Restoring Rarity: A Collector’s Perspective

Throughout our extensive experience in acquiring and selling label collections, we have encountered a diverse array of damaged labels. Adept artisans, specialized in preserving ephemera, have meticulously restored certain labels. Conversely, some have undergone repair by previous owners or enthusiasts whose identities often remain anonymous.

It is essential to recognize that many of the damaged labels we acquire from various collections remain in their original state, unrepaired. These labels are presented to our customers in conditions ranging from Near Mint to As-Is, with the classification dependent on the extent of damage. A label classified as Mint signifies it is in 100% condition with minor printing errors and handling exceptions, while an As-Is label has sustained 51% or more damage, and all other grades fall between these two extremes. We strive to provide accurate descriptions, but labels categorized as Good to As-Is have experienced significant wear and tear, revealing their storied past.

One compelling reason to offer labels in these conditions is the rarity of certain items. In some cases, only a few damaged labels have survived, and collectors often keep the exceptionally rare ones hidden away in their private collections, making them seldom available for sale or public display. I decided to create this page to shed light on the value of discovering a rare label in a damaged state. Such labels are highly sought after by collectors as they serve as placeholders or ‘spacers’ until the possibility of acquiring a better-conditioned version arises. If you have the means, consider seeking a restoration artist to enhance its condition further.

Here, we present three striking examples of exceptionally rare labels. Collectors have invested in the restoration of two of these gems, while the fate of the third damaged label remains a decision for its new owner. These instances are merely a glimpse into the rarity of such labels, which rarely surface in the market for sale. 

STORK (O) #1 – $1,575.00

The eBay auction featured above showcases an exceedingly rare version of the STORK orange label, labeled as version #1. In my over two decades of selling labels, this is the first time I’ve come across such an offering, and I’m quite intrigued! While I’ve had the privilege of acquiring some of the other eleven purported STORK (O) versions, this particular one has just now eluded me.

Is it worth the asking price of $1,575.00? In my perspective, absolutely – if my budget allowed for it I would purchase it. The worth of an item like this extends beyond its rarity and condition; it hinges on the individual’s personal connection and appreciation. Being a retired commercial artist and having fond childhood memories growing up in Topanga, CA, this label holds a special place in my heart, both as a work of commercial art and as a representation of California citrus.

Whether or not this label would hold the same value of $1,575.00 for you is a different matter entirely and depends on your own personal appreciation for such collectibles. Nevertheless, one fact remains certain: it is an exceptionally rare California citrus label that has undergone restoration and possesses significant collectible worth.

Now, let’s delve into the details provided by the seller on the auction page.

Historic & Paper Condition Details

What we can learn about this label and its time in circulation from the information the seller provides:

In vintage advertising, the Stork Brand orange crate label is a testament to the unique and striking imagery used in early 20th-century marketing. Dating back to the pre-1910 era, this ultra-rare label is a captivating piece of advertising history that offers a glimpse into the Naturalism period, which spanned from 1885 to 1920.

During the Naturalism period, countless California orange crate labels featured birds and animals, as they lent themselves well to label design with their vibrant colors and easily recognizable forms. Birds, in particular, added a dynamic element to these designs. However, most labels depicted birds in a naturalistic manner. A few remarkable exceptions, like the Stork Brand label, diverged from the norm with its flat image and bold colors.

Crafted through the stone lithograph technique, this label showcases an artistic style known as Art Nouveau. It presents a stork gracefully standing by a meandering stream adorned with lily pads, grasses, a serene forest, and distant faded purple mountains. Characterized by its sharp edges, intricate curved lines, and vivid, flat colors, Art Nouveau profoundly impacted advertising art and early 20th-century design.

This vintage label is not a reproduction; it’s the genuine article that has undergone extensive professional paper repairs courtesy of Poster Mountain in Northridge, CA. It is mounted on very thin cardboard that ensures its enduring attractiveness.

Suppose you’re curious about the historical significance of this label. You’ll find it featured on page 50 of the “Little Orange Book,” also known as “Brands of Oranges and Lemons Controlled by the Southern California Fruit Exchange,” from February 1901. Moreover, it is prominent in the definitive collectors’ guidebook, “California Orange Box Labels,” by Gordon T. McClelland and Jay T. Last, where it graces page 22.

The image presented in this eBay listing is a high-quality, accurate color scan of the actual label available for purchase. This particular label is identified as the Stork Brand Label version 1 of 12, with the printer’s name remaining unknown. It hails from the Claremont Heights Association, Claremont, Los Angeles County, CA, and is affiliated with the Claremont Citrus Union. Its vintage status and extensive professional paper repairs and mounting render it a rare and desirable collectible measuring 10″ x 11″ in dimensions.

