I am fortunate in that I cannot remember not being a collector of matchboxes and their labels. The fascination was probably started by having a pipe smoking father who consumed more matches than tobacco. I do remember being very regularly scolded by my mother for picking up used boxes in the street. For many years the collection was modest and it was when I was in my 20’s I discovered the British Matchbox Label and Booklet Society, met other collectors, realised the breadth of the hobby and learned to avoid the 2 classic tools of many uninformed collectors – scissors and the glue pot.
My particular interests have changed and developed over the 50 plus years of collecting with the prime focus now on boxes and labels from Norway and Sweden. Along the collecting route many smaller topics such as labels imported into the UK marked Foreign Made, Bryant and May promotional skillet boxes with a/c 23 and 26, match related ephemera, books about the hobby and match making along with many other aspects of the hobby have particularly taken my attention.
I have gained great value from meeting with other collectors and learnt through sharing knowledge and seeing what and how others collect and present their collections.
I started collecting matchboxes and labels in 1966. My aunt and uncle owned a tobacconist shop in Cornwall and I ‘worked’ there for them marking and delivering newspapers. This is where I first saw the Old Cornish Mine series of labels which fascinated me, and started a life-long interest in phillumeny.
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.
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 :
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 www.old-Cornish-mines.co.uk
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 www.inserts.org.uk
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; under publication 3rd edition
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) (texts in Portuguese)
I also have some phillumenistic works in development :
Catalogue of Matchboxes – XIX century – Portuguese factories manufacture and Italian matchboxes imported by Portugal
Phillumeny records – Matchbox labels produced abroad to Portuguese speaking territories
Phillumeny records – Postcards in Phillumeny
Phillumeny records – Portuguese Phillumeny Exhibitions
Portuguese matchbox holders (grips and slides) records
I started collecting matchcovers in England in 1948, with the purchase, for the princely sum of 15 shillings, of a collection made in India pre-1914, mainly of Swedish and Austrian labels. I was attracted by the outstanding artwork of many of the labels, and I still have all these labels in my collection, plus over 100,000 more.
I am fortunate that my work took me all over the world, and I now live in Melbourne, Australia.
I have been a member of the BML&BS for almost 70 years, and the Australian Society for over 40. I have published the history of the Australian match industry, “Lighting Up Australia,” and two catalogues of former imports into Australia.
My book “Average Contents 60” is available from the Society Bookshop.
I also edited the Australian club magazine, the Observer, for 10 years, and am a frequent contributor to this and the British Match Label News.
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.
My collecting of bookmatches started, possibly, like other collectors did by collecting bookmatches that were free in various businesses. These were often found on the edges of ashtrays on bars, hotel reception desks and the like. I collected this way for many years until I read an article in the press that a meeting of phillumenists was being held in Croydon, Surrey. This was in 1995.
I attended the meeting and was amazed at the vast array and quantity of bookmatches, labels, skillets and ARTB’s. It was from this meeting that I decided to specialise in collecting only Bryant & May from the various factories/countries. I also made the decision to only collect complete, unstruck bookmatches.
I have been a member of the Society since then and President of the BML&BS since 2011.
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.
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.
COMMITTEE SERVICE, ETC.
Secretary AMCCS (SA) 1984-1986
President AMCCS (SA) 1987 to present
Observer Editor May 1990 to February 1999
Life Membership AMCCS 2002
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
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.
PUBLICATIONS & ARTICLES
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
The Cheapies (Imports to Australia)
Numerous articles in the Observer, Match Label News & IMSA News
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.
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.
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.