Bristol Match Makers Part 1:
Matchbox & match label collecting, also known as phillumeny, has been a hobby since pre Edwardian times.
Peter Campion writes:
From the age of twelve I collected labels from every country. Some years ago I decided to specialise in Great Britain only and all the foreign labels went. Then I began collecting only match labels from Gloucester, which is still my speciality, but eventually I had to revert back to Great Britain as I found items from Gloucester difficult to find - but now even the old GB labels can become difficult to find unless you have a lot of money to spare.
I also include in the collection items of hardware, ephemera connected to the match industry and 'Go to Beds,' which are match containers with a hole for inserting a match, ready to strike.
On the right you can see two examples from my collection. The top one is a Moreland Box of Ocean Lights first issued in 1873, and the bottom one depicts Captain Webb swimming the English Channel, issued c.1903.
Collecting:Some collectors save everything! Others may only collect bookmatches (called covers in USA) or just labels or boxes or match tins, postcards with a match theme, vesta boxes, hardware (normally match advertising items). Someone may for example collect labels with pictures of trains or perhaps the word Taxi might dictate the terms of the collection. The variations can be enormous.
Condition:Many old and some new labels have been cut and trimmed or are damaged. Some collectors only look for items in perfect condition, which can be fine in an ideal world. Perfect and rare items, however, tend to be expensive so I regard a part of a rare label as better than nothing until something better comes along.
Above is an early Moreland box of 1870's. Because of it's age the condition is ignored and has little effect on the value. I wish I owned it!
Storing/Mounting:Then the question is on how to store the collection? Albums are the answer for labels and small drawers for boxes. I store mine alphabetically by manufacturer which is more difficult than just alphabetically by label title. Many labels do not have the manufacturer's name, or any means of identification, and style of the label or the printing can sometimes be the only way to guess at the factory.
Never trim or cut labels. Save an old box in whole condition. Do not paste labels down. Use peel-able stamp hinges or better still purchase Prinz stamp sheets for good labels. These have a protective cellophane type cover and are acid free. They come in different sizes and will keep labels etc safe for the future and at about 37p a page are a good investment.
Value:I can only really speak for GB labels and boxes which can be bought for a few pence each or for very rare items at a hundred pounds plus.
With some patience, it is not difficult to put an interesting GB collection together for a very modest sum, then perhaps slowly branching out to dearer items.
A good way to acquire items is to join a club or society like The West & Midlands Phillumenists, originating in 1955, which meets three times a year where labels etc can be bought, sold and swapped together with an auction. There is a magazine quarterly and a society library all for £5 per annum. For further details, please contact me. There is a July and September Fair at Winchcombe, near Cheltenham and a may meeting in Derby. The September meeting also has an exhibition, and all meetings hold an auction.