Most of us, when we pick up a matchbox, are only concerned with what lies inside it. Gautam Hemmady is different. He is more concerned with the theme of the matchbox label or the level of design on it. For him, it’s all about judging the matchbox by its cover.
The exhibition will be called ‘Matchbox labels and stories they tell’.
Gautam Hemmady, explains, “Collecting matchboxes is actually quite popular among the young in India but only some pursue it seriously. The hobby is not supported by dealers nor is there information freely available and collectors have to make it on their own. It’s only by chance that you meet anybody else who wants to collect or has the same level of interest. Things are a little different now, with improved communications.”
Although he has no clear idea about the number of matchboxes he currently owns, he roughly sets the estimate at about 25,000. It might seem like a large amount, but Hemmady insists it’s “not a very large number for collectors”. His collection, he adds, “includes matchboxes, matchbox labels, packet labels, packet wrappers, plastic bags, carton labels, promotional material, catalogues, published articles as well as lists prepared by collectors.”
His collection is mostly related to India. All his collection has been sourced from local dealers as well as several exhibitions. Being a very small scale industry there is no record keeping factor in this field, most of the dates are mere speculations from the dealers. The oldest label he has is from 1890.
He says, “I currently only collect matchboxes and related material but I have always collected something or the other. I am curious by nature and in order to satisfy my curiosity, I have ended up collecting a wide variety of things–pocket watch movements, clocks, old tools and instruments, glass bottles, pottery, stamps and even wood.”