Matchbox labels

Acouple of days ago I read an article about Li Weiqin from China who has been collecting matchbox labels since he was 9 years old. He currently owns more than 800,000 different kinds of matchbox labels from 140 countries. Li intends to share his collection with the public. In cooperation with the Ling'nan Art Publishing House, it will be the country's first Special Matchbox Exhibition, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Republic founded in 1949. I was blown away by his collection and decided to make an issue about matchbox label on Less Than 100g.

Phillumeny is the hobby of collecting different match-related items: matchboxes, matchbox labels, etc. The word, derived from phil- [loving] + Latin lumen- [light], was introduced by the British collector Marjorie S. Evans in 1943 (at that time 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 collaborate, helps a new generation of phillumenists break through, more than doubling the numbers by 2000. For example, in 1998 there were only 7 sites dedicated to phillumeny, yet in 2007, there were nearly 100 of them, and increasing rapidly. In Japan, Teiichi Yoshizawa was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's top phillumenist. In Portugal, Jose Manuel Pereira published a series of albums to catalog and display matchbox collections called "Phillalbum".