In a place where numismatics and philatelists seem to dominate, a lot of people are constantly looking for new hobbies and new things to collect. The urge to be do something different and unique made Rohit Kashyap, a corporate trainer, take to phillumeny — the hobby of collecting matchboxes, holders and labels. Hailing from Jhansi, Rohit settled in Chennai four years ago.
When did he develop an interest in this hobby? “As a child, I wanted to develop a hobby and noticed that everyone collected coins and stamps. I wanted to be different and also the new hobby had to be economically viable. So, I chose this,” shares the phillumenist.
Recollecting how he used to scavenge the streets for matchboxes that were either thrown or dropped, he says his parents used to scold him almost every day. “When I was in Class 6, I used to pick match boxes from literally anywhere. My parents were worried then. But now, they collect matchboxes and gift it to me,” he laughs.
His real passion towards the hobby started before he graduated from college. “There was an exhibition where anyone could display their hobby or collection. At that time, I had around 5,000 matchboxes in my collection,” he recalls.
Not very sure about how successful he would be at the exhibition, he finally decided to showcase the collection. “I had the most number of visitors during the exhibition and even won the second prize. That was when I really got motivated and wanted to pursue this hobby seriously,” he explains.
With a mammoth collection of over 80,000 matchboxes, match books, match labels, and holders, Rohit says that he has match-related items from around 108 different countries in the world. “I have the rarest collection, starting from 1850s and some even dated before that,” he says.
Dipping into history, Rohit informs he had come across matchboxes that were imported from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Sweden during the British era. Owning matchboxes and match books that were issued during the wedding of royal couple Charles and Diana, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, Air Force One from the US and series of boxes from the American military regiments, his collection is diverse.
“We get information about the matchboxes that are in trend or valued through various phillumeny clubs around the world,” he says.
Shedding light on the scenario in India, he says that there are hardly any phillumenists in the country. “In other countries, there are active clubs for the hobby, while in India there are less than a dozen serious collectors of matchboxes and labels. Identifying the value of a matchbox through the label is something every collector should know. Old boxes dating back to few centuries are priced at less than a paisa now, but teach us a lot about history,” he explains, showing a label of an Indian matchbox with a Ravi Varma painting illustrated on it.
What does he want to achieve? “I want to set a new record with my collection and succeed the person from the UK who has a record in Guinness with over one million match labels,” he says.
Rohit’s collection includes movies, actors, social messages, Agni missiles, cheetah fight, free India and other theme inspired match boxes and brass holders.To view his collection, visit his FB page phillumenistt.