Large collection of matchbox labels and skillet collectables
My name is Steven Smith
My interest in matchboxes started as a 7 year old. I lived in a seaside town and my friend and I would walk
daily along the seafront and quayside of the busy port to collect matchboxes that were discarded by the visiting
holidaymakers and sailors; they of course brought with them matchboxes from different regions and Countries to
that of my own. My collection was extended when my friend's interest waned and I was able to integrate his
matchbox and label collection into my own. Over the years the numbers of matchboxes increased; not only was
I acquiring matchboxes myself, I was also assisted by family and friends picking up matchboxes on their travels
or through normal use but it was not until my own family had grown up that I was able to dedicate more time to
this growing obsession.
I came to the decision that I wanted to enlarge my collection of matchboxes so I decided to place an advert in
the newspapers to see if people had matchbox collections they wanted to sell. I viewed and bought the collections
from people who replied to me and from these people I also found out about the British Matchbox Label and Booklet
Society. This is when I became a serious collector of matchbox labels.
I started off buying bags of 1000 plus matchboxes that had to be sorted. Some people sort by themes i.e. 'Threes',
animals, sports, pubs etc but the majority of serious collectors sort by country and either manufacturer or
alphabetical order. I chose to sort into the countries that produced the matchbox labels. I removed the labels
from the matchboxes by soaking them off and then mounting them in albums. I came up with an idea that I thought
was a good one; to mount the matchbox labels into self-adhesive photo albums, this turned out to be a very bad
mistake as I discovered the glue used on the albums ruins the matchbox labels. Accordingly I had to take all
the labels out of the albums and find a new way of storing them. The answer I came up with was to mount them
on paper with stamp hinges and place them in clear plastic pockets.
Removing matchbox labels is surprisingly easy; place the wood or cardboard matchbox in water and leave to soak.
Often the labels will just float off but if they don't they just need to be gently peeled off and allowed to dry
by either placing them on towels or paper kitchen roll. The matchbox labels then need to be ironed flat and
pressed in a flower press or a heavy book. Glazed matchbox labels, when soaked in water lose their glaze but
when ironed, if you cover the top side with a piece of tin foil the glaze will be brought back.
After a few years of very serious collecting I was in a very fortunate position to be able to buy one of the
best collections of matchboxes in the world. After four years I am still trying to integrate my matchbox
collection into this one. Many of my labels are now stored in fireproof safes, not only because of the value
but if anything did ever happen to them they are irreplaceable. In future years I am hopeful of maybe setting
up a matchbox museum so that other people can get the benefit of viewing a large part of history that is forgotten
and dying out.
My collection is forever growing, added to through the acquisition of other people's collections if for
instance they no longer have the interest in collecting or perhaps the space taken up by their matchbox
collection is needed for another purpose, through Society auctions and now with the computer generation
through Internet auctions, through word of mouth and not forgetting of course going down to the local shop
to buy a box of matches.