"Labels on the Internet"

By Pat Jacobsen -- 6/10/99

The following is some information about labels on the Internet. This information will change and be updated. But for links to other sites, and things to beware of, <click here>


In 1997 the first few sites were launched on the Internet's World Wide Web, which focused to varying degrees on the fruit crate label hobby. Two years later, there are many sites selling labels, each one carrying different stocks of available labels, and often their own additional stocks of other labels, like cigar labels, seed packets -- the world of "agriculturally" related labels and advertising. Today, several dealers have made the move to the web, and put up a web site. There are about twenty the currently offer labels, and that number is growin. Some individual web sites built by fairly computer literate dealers (or their friends), are now branching into online sales, credit card ordering and "electronic commerce." They still sell in the traditional "snail-mail-order" business, but e-commerce allows buyers around the world to buy instantly, electronically on line, from (hopefully) grateful dealers eager and ready to ship your order to you.

Today there are at least 20 web sites which compete selling many of the same label stocks (this site among them). A few of the new breed of entrepenuerial dealers are putting up considerable listings. Many of these upstarts are realitevly new to collecting, compared to the dealers who have been around 25 years and are simply not online. About five sites offer the full gamat of labels to Net customers, along with decades of credibility in the collecting world before it went on-line.

In just the past two years, computers have come down in price, software has become incredibly available, and intuitive, making it possible for many more people to get onto the Net and build their own web sites. Browsers are free, plentiful, and information is (currently) cheap and available. And, currently about 10% of the active collectors of labels have email addresses, not to mention the thousand or so casual buyers out there, of the odd label, for decorating items.

There is no question, the Net and Web are the most intriguing and potentially earth-shattering modes of commerce and information exchange ever created! If left alone to mature on it's own, without the devices of government interventions and opportunistic telecommunications companies getting in the way, it will only get bigger, more powerful, more popular and interestingly profitable.


In the past, prior to the popularity of the Internet, there have been only annual or semi-annual collector's meetings or "swap meets" in Washington state, California, and in Florida, just for fruit label enthusiasts. Heretofore, label dealers mostly limited their activities to the mail-order type business, which it still strong today. Which meant their actual oppertunity to go out and meet people was limited to a few meetings per year, or through newspaper ads, word of mouth or the whims of their old customers' interest. Now, however, they can email their business immediatly with a few keystrokes. The Internet and Web have begun to transform label collecting as we knew it.

In the past three to five years, the cigar label collecting hobby has exploded and peaked due in part to the resurgance in interest in cigar smoking, which brought a lot of collectors on-line. Cigar labels (which are also agriculturally-based labelling) have changed a lot in the past few years, especially due to the efforts of two fellas in southern California. Many of these men actively market and sell cigar labels on-line.

On the fruit label side of the label hobby, about 250 collectors are now communicating with each other via the Net, or subscribing to newsletters on-line, or requesting information online.


One new site, which accentuates this trend, is the fledgling, but amazingly successful Ebay virtual auction hall, where about a dozen label dealers are interacting with, and selling to, the label buying public in a big way. Ebay has suddenly become a place where labels of different types, values, popularities and subjects have found a virtual marketplace, one which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Ebay has proven a very powerful medium for commerce, by acting as a extremely well thought out system of display and transaction, which has a very high degree of integrity. When it's stock went public a few months ago, the prices took a skyrocketing leap! Ebay has been great for label sales and public awareness.

One of the great things about the Ebay environment is the availability of individual pictures of what you are proposing to buy. On traditional lists, a written description had to suffice, or a simple photocopy of a photograph. But, the Web offers graphics capabilities which our browsers can turn into color pictures on our home-computer screens. Ebay takes more than full advantage of the Web's html graphics capabilities, and brings it to the collective eyes of Net commerce.


There may, however, prove to be a few pitfalls in how dealers use Ebay or collective auction systems like it. If all the dealers offer the same items which are commonly available, the market could get confusing for buyers and new collectors. The smarter dealers it seems are diversifying their offerings to more of what makes their particular stock (and web site) special, and letting other folks sell what they are not. That has helped lead to a sense of "identity" and individuallity on the web for each of these dealers and their sites -- which is, of course, what one wants on the Net to begin with, your own individual reputation, unique offerings and faithful customer base. Each dealer has something different to offer, and, each also carries the same basic stocks of commonly available labels as each other. Prices are fairly the same across the board.

But on the virtual auction block, actual prices realized can swing quite widely for the same item, several weeks or auctions apart. It seems more people who collect labels on-line are buying for topical reasons, and the majority of new buyers are not your "typical" old-style collector. They are decorating more than collecting seriously, and appreciating labels for their diverse topics, not necessarily their rarity.
An ugly rare label may be worth $1000 to a serious collector, because of the packer's name and location. But it doesn't look like much on-line, so nobody bids on it.
Or, a label there are 50,000 known copies of, sells for many times its"normal" retail value, because there is "a dog on it" so a dog-fancier pays $28.50 for a $4.00 label. This means that the largest number of labels that will be seen on-line in the near future, are the most commonly available ones, available to a wide range of dealers. But, in time, a few dealers will rise above this confusion, and will be offering items that may become more unique to their site or stock.



