Our eyes lit up when we received this stunning array of matchbooks from Michael Burroughs this week. We’re always keen on discovering a new field of collecting so today’s specialist topic is…phillumeny!
A hobby which has existed for over a century, phillumeny is the practice of collecting match-related items, such as matchboxes, matchbooks, and matchbox labels. The word comes from the Greek “philos” (meaning “lover of”) and “lumen” (meaning “light”). The British Matchbox Label and Bookmatch Society is an admirable non-profit which produces a magazine, holds auctions and regular meetings.
The matchbooks were just another way in which all sorts of enterprises advertised themselves: banks, fast food chains (as with the early McDonalds example here), airlines, theatres, restaurants… the variety is immense. Some collectors won’t countenance anything which is less than mint so it’s always best to preserve them in as near perfect condition as possible – just like most collectables.
Among the more valuable are those issued to special forces in World War II. These would form part of an escape kit and would always light no matter how damp they were. Attracting particular interest at present are any examples from Hong Kong before it was taken over by China.