The Unique Hobby Of Cheese-Label Collecting

From stamps to mugs, seashells to stickers, people love to collect stuff. The reasons can vary — today, we may collect simply as a fun hobby, while years ago, our ancestors may have collected objects as a means of survival and wealth (via Heritage Auctions). But one item that some people are now passionate about tracking down is cheese labels — specifically, the ones from wooden boxes of French Camembert, according to Atlas Obscura

A unique hobby like this deserves a unique name, and it turns out there is a specific word for cheese-collecting fanatics. The Oxford University Press defines a tyrosemiophile as "a person who collects the round, colorful labels affixed to wooden boxes of Camembert cheese," noting that these labels are no bigger than a beverage coaster. According to The Spruce Eats, Camembert is a soft, white French cheese originally from Normandy and very similar to brie, although brie is generally higher in fat. Camembert is commonly found on sandwiches and flatbreads or baked with or without pastry dough. If you had to pick a cheese to buy numerous boxes of (just for the label, of course), creamy French Camembert doesn't sound like a bad choice.

Camembert labels are mini works of art

So why are Camembert labels highly sought-after collectibles? It turns out that these tiny papers are true works of art. A collection of cheese labels from 1957 England features a Bambi-esque deer munching on tree leaves, a maid in front of a castle, and a Swiss chalet in the mountains, among others (via Design Observer). Each of these detailed, whimsical images makes you feel like you've stepped into the pages of a vintage storybook.

But while the artwork is playful, tyrosemiophiles are serious about their cheese label collections. Per Atlas Obscura, there's even an organization called Club Tyrosémiophile de France, through which collectors can attend annual conferences, trade labels with their peers, and hold membership cards featuring a cheese label. Cheese label collections are held in such high regard that a Duke University Library even purchased one from the '30s to the '50s; it contains about 400 labels from Denmark, Ireland, and Finland, among other countries (via Duke University Libraries).

In the grand scheme of things, though, that's actually a relatively small number. According to Laktos Collection, the title for the most cheese labels procured has been held by Ladislav Likler since 2009, whose collection boasts 253,393 labels from 125 countries. Considering there were about 300,000 different labels made in total, according to Atlas Obscura, that's an impressive feat.