Crate Label Art Still Collectible

Crate Label Art Still Collectible

By Laurie Lips0512007_1.jpg

In the middle of the 19th century, the California citrus industry started another gold rush of sorts; it spread through the orchards like wildfire. Individual growers, packers and shippers grew at an unprecedented rate. As competition grew, it spawned a new form of art. Special inks and designs were employed as growers tried to distinguish their fruit over their competitors. Distinctive names and brilliantly colored labels were commissioned and produced to attach to the ends of the wooden shipping crates. Artists such as Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling and others designed and produced exquisite art using rich colors and expensive rare inks.0512007_2.jpg

Labels included the signs of the times, artfully-depicted fashion fads, animals, history, the Olympics, war, animals, birds, and of course, fruit. When the seasons of fruit were less than delicious, the crate may have had some humor involved in the label to signify its less tasteful fare; labels might show sad dogs, or names of animals such as Mutt or Mongrel.

By the end of the 1950s, the elimination of these artistic labels was caused by the introduction of cardboard packaging, where the names of the company could be printed directly onto the boxes at a substantial savings for the growers. According to [], over 94 percent of the labels were liquidated and burned. Of those still in existence, some of these original labels have become highly collectible. The original pre-Sunkist era labels have increased steadily in value. Many examples of these old labels can be found in antique stores. History marches on, but the glamour and color of art never gets too ripe to throw away.0512007_3.jpg