People have been using matches since 1827 and matchboxes have been around for over 170 years. This history may be one of the reasons that matchboxes became popular to philuminists, a term coined for matchbox collectors. Another aspect of matchboxes that got the interest of collectors is the different designs of these tiny boxes with a sliding drawer.
Based on the dissertation of Ben Jones in 2004 (for The University of Reading), there are only a few formal researches done regarding the beginnings and changes on matchbox designs. Matchbox labels started as just that — a simple design with the name of the manufacturer (mainly to assure the quality and safety of the matches). But through the years, matchbox labels evolved to be used in advertising and are considered as one of the precursors of modern marketing.
The first contemporary designs involved Art Nouveau, and the typography on matchbox and matchbooks designs developed from there. The layout of matchbox labels continued to develop and adapt to the people’s demand for more modern designs. Today, matchbox prints are also used as craft project inspirations:
Matchbox designs are also created for and used in promoting campaigns and fundraising activities to appeal to people.
Matchbox designs, both vintage and modern, indicate the history of matches as one of the widely used products of all time. The little artworks also tell stories of the origin of matchboxes and show diverse cultures of people who created them.