The Stork Brand vintage orange crate label is not merely an item for collectors but a piece of art and history that transcends its time, offering a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era’s aesthetics and advertising techniques.

Next, we will look at another restored California orange label, the ALHAMBRA BRAND.

ALHAMBRA BRAND (O) #1 – $700.00

About the Design

Nestled in the heart of Andalusia, Spain, the Alhambra is a magnificent palace and fortress complex, renowned as a jewel of Islamic architecture and an enduring testament to the region’s rich history. Serving as one of the most iconic landmarks of the Islamic world, it seamlessly melds Islamic grandeur with Spanish Renaissance aesthetics. The journey of the Alhambra began in 1238 under the rule of Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar, the first Nasrid emir and founder of the Emirate of Granada—the final Muslim stronghold in Al-Andalus. Erected atop the Sabika Hill, an extension of the Sierra Nevada, this architectural marvel superseded earlier fortresses and became an indelible part of Spain’s heritage.

In the realm of vintage treasures, the Alhambra Brand orange crate label from the 1890s stands as a testament to this historic masterpiece. Rendered through the intricate stone lithograph process, this label paints a vivid picture of the Alhambra in medieval times. It captures a detachment of mounted and armored soldiers descending Sabika Hill, framed by the majestic Sierra Nevada range in the distance.

This Label’s Condition

This vintage label is not a reproduction; it is an authentic piece of history. While it has undergone substantial professional repairs to its right half, skillfully executed by Poster Mountain in Northridge, CA, its allure remains undiminished.

For those intrigued by the historical context of this label, it can be found on page 72 of the “Little Orange Book,” also known as “Brands of Oranges and Lemons Controlled by the Southern California Fruit Exchange,” dating back to February 1901.

The image showcased in this eBay listing is a high-quality, true-color scan of the very label available for acquisition. Identified as the Alhambra Brand Label version 1 of 2, it was printed by the Los Angeles Lithographic Company in Los Angeles, CA. The oranges bearing this label were grown and packed by the Alhambra Orange Growers’ Association, situated in Alhambra, Los Angeles County, CA. With its vintage charm, substantial professional repairs, and dimensions measuring 10″ x 11″, this label embodies the epitome of an ultra-rare collectible.

The Alhambra Brand vintage orange crate label is more than a collector’s item; it is a window into history and an artistic homage to an architectural masterpiece. This label encapsulates the magic of the Alhambra, allowing enthusiasts to own a piece of Spanish heritage that transcends time and place.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the rare California orange label, ORANGE BLOSSOM BRAND, in its original, unrestored state.

ORANGE BLOSSOM BRAND (O) #4 – $475.00

About the Design

Orange Blossom Brand, a vintage gem dating back to the early 1890s to 1900s, boasts an exquisite stone lithograph design. This orange crate label showcases a captivating close-up of oranges and lemons, still adorned with blossoms while hanging from their trees. Set against a breathtaking Southern California backdrop, the label portrays an expansive orange grove with rolling foothills and majestic snow-capped mountains gracing the distant horizon. While citrus orchard scenes were a prevalent motif on labels during this era, what sets this label apart is its unique depiction of both oranges and lemons – an exceptionally rare pairing that adds to its allure.

This Label’s Condition

This label is authentically vintage, not a reproduction, and it remains in its original unrestored condition. It does exhibit some signs of wear, including a 1-inch tear at the bottom, minor folds, paper loss along the edges, and tape repairs on two corners. If you desire the label to be restored to perfection after purchase, the seller highly recommends the professional services offered by Poster Mountain in Northridge, CA. They specialize in addressing damage like this and consistently deliver exceptional results.

The image featured in this eBay listing accurately reflects the label’s colors and details, providing an authentic representation of the item available for sale.

This particular label is the Orange Blossom Brand Label, identified as version 4 out of a series of 9. It was printed by the Mutual Label & Lithographic Company in San Francisco, CA, and was associated with the A. Gregory Packing House is located in Redlands, San Bernardino County, CA. Dating back to approximately the 1890s to early 1900s, this label is rated as rare in terms of scarcity. Its dimensions measure 10 inches by 11 inches, and its condition, as previously mentioned, includes a 1-inch tear at the bottom, minor folds, paper loss along the edges, and tape repairs on two corners, remaining in its unrestored state. Please refer to the image above for a visual depiction of its condition.

In Conclusion

I trust that you have found this article featuring three exquisite and highly sought-after labels to be a source of enjoyment. It is worth noting that the two labels that underwent restoration were once categorized as being in Good to As-Is condition, but discerning individuals recognized their potential to be returned to their collectible glory. As for the third label, the ORANGE BLOSSOM BRAND, it stands as another promising candidate for restoration, holding the promise of renewed collectible value.

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