The word, derived from Greek phil- [loving] + Latin lumen- [light], was introduced by the British collector Marjorie S. Evans in 1943 (who later became president of the British Matchbox Label & Booklet Society, now renamed as the British Matchbox Label and Bookmatch Society). A person who engages in phillumeny is a phillumenist. These two forms have been adopted by many other languages, e.g., philuméniste, fillumenista, Filumenist and филуменист.
Collecting of matchbox labels emerged together with matches. In some collections it is possible to find labels from chemical matches, produced in 1810—1815—long before the modern matches arrived. Quite often people who went abroad brought back matchboxes as souvenirs from other countries. After World War II a lot of match factories worked in close contact with local phillumenists, issuing special non-advertising sets. The hobby became especially widespread from the 1960s through the 1980s. Widespread introduction of bulky (for collectors) cardboard matchboxes with less distinct images on them, much poorer quality of print and, also some social phenomena, made this hobby (like many others, not connected with commerce) much less engaged.
Use of the Internet, allowing enthusiasts scattered around the world to collaborate, helps a new generation of phillumenists break through, more than doubling the numbers by 2000. For example, in 1998 there were only 7 sites dedicated to phillumeny, yet in 2007, there were nearly 100 of them, and increasing rapidly possibly helped in part by the popular "matchbox art" created by Sven Christoffersen.
In Japan, Teiichi Yoshizawa was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's top phillumenist. In Portugal, Jose Manuel Pereira published a series of albums to catalog and display matchbox collections called "Phillalbum".
- Historical Phillumeny - Russian language website on the history of phillumeny.
- British Matchbox Label and Bookmatch Society
- Glossary of phillumeny
- The Home of Phillumeny
- Russian and Soviet matchlabels
- Matchbook Traveler - Lists restaurants that have souvenir matchbooks.
- Rathkamp Matchcover Society
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