As I have been watching eBay for the past six months, I have noticed two things that seem worth warning buyers about. One is: Dealer A will offer a label for sale and it will sell for, let's say $14.00. The next week, one of Dealer A's competitors will offer the same label at $3.00. This is, of course, just a shot at undercutting your fellow dealer. There are about 25 people selling labels on eBay, some are hard working searchers of labels for their clients. Others sit back and wait for their competitors to do well, and then try to undercut his price. This is not only distasteful, but self-defeating as well. It just causes customers to trust label dealers LESS rather than more. Although, the real dealers will rise above the rest, it is still a cheap shot at both the Dealer A's of the world, and the overall customer base of eBay. Fellas, go get your own market niche, and quit trying to abuse to your own advantage the work of others.

The second trend I want to mention is dutch auctions. In a few cases, some labels exist in huge numbers from 5,000 to 25,000 leftover copies. Dutch auctions are one way to sell off a group of really COMMON and basically cheap labels, in a group, for a high price. The caveat here, is that such auctions rapidly flood the market (over-saturate) with a lot of the same cheap labels, and confuse buyers as to what is really a fair deal or just a bunch of cheap common labels in a group. My suggestion is that if you see labels at Dutch Auction, there are probably tons of them, and they are probably worth a dollar or two each at the most. I know of at least four bodies of material on the Pacific Coast alone, containing more than one-million original labels!! True story. In some cases, you could wallpaper a city block in the same label and have plenty left over.

My suggestion: Spend your hard earned money on items of interest and individual value. Cheap labels today will still be cheap labels tomorrow. Rare labels will be a real investment. I get calls constantly from folks asking "hey, Pat, what is this set of labels worth?" You can hear the excitement in their voices. I ask "when did you get them?" They say, "twenty years ago -- they must be worth a lot now, yes?!" But once they tell me the brand names, I find the labels have been common for twenty years and are not even worth what they paid for them. Other labels, not sold as common, are today worth a lot more!! So, just realize: If a price for a bunch of labels seems to good to be true, they are probably common. If I were me (and I am), I would invest in rarer, interesting, bona-fide items, not cheap bulk. As my Grandfather told me: "If you invest in a thing of quality, you will never bee disappointed." --


CAVEAT EMPTOR -- "MAY THE BUYER BEWARE"( or at least wary)

As with anything you invest your hard earned money in, be sure you understand what you are investing in. Today, all the dealers in labels, both on and off line, and good, decent, honest, dependable, scrupulous people. The question of authenticity often comes up, and the response should always be... "buy from a reputable dealer. Look at all the sites and decide who you want to buy from. Start slowly until you get to know the dealer or proprieter of the site. Treat Net commerce the same way you treat any commerce -- with deliberation. Ask other collectors. Look at each site and see if it's presentation seems professional and trustworthy. Email the dealer some questions and see if, and how, they respond. Shop around! Any dealer worth his salt, will be happy to communicate with you in hopes of cultivating your business. Fly by night, or limited interest dealers, will simply not have much to offer in the long run and will probably focus on other things to sell.


One suggestion about credit cards. There is a chance, small but real, that someone can get your credit card number and use it to your detrement. Here is an idea. Get another credit card with an absolute credit limit (set by you) that cannot exceed, say, $250.00, or $500.00, or whatever you would be willing to pay if you had to. Then, ONLY use that card for anything online. That way, if it gets abused, the bank will may very well absorb the loss, and if they don't, you are not in too deep anyway. But it is far better than loosing your card number with a $10,000. dollar limit. It also gives you the "low-risk, low cost" freedom to buy stuff online without much fear, just much enjoyment. E-commerce can be fun and safe, just use your head! And get to know the dealer you are trusting with your information. The bigger dealers have been in business a long time, and will certainly honor your privacy (as far as I know). If you have questions about a dealer, email the other dealers and ask about them. Investigate their site, before you invest your money. Credibility is the name of the game in the REAL business world, and in Cyberspace -- "believe me!" {:-{D

I have been buying and selling and trading in labels for over twenty years, and writing books and articles about label history, use, prices, collecting and so on. This site is intended as both a place to do business, and a place to disseminate information freely. In THE SAMPLE ROOM portion of this site, there are places where you can buy thousands of different labels -- more than any other dealer currently offers! I still take checks through the mail, because I don't have e-commerce just yet. Maybe next year.

This site is offered as a place of dependable information, fair prices on good items, and as a hub for any portion of the label hobby you want it to be. Labels are on line to stay, and people are buying them like crazy. My goal is to help you, or whomever asks, in