James Peter collects Match Strikers

James Peter match strikers 2

James Peter match strikers 2Sarah Ryder talks to James Peter of Nelson, New Zealand about his collection of vintage match strikers…

“I collect vintage match strikers which are objects that hold matches and have a rough surface to strike the matches on.  Early matches in New Zealand were mostly ‘wax vestas’ which were very unstable – they’d ignite easily with any kind of friction – so you needed somewhere safe to keep them.  You’ll sometimes see in old Western movies characters striking matches on the seat of their pants!

“Match strikers were reasonably common from the 1830s until about the 1930s.  They became redundant once safety matches replaced strike anywhere matches.  Nearly every china manufacturer made strikers of some kind and you’d see a lot of advertising ones in the pubs – on the bars and screwed to the walls.  Most households would have had one as well.  They were made from all kinds of materials – pottery, metal, wood, glass, in all different shapes and designs.

“I’ve been collecting match strikers for about 40 years and have at least 200.  There’s just something interesting about them.  They’re all different.  I also collect vesta cases (small, enclosed metal boxes with a striking surface somewhere on the outside) which the gentlemen wore on their watch chains.

“There wouldn’t be any more than 15 or 20 people who collect match strikers in New Zealand – although a lot of people collect advertising, so they’d probably have one or two in their collections.  My collection would be one of the largest in New Zealand.  There’s also huge interest overseas.

“I’ve bought most of mine from fairs, bottle shows and auctions in New Zealand and overseas.  They’re worth anywhere from $10 to several hundred dollars.  They’re hard to find now – the advertising ones especially have become very collectable.”

First published in Wildtomato 2012, text by Sarah Ryder, photography by Tim Cuff