Monday, July 26, 2010


A phillumenist...a person who follows simple terms, a matchbox label collector. No, don't look at me with a new respectful eye...even I didn't know the term, but then, for most words/phrases/madness round the world  that I don't know about, my favourite phrase is 'google hai na'.:) So, I googled 'match box label collectors are called' and came to know of the term.
Let me admit- I haven't collected a match box label since ages...not since I was in school, rather. Maybe because the matchbox has become somewhat obsolete, in these days of 'instant lighters' of the electronic type, which followed on the heels of gas lighters. One click and voila, the cooking gas is on.  Of course, I( as do most people who do pooja with agarbattis) still need a matchbox to light the agarbattis.(Incense sticks) for the pooja- hate to light those with a lighter that gives off a flame that could singe the eyebrows, right?
I was reminded of this hobby when I was in Baroda, in June. And, when I asked Dad, he'd preserved all the labels from those days. I scanned a few of them, like these:

So, let's see now. as I said,the hobby began back when I was in school. Matchboxes used to be a lot of fun in those days. Dad had also brought back a lot of labels in 'mint'(Brand new) condition from his Russia trip then, and those were really what made me get interested in the hobby. ('Every other person collects stamps and coins', I thought- so, I needed to do something different.:))

I'd go around the shops in our area, checking out their matchboxes- some of our regular shopkeepers would give me a matchbox just like that, others would sell a single box, instead of insisting on buying a whole pack of 10. As the hobby picked up, I'd keep my eyes on the streets, as well, looking for any new labels. We'd gone to Delhi in the winter months of November/Dec, I recall(Obviously- school hols used to be during Diwali only...haha..)..and, I'd take my lil(Well, lil at that time) brother with me around Sadhna Enclave(where my cousins still stay), and do a lot of prospecting around for oil(ROFL- I deliberately said that to see if you're awake...the word is 'labels' not 'oil') and we would get a tidy collection every other day.

I also wrote to the addresses mentioned on the label factories, like  'Muthuramalingam Matchworks, Sattur', the address mentioned on one of the labels in the pics above. I'd write' Dear Sir, I'm a collector of matchbox labels(I don't think the word phillumeny was invented then, was it?). I've collected some labels from your esteemed factory also, but the problem is that they get torn when trying to remove them from the box(which was true- since even the tedious process of putting a label with it's glue and cardboard below in water, would not succeed many times). I'd be delighted if you could send me some spare labels from your factory'.....and, guess what? Some of them actually replied, some just sent dozens of labels across, one guy actually wrote on the back of the label that he was very glad to receive my letter and some labels were enclosed and also blessed me.:) I'm sure that label's also still with Dad, as is the one with the person's head which looks the same in both directions, i.e. by tilting the label 180 degrees. Will look for that and put it up here when I'm in Baroda in Aug end.

Aren't these great? Wouldn't you love to begin a matchbox label collection, now?
Some trivia I found via google:
Phillumenists collect matchbox labels, printed matchbox outers, matchboxes, matchbook covers, matchbooks, and other forms of match packaging as well as match strikers, match holders, matchbox holders and matchbook holders. 

In fact, here's a complete website dedicated to phillumeny, if you're interested. I'll surely go through it. Maybe I'll restart the hobby when I'm back in's something different to do, na?
Speaking of matchboxes, do you know how to make a match box gun that shoots teeny square cardboard bullets? Will explain that next time.:)Cheerio and have a greeaat day!!:)


abhilasha said...

hey!!! thats really cute.. i mean after a really long time i read somethg too sweet... though i never really focussed on match boxes.. but ya i remember wen i used to go to 'gaon' during my summer vacations.. i used to sit near the 'chullah' and used to learn how to lit a match stick... and used to finish the entire 50 matchsticks in one go..

KayEm said...

Enjoyed your post on matchbox labels. Some of them actually look familiar.

austere said...

Well, as long as you don't go around lighting up things...

Some of those labels are artistic.And historic.. what would three annas buy today?

Ms.R. said...

Hey this is awesome!!!! How well you pursued your hobby! and those people were so nice to send back stuff. :D

~ Lopa said...

ohh wow, i used to collect labels too, but not to collect like you did, but to use to play cards with them in summer holidays :P

AmitL said...

Hi,Abhilasha..tku..:)And,yes,I loved the hobby-hope to pick up on it,soon.:)a big smile at how you used up so many matchsticks.
Hi,Kayem..tku for the comment.Are you a collector,too?:)
Hi,Austy-haha-never lit up a match,when doing the collection..and,yes-I'm sure they'd have good value...someday.:)But,hobby's should not be sold,I feel.
Hi,Ms. R-I totally agree...those people were really nice to reply..:)
Hi,Lopa-now,there's another play cards.:)Fun,na?

Manoj Sonalkar said...

Hello Amit,

It was fun reading your post on matchbox labels. I am myself a collector of matchboxes and labels having a decent collection of over 18000 related items. It is always a pleasure to meet new collectors sharing the same hobby. Keep posting...cheers , Manoj

Anonymous said...

Hi Amit,

Your well written post brought back so many memories. I pulled out my label collection and dusted it carefully. It is now housed in a new album. I have spent many beautiful hours with it. Thanks again for bringing joy to those you don't even know. May God bless you.


Arnon Reisman said...
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Arnon Reisman said...