Matchbox & match label collecting, also known as phillumeny, has been a hobby since pre Edwardian times.
Phillumeny as many will know is the name given to the hobby of collecting matchboxes, matchbox labels and related materials. Whilst the collecting of match related hardware and matchbooks or matchcovers is broadly part of the same hobby, each area of collecting has it’s own name..
What is Phillumeny?
Phillumeny is the hobby of collecting different match-related items: matchboxes, matchbox labels, matchbooks, matchcovers, matchsafes, etc.
The word was introduced by the British collector Marjorie S. Evans in 1943 (at the time – the president of The British Matchbox Label & Booklet Society). A person who engages in phillumeny is a phillumenist. These two forms have been adopted by many other languages, e.g., philuméniste, fillumenista, Filumenist and филуменист. For some time (from the mid 1940s into the 1950s) parallel to Phillumeny there was in use the term Phillumenism, which is now out of use..
Collecting of matchbox labels emerged together with matches. In some collections it is possible to find labels from chemical matches, produced in 1810—1815 – long before the modern matches arrived. Quite often people who went abroad brought back matchboxes as souvenirs from other countries. After World War II a lot of match factories worked in close contact with local phillumenists, issuing special non-advertising sets. The hobby became especially widespread from the 1960s through the 1980s.Widespread introduction of bulky (for collectors) cardboard matchboxes with less distinct images on them, much poorer quality of print and, also some social phenomena, made this hobby (like many others, not connected with commerce) much less engaged.Use of the Internet, allowing enthusiasts scattered around the world to cooperate, seems to have raised the level of interest again. For example, if in 1998 there were only 7 sites, more or less dedicated to phillumeny. In 2007 there were nearly 100 of them and the number is till growing.
I can only really speak for Belgian labels and boxes which can be bought for a few eurocent each or for very rare items at a hundred euro plus.
With some patience, it is not difficult to put an interesting collection together for a very modest sum, then perhaps slowly branching out to dearer items.
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.