Sweet Deals In Fruit Labels

Fruit crate label
Delicious produce is not the only thing of value to come from old fruit crates. According to The Saturday Early Show's Collectibles Expert Tony Hyman, the label could be worth far more than the crate's original contents.

From 1875 to 1950, hundreds of millions of wooden crates of fruits and vegetables were shipped by rail from California and 25 other states, and every one of them had a label.

Collectors and decorators have fallen in love with those labels.

Find out about other collectibles described by The Saturday Early Show's Tony Hyman in the Collectibles Archive or visit Tony Hyman's Web site.

If you think you have a collectible worth a lot of cash, send an email to with "What's It Worth?" in the subject line. Or write to "What's It Worth?" The Saturday Early Show, 514 West 57th St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10019.

Like cigar labels, crate labels came into use as commercial printing and advertising were being developed. Crate labels aren't embossed like many cigar labels, but they are nearly six times the size and offer a wonderful boldness of graphics that is hard to beat.

The bulk of labels are selling for less than $20 so it's still an affordable collectible. But there are some very expensive ones, too. Labels can go for as high as $1,000 for a highly graphic rarity.

It's the graphic image that in large measure determines the value, but the product advertised, the state, even the printer or grower can be a factor.

Most labels you'll see were found abandoned at the end of a season at the packing house. If you find an old crate, be careful, since the rarest of labels can be found still attached. Trying to get it off without expert advice could be a thousand-dollar mistake.

For more information, including how to remove labels from boxes, contact Pat Jacobsen, long time collector, dealer, and author of Jacobsen's Millennium Guide to Fruit Crate Labels. Jacobson can be reached by email at To learn more about fruit crate labels and how to handle them visit his Web site, Fruit Crate