me, and I smile every time I pick it up.
Some other Geest bookmatches from the 1970’s are shown on the left.
A set of 40 matchbox labels was produced in 1962 by Verenigde Hollandse Lucifers Fabrieken for the CO-OP organisation, showing Dutch flagships. Number 31 featured Geest’s newly built banana carrier the mv Geeststar. The image on the right shows this label superimposed over a photograph of the vessel.
As the Caribbean banana trade grew, further larger vessels were ordered, this time under the British flag culminating in a fleet of 14 ships being delivered, over the ensuing 2 decades and trading under the Geest Line banner and registered under the ownership of Geest Industries.
In 2016 Australia celebrated 70 years since the creation of their iconic match image, Miss Redhead. To mark the occasion, the Australian Match Cover Collectors Society created a theme for their Exhibition that year, “Happy 70th birthday, Miss Redhead”.
This is my entry for that Exhibition, which charts the different stages in the development of the Miss Redhead image. Click on an image below to enlarge it.
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
As a young schoolboy David van der Plank originally collected postage stamps and coins. During the Second World War his elder brother served in the RAF, and on one occasion when he came home on leave he brought with him some matchboxes for David.
The collecting of matchboxes and matchbox labels became his first love. One of the match boxes that really fascinated him was a box with the letters WIMCO India and he decided it could possibly mean the Western Indian Match Company. He wrote to the factory and expressed his interest in collecting matchbox labels and in their reply, they sent him samples of matchbox labels they produced. David’s business venture then began! He ordered labels in bulk from WIMCO paying for them by using International Money Orders. From them he made up packs of labels. His first customers were fellow schoolboys, one of whom was Peter Campion.
Three years after our marriage David and I moved to Cornwall, he went back to his original hobby which prompted us to form the Cornish Match Company. David always had a desire to go to India, not only visit WIMCO but to discover some of the smaller match factories. We were able to do this in the early 1970s.
Together we flew to Bombay where we had a warm welcome from the directors of WIMCO. After a few days we continued our journey and travelled by train to Sivakasi. It was an amazing experience! No white person had been there for ten years but on that visit and every subsequent visit we always were made very welcome and stayed in the homes of factory managers.
We soon discovered there were many other match factories in the surrounding area throughout Tamil Nadu, so we tried to visit as many of them as possible. The reception these factories gave us was amazing. They were very kind and gave us gifts, some of which are the advertisements that you see here. Each one has a great memory.
Click on an image in the gallery below to enlarge it.
In March 2021 I won some Joe Camel bookmatches in the Society’s On-line Auction, and instantly became intrigued by the image they displayed, and began researching the background to the company and the Joe Camel character.
I discovered the reasons behind the campaign and decided to collect more material from the various Joe Camel advertising that was around. This Exhibit is the result of that research.
The birth of Joe Camel – 1988
In 1988, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company introduced a cartoon character, Joe Camel, to invigorate sagging U.S. sales of its flagship brand Camel cigarettes which was about to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Joe Camel was a new twist on the tobacco industry’s decades-old crusade to portray smoking as an intrinsic part of a fashionable, pleasure-filled lifestyle.
The character, based loosely on Old Joe, was originally created in 1974 by a British artist, Nicholas Price, for a French advertising campaign that subsequently appeared in other countries during that decade.
The first ads featuring Joe Camel carried the theme ”75 years and still smokin’ !”
The character’s appeal led Reynolds to make it the centrepiece of all Camel campaigns, under the theme ”Smooth character,” as Joe Camel and his cronies appeared on T-shirts, leather jackets and other manly trappings.
Bookmatches featuring Joe Camel soon started to appear and proved very popular. In fact the entire Joe Camel marketing campaign became a huge success.
Growing concerns about health – 1991
In 1991, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study revealing that more children could recognize Joe Camel than could identify Mickey Mouse or Fred Flintstone. Concerns were growing about the effect of smoking on health, especially among young people. The pressure was mounting on tobacco companies, and R. J. Reynolds in particular, to cease advertising.
Although Camel’s market share among smokers under 24 years surged from about 4% to perhaps 12% in 1992-93, and then receded to approximately 9%, Camel’s overall market share never increased more than .5% (from 4.3% to 4.8%). There is no evidence that the Joe Camel advertising increased total youth smoking, which declined between 1987 and 1992.
