Large collection of matchbox labels and skillet collectables

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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.

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