Memories in a box

Unique Hobbies

Memories in  a box

There are merely a few in this world who would see a matchbox as an object of beauty.

By virtue of its very nature of being a product used to light something, the matchbox’s utility factor far precedes its potential design and beauty. But the latter is exactly what urged Amit Roy to start collecting them back in 1997.

“I started this when I was around 17. It all began during a holiday trip that the family took. My mother used to collect matchboxes and keep them in her bag. So when I asked her why she does it when she doesn’t even smoke, she said that it was something different. Since then, I make sure I collect a matchbox wherever I’ve stayed or dined and the collection’s grown from there,” says Amit, who co-founded ThinkTanc, a solutions provider to the hospitality sector. 

“It’s unique because it’s not something anyone  and everyone can collect  because it means travelling to different places. At the same time, anyone can collect matchboxes if they put their mind to it. The ones I collect aren’t those you can buy off the shelf - they are associated to a brand and are representative of it.”

According to him, the most appealing idea was the fact that no one else was doing it. “As a child, I did the usual things like collecting various coins and currencies, stamps, etc. But it was always brought by someone else and I didn’t want to ask them anymore. People have offered to get me some back from their travels but I always politely decline!

 I’ve never met anyone else who collects it,” he says. While the collection reflects all the places he has travelled to, it’s more about a personal connection, notes Amit.

 “This isn’t a common collection and there’s no monetary value to it. So tomorrow, I can’t suddenly decide to sell it for a certain value. But there’s a sentimental value to each one – I know which one I picked up where and what memories I have associated with it,” he shares. 

Of the 200 odd matchboxes he owns, Amit states the best ones have been from USA, Australia and South East Asia. He recalls some stories behind special pieces from the collection.

“There’s one from Hotel Poonja International, a small lodge in Mangalore that I visited while I was doing my first-year degree. There’s another one from Banthai Beach resort in Phuket which I kept from a holiday my brother and I took together when I was 20. Then there’s the Showgirls Bar 20, a strip club some friends and I visited in Australia. I was the only one sitting and playing with a matchbox instead of looking at the performance. So the performer got annoyed and came and asked what I was doing. I eventually went home with her autographed costume!” he laughs.

The matchboxes come in various colours, shapes and sizes, some with blue, green, red or yellow heads while some are longer and used to light cigars. But what he lacks in the collection are matchsticks that can be lit on striking any surface. “I’ve never managed to get my hands on those olden day matchsticks that can be used anywhere. Unfortunately, those are banned now and can only be found in places like hobby stores.”

Amit adds that the hobby also helps him appreciate design. “Being from the hospitality industry, it makes sense to understand and visualise how much a brand looks into details. For instance, Biere Club is the only standalone restaurant I’ve seen with its own matchbox. I’ve not seen that anywhere else in Bangalore but it’s very easy and smart branding.” 

Unlike other collections, he informs that it isn’t too hard to maintain matchboxes. “The important thing is to keep it in an airtight box because with our lovely Bangalore weather, it could get soggy. I just keep it in a box in my cupboard and pull it out every now and then to look at each one and reminisce. The collection is growing slowly and steadily and I’ll probably take it to the grave!” wraps up Amit.

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