Up until 1997, R. J. Reynolds resisted all calls to end the Joe Camel campaign. Tobacco companies have always asserted that they have never targeted teenagers. Yet in the U.S., 60 percent of adults who smoke begin by age 16, and their favourite brand by far is the most heavily promoted cigarette: Marlboro. From their perspective the Joe Camel advertising campaigns had little or no effect on smoking by youths or adults, though they may have prevented a decline in the Camel brand’s market shares and perhaps modestly increased it.
The demise of Joe Camel – 1997
And so it came to pass that on 11th July 1997 that R. J. Reynolds announced the demise of Joe Camel.
The embattled ad figure and his brethren, bearing names like Buster, Max and Floyd, disappeared from all advertising. Joe Camel’s goofy grin, oversized nose and exaggerated depictions of masculine behaviour had helped Reynolds stem a decades-long sales slide for Camel by imbuing the brand with a hipper image.
The White House cheered the demise of Joe Camel, which by then appeared only in the United States. ”We must put tobacco ads like Joe Camel out of our children’s reach forever,” President Clinton said in a statement.
Bruce Reed, the President’s chief domestic policy adviser, was more succinct. ”Joe Camel is dead,” he said. ”He had it coming.”
A brief statement from Reynolds that disclosed Joe Camel would be extinguished did not mention a ban on cartoons as part of a landmark $368.5 billion settlement reached on June 20 by Reynolds and other tobacco marketers.
Here are some of the Joe Camel bookmatches from my collection, click on an image to enlarge it.
Because I have been playing the mandolin almost as long as I have been collecting matchbox labels, I have always been fascinated by representations of this wonderful instrument on labels.
The Mandolin is a small 8-stringed instrument in the Lute family, using four pairs of steel strings which are tuned at the same pitch as the violin. Two main types of mandolin exist :
the Neapolitan bowl-back mandolin, which originated in Italy in the 18th Century, usually used for playing classical music
the flat-back mandolin, like the one I play, which originated in the USA in the late 19th Century, usually used for playing folk musics (e.g. Bluegrass, Irish, Brazilian Choro)
Smaller than a guitar, the mandolin is part of a family of instruments including the mandola, mandocello and mandobass. In the early 20th Century mandolin orchestras became enormously popular, with dozens of people playing together in informal settings and concerts.
Matchbox labels depicting the mandolin can be found from many countries, though the ones I know all show the classical bowl-backed mandolin. Label designs were often copied because copyright laws were less rigorous in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
I have long collected picture postcards on various subjects and exhibited competitively in philatelic exhibitions where I have recently been appointed an international picture postcard judge. Coupled with my interest in phillumeny, it was not long before I discovered the existence of picture postcards illustrating match factories and other subjects allied to the match industry such as novelty postcards bearing an area on the card for the striking of non-safety matches.
Although difficult to procure, the speed of acquisition can be accelerated when one surfs the internet looking at various auction sites. This exhibit concentrates specifically on the match striking novelty postcard whose heyday was the first quarter of the twentieth century. It has taken over ten years to accumulate enough postcards for this display.
Further details can be found on the first page of the display, click on an image to enlarge it. Rare or scarce cards are shown with a flaming match symbol alongside.
I am pleased to exhibit this material on match tax stamps as it represents a connection between the hobbies that I am passionate about: phillumeny and philately.
Revenue stamp collecting, especially of the excise tax stamps, is one of the least known and studied fields of philately, which has traditionally focused on postage stamps. Regarding phillumeny, match tax stamps are included as the last on the list of the “match-related collectables” in the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Matches (Barry T. Sturman, K. L. Kosanke, B. J. Kosanke and Robert M. Winokur. 2020 Internet Edition), which defines them as “small paper stickers formerly attached to match boxes in some countries to indicate that the required tax had been levied”. They are not popular but they are part of both hobbies.
I am more attracted to labels with tax stamp attached than loose stamps, since they combine the colour, design and attractiveness of the label, with the official and sober appearance of the stamps, also because it denotes a sign of use and circulation, rather than dismiss it as a label made especially for collectors.
The purpose of this exhibition is to show a bit of the variety that exists within this field of collecting, specially the different types of stamps used to collect match taxes.
Many countries around the world saw the convenience of charging a small excise tax on a box of matches. Usually the amount of tax was set in accordance with the number of matches per box even differentiating if they were local or imported.
As with these Cuban and Italian boxes, double tax bands and stamps were used in order to reach the amount of the tax.
In England, although the stamp was printed ready for circulation, there was political debate that led to the Congress not approving the law in 1871, so the stamps are classified as “non emis”; a pity for the English treasury and us collectors.
Most of the stamps were attached to the box by the manufacturers themselves, who generally did so by a manual process. Being a cumbersome process, the most diverse methods were devised to collect the tax. The one that represented more security but that, due to its size, was more expensive, were the “around-the-package” tax bands called “banderoles”, which today are the most difficult to obtain, specially unbroken.
In other countries, like Canada, being more practical, the amount of the tax was printed on the label; and in the case of imported matches, a regular documentary revenue stamp was attached to the box.
In Mexico, in the matchbooks, the amount of the tax was hand stamped on the inner face or a small label was attached.
In my country, Costa Rica, back in 1947, due to the temporary shortage of tax bands, regular postage stamps were resealed with the “impuesto fosforos” overprint.
In the case of Brazil, tiny stamps were attached to the book matches.
There were also small tax bands that even when they did not surround the entire box, they adhered to one of their sides and broken when opened.
Finally, some countries like France opted to apply banderoles on packets.
There is much to investigate and classify in this particular area of philately-phillumeny and I hope this exhibition will stimulate that process.
When I was a teenager I lived in a very rural part of North East Hampshire. My father was a GP in the village. He had a patient, Mr Perriman, who was a Queen’s Messenger. His job was to take important documents from H.M. Government across the world to various capitals. On one occasion he was seen cycling home from the local railway station and questioned by a passer by “where have you come from Mr Perriman ?“ “Ulan Bator in Mongolia“ was the reply (he travelled light !)
This man began, at my father’s instigation, to bring me matchboxes from his travels. I don’t think I realised the immense privilege it was to receive these periodic packages from far corners of the world.
He was a particularly frequent traveller to Venezuela and that country is vastly overrepresented in my collection for that very reason.
Venezuela specialised in long sets : indigenous tribesmen, couples in formal dress, oil rigs, maps, and cars are sets which I have in my collection.
The packets fizzled out eventually as I got older and more preoccupied with exams and consequently less grateful. They had however really opened my eyes to unfamiliar parts of the world and contributed to a life long interest in other people’s cultures. The humble match box has a lot to account for.
Mr Perriman clearly specialised in South and Central America, Africa and certain parts of Asia. I’m sure he brought me some from Mongolia but I have been unable to locate them. The labels of central America were particularly colourful.
I had always had a fascination with Mexico even to the point of writing to the La Central match factory for labels to which I never received a reply. When I did eventually visit in 1979 and again in 2005 I was not in a position to go scouting for labels.
I have photographed these in situ in the albums from EHW of Sicilian Avenue, High Holborn, London (anybody remember it ?) I made repeated trips to this tiny shop in the arcade in my teens. Click on an image in the Gallery below to enlarge it.
Unfortunately I lost touch with Mr Perriman many years ago when I moved away from Hampshire, but the boxes which he kindly brought me back from his travels opened my eyes to a world beyond Scottish Bluebell and nurtured my life-long interest in Phillumeny.
Four labels from Chile
A label with its matching tax band from Costa Rica
Skillets, an ARTB and a Belgian label from Morocco
9 labels from Honduras
Labels with matching packet labels from Guatemala
Skillets from Columbia
A Mexican skillet from a series of famous paintings
In 1955 there was a joint military base of the American-Spanish army in Torrejón de Ardoz, a town near Madrid. For senior military officials, the American army rented or bought (I don’t know exactly which) a hotel that was located very close to the house where I lived – the Hotel Balboa.
I had to walk past this hotel every day on my way to the Institute where I was studying, and I started noticing and then collecting the matchboxes that the soldiers threw down on the ground when they had used all the matches. These boxes came from the supermarket inside the base which sold only American products.
This is how I started to acquire the wonderful series of “Circus Day”, “Homes of Great Americans”, “The Old West”, “American Folklore” and other examples from Diamond Match Company. Later, I naturally started collecting Spanish labels which became my specialism and passion, but always finding room for a few interesting items from other countries.
In 2018 I published “Los Fabricantes de Cerillas” a 2-volume illustrated book which describes the history of the Spanish Match Industry from 1834 to 1899 based on the archives of the Digital Newspaper Library of the National Library and the Historical Archive of the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office.
At the moment I am preparing a Catalogue of the Manufacturers of Spanish matchboxes, although given the complexity of the subject and the difficulty of finding information about these manufacturers I realise that the Catalogue may never see the light of day.