Match holders or pyrogènes

No one in Belgium uses the term ‘matchboxes’: we speak of ‘pyrogènes’. Since the opening of the National Tobacco Museum in 1987, the aim has been to also collect objects that make fire, preserve fire and transmit fire. Match holders play an important role in this.

From the 1830s, when the match was born, large and small objects were made to hold matches and to light them with. These match holders come in countless (sometimes bizarre) shapes and were made from a wide variety of materials. One constant though: a rough or ribbed striking surface to light the match. No doubt you are familiar with them: the simple match holders made of thick porcelain for household use or the more commercial variants bearing advertising texts, which adorned inn tables at the time.

Passionate collector

Doctor Jaap Udo Postma (b. 1934) from Zeist in the Netherlands began to study the phenomenon of match holders years ago: he collected documentation, consulted private collectors and over the years acquired an impressive collection of these objects. He even wrote a book on Dutch match holders in the period 1840-1940.

Postma wanted to transfer his entire collection and looked for a museum to safely house it. In the Netherlands, the two museums where such objects were collected and displayed (the Douwe Egberts collection in Groningen and the Kamper Tabaksmuseum) have been discontinued in recent years and consequently he ended up at the Wervik museum. Postma’s collection may well be called unique: half of it consists of pocket matchsticks with an emphasis on Dutch provenance, but there are also substantial contributions to the collection from several other European countries.

‘Actually, it is amazing that so little knowledge has survived of a very frequently used, very common household object like this after a relatively short time of a hundred years.’ (J.U. Postma)


Wervik town council accepted the transfer of the Postma collection to the National Tobacco Museum on 26 June 2012. The value of the collection is estimated at 45,000 euros. The associated registration, information and documentation was also included in the transfer. The pyrogènes collection was transferred to Wervik in autumn 2012.

On display at the museum

A wide selection from this collection will be on display in our temporary exhibition The Tobacco Museum’s Tresoor until 15 November 2017.