matchbook indian matchbox labels
Oh man, do I need to get myself back to India again (if anyone at the tourist board is reading…).

If like me you lust after the aesthetic of Indian design – all that colour, Bollywood movies and posters – and vintage packaging, it’s probably time you discovered a wonderful book I found on my morning ramble around Instagram, dedicated entirely to the art of Indian matchbox labels. Straightforwardly named  Matchbook: Indian Matchbox Labels, it’s so good, in fact, I’m going to call it the Ellie & Co., Inc. ‘book of the week’.

matchbook art of indian matchbox labels

There are over 1000 labels in author Shahid Datawala’s collection which started the day he spotted New Ship matches sold alongside obvious imitators – New Shape and New Skip – in his local Panwallah (tobacco shop) in Delhi. Over the next few months he gathered at least 10 variations, dreaming of the ultimate… Yep, you guessed it: New Sh*t, which he eventually found lying on the pavement on a walk down the street in Delhi one day!

matchbook labels

“For the next few years, I visited hundreds of Panwallahs in Delhi, and in every city and small town I travelled to, looking for the popular matchbox brands. Every time I walked down the street, my eyes would be casting around for old matchboxes – outside railway stations, offices, restaurants and tea stalls. A large part of my collection – now over a thousand labels – comes from findings on the street.”

Curious, funny and visually striking, these labels come in so many designs and ‘fakes’ are an accepted part of the matchbox world. I could flick through this book for hours, staring at every little detail, but here are a few favourites:

Buy Matchbook: Indian Matchbox Labels, here.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing with us Els. Favourite was 'Soda Chavi'. Makes me want to dig out my old cigarette packet and milk bottle collection….

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