Here are some definitions of things related to the hobby of label collecting, and the history of printing and lithography, which I think most collectors would (and do) find useful.

*More information on all of these subjects is available in the Collector's Guide.


AGRILITHOGRAPHY - A word coined by Mike Finch of Sacramento, California, in the late 1970s. "Agri-" from agriculture, "lithography" from printing; the logical derivation thereof, referring to fruit and vegetable crate (case-end) labels. Some lithograph house employees claim this word has been around for a long time, but, where label collecting is concerned, Mike seems to have coined it.

AGRILITHOLIGIST - A person who studies the science of Agrilithography (Agrilithology).

ALOIS SENEFELDER - Inventor, father of and perfecter of "Lithography," or the art of chemical-printing from stone, in Germany(1796-1800).

ANTIQUE - In collector corners, this means an item is 100 years old or more. Anything short of this limit is referred to as a "collectible", " old-fashioned", not an antique. Colloquially speaking: Any old object prized for its rarity, excellence of style or craft; a relic of ancient times; anything fanciful and interestingly odd, regardless of its age. A fruit label has to pre-date 1894 to be an "antique" by this guide's standards. Thus, VERY FEW fruit labels are truly "antiques!"

ALUMINUM PLATE - A thin sheet of aluminum used in lithographic printing for some press plates.

ART-WORK - Any original hand-painted "sketch" created as an original artistic concept from which copies were manufactured in quantity. For any label to have changes in design (redesigned), an original art-work had to be made or revised.

AUTHENTIC - trustworthy, reliable, genuine, real: as, an authentic antique.

BEN DAY SCREEN - A process invented in 1879 by Benjamin Day, whereby a consistent linear pattern of grease "dots" (or stipple) can be evenly applied to a printing surface or stone, paper, metal or glass, in varying degrees of intensity, by general or localized pressure on the back of an inked Ben Day screen (film)bearing a relief pattern on one side.

BODY OF COLLECTIBLE MATERIAL - This phrase is applicable to all collectibles, but, for fruit and vegetable label collecting, means all fruit and vegetable labels known to exist.

BROGDEX - A Service Mark for a process which coats citrus fruit peels prior to packing with a decay retardant.

BRONZING - Often referred to as "gold-bronze" (or incorrectly, as "Gold leaf"). Lithographers used a fine metallic powder, made from bronze dust/powder (or aluminum, for a silver effect), which was applied in a machine called a "Bronzer" after all the other colors had been laid-down. The label received a sticky base of clear varnish in the appropriate areas, and the bronze was sifted, or "dusted", onto the surface where it adheres to the sticky areas. This gave titles, borders and art-work a gold, glistening effect, without the expense of real gold or other precious metals.

BUG - The lithographer's name and city address, date, and/or other information which appears in the upper and/or lower borders of a label. (i.e., "Litho in U.S.A." or "Schmidt Litho Co., S.F." or "Western Litho Co., Los Angeles, Cal 11-16")

BUNDLE - When labels were printed in the litho house, finished orders were separated into piles of 500,600,700,800 or 1,000, depending on the order (usually 1,000) copies. The order was quickly inspected ("fanned") for defective prints, and then wrapped in brown paper, or tied with string. The bundles were packed into cardboard boxes and shipped to the packing house for use.

BULK - Labels known to exist in numbers between 1,000 to 5,000 available copies.

CASE-END - Inside the walls of lithograph houses, and among their salesmen, a "case-end label" was any label for use on a fruit or vegetable crate or "case."

CHROMOLITHOGRAPHY - (chromo) - (chroma: Greek for color) - The technique of making multi-colored pictures, printed from a series of stone or zinc plates, the impression from each being in a different color.

COLOR SEPARATION - A photographic negative exposed through a filter, which records only one of the primary colors; the film being a gray tonal record of the intensity of the color it is reproducing.

"Common" or "Bulk"Labels -- Ones that there are more than 2,000 copies known to exist, even up to 100,000 (100 bundles) known of a few. Generally inexpensive and available from several dealers on-line and by mail order. These price at whatever the traffic will bear, or what is listed on the dealer's price lists. There are probably 1,000 different brands/images/labels currently available that are available in these numbers, so there is plenty of original material to go around!

CONSTANCY - a state of being unchanging, steady, uniform, consistent, uniform, regular. Referring to art-constancy, it is when an image is re-used by several packers or designs over time. The lettered information and title may change over years, but not the image.

"DIRT RARE" - Coined by Gordon McClelland for labels that 10 copies or fewer are known to exist. (Extremely Rare).

EPHEMERA - Anything of very short life or duration. Fruit labels have been used continuously for over 100 years, yet the nature of their use is short-lived.

EXTRAORDINARY FINDS (field) - 1 to 10 known of any brand in this class/field.

EXTREMELY RARE - "Dirt Rare" - (My OLD definition was... )5 to 10 copies known. Scarce, very infrequent, uncommon, exceptional, novel, extraordinary.

"Extremely rare" labels -- (My new definition is...) Are ones that there are fewer than 20 known copies known. In every type of label, whether, Washington apple labels, Florida citrus, California pears, Delta asparagus, Yuma melons..., there is a top-layer of material that is the cream. Extremely Rare labels from several regions, regularly gather $100 to $700. dollars at the far end. There are even a few ultra-rare, and possibly unique ones I have seen sell for $1,000. to $2,000 apiece (though these are definately the exceptions to the rule! But most of these never leave the high-end of the collector market, and usually end up in the collection of one of us "old timers" in the hobby... but, not always.

FACSIMILE - A copy made of an original label using modern copying technologies (i.e., Canon Laser copying, Xerox color copying, scanned computerized reproduction, photographic reproduction or other non-original print-reproductive medium. Copy, duplicate, imitation, impersonation, simulation, emulation.

FORGERY - An illegal, non-authentic reproduction, imitation or counterfeit of a label created with the intent to defraud. Non- genuine copy, fake, deception, counterfeit, bogus, phony.

LABELDOM - A word coined by Roy K. Powlan, an attorney and player piano collector who has an interest in labels, which humorously refers to the "kingdom" of label collecting.

LEGITIMATE - Conformity to a certain rule of standards; distinguished from others. Verifiable, authentic, genuine.

LIMESTONE - a rock consisting of mostly calcium carbonate, which when crystallized by heat and pressure becomes marble. In printing, limestone blocks were 2" to 5" thick, with a flat top and bottom, polished smooth and used to make plates for printing. Stones were quite heavy. A greasy impression would be made on the stone, the surrounding surface etched. The porous stone was then made moist, thereby, allowing printing from the waxy raised impression and not the damp, wet stone.

LITHOGRAPHY - the art or process of chemical-printing from a flat stone or metal plate by a method based on the repulsion between grease and water. The design is put on the stone surface with a greasy material, and then water and printing ink are successively applied; the greasy parts, which repel water, absorb the ink, but the wet parts do not.

LUG - a small wooden box or crate use to carry fruits and vegetables. A crate used to carry, haul produce to market.

MID-RANGE LABELS (field) - 10 to 1,000 known of any brand in this class/field.

OFFSET LITHOGRAPHY - In Direct Lithography, an image in reverse is printed onto the paper directly, creating a positive image. In Offset Lithography, a positive image is transferred to a rubber-covered cylinder (reversing the image), and then transferred to the paper leaving a positive image.

"PRETTY DARNED RARE" - (?) - 25 to 50 copies known only. One apple label collector called it this, but, I can't remember who it was. But, the definition is accurate.

PROCESS COLOR - A reproduction of color, made by means of photographic separations. Yellow, Red (magenta) and Cyan (blue- green) are the three process colors, which, when combined, can make black and various shades of thousands of colors, with a minimum of photography or plate work. Color copiers work on this principle.

"QUANTITY" - A "Quantity" (or number, amount, sum)of labels is best defined as 500 plus known to exist.

"RARE" labels -- Are ones there are fewer than 100 known. Generally, labels this rare, are highly coveted and often hoarded by a few sources and may be beautiful and highly prized pieces. Bonafide rare labels can bring prices of from $25. to $300. dollars or more each. In this price range it helps to do your homework before buying. Ask a reputable dealer about it. Do some checking -- ask me {:-{D

REPRODUCTION - Copy, duplicate, reprint. In this case, a legal re-printing of a label by its rightful, original owner. (*See: Forgeries vs. Reproductions in Collector's Guide)

SAMPLE - The name lithographers copies, examples, specimens of labels taken from the press-room at time of manufacture, and filed in the "sample-room" for future reference by artists, pressmen and customers. Any label from within a printing house.

SMALL QUANTITY - A "small quantity" is best defined as 500 or less, generally 200 to 500. "I found a small quantity of these....," means 200 to 500 or so.

SOAKER(S)- A label which was glued to a crate-head (box-end) and later removed from the wood for purposes of preservation. Such labels usually command no more then 30% of a fine, unused copy of the same label.

STIPPLE - A technique in which light and shades are produced or translated by irregularly spaced dots, for getting tones, by hand, on lithographic plates (stones).

STOCK LABEL - Pre-designed, readily available labels created by lithographers, for packers who could not afford a custom design, or just needed a few thousand copies. They often did this for fruit they did not want to ship under their regular brands. They would also use stocks as temporary replacements while their exhausted supplies were waiting to be replaced. Printers had many types and designs of stock labels to choose from.

"STREET LABEL" - Labels that there are over 5,000 known copies of. Also called Bulk.

"Uncommon" labels -- Would be ones that there are 100 to 2,000 (two bundles) known. These finds often get shared with only a handful of dealers and/or collectors, but are still readily available from dealers and/or certain collectors. Usually used as enticing traders, and for sale to the more dedicated collectors. This class makes up over half the "body of collectible material" currently available on the market. There are those who feel that 2,000 copies would be considered "common." But, today that isn't quite as applicable as it once was.

UNIQUE - The only one of its kind; sole; singular; "only one known" to exist. This definition refers only to quantity, and not a label's subjective art quality or subject matter. "Unique" -- There is only One, single known copy! That's it, one, singula, ein, uno.

WHOLESALE VARIETIES (field) - 1,000 or more known of any brand in this class/field. (as defined 1978 to 1999) Now it means, labels there are more than 3,000 to 4,000 of. Many labels exist in numbers of 10,000 to 100,000 fresh unused still freshly bundled-up piles somewhere. I know of over 500 labels that exist in these numbers.

(Page last updated July 2005) These definitions for the rarity scale are posted on my eBay page <ebay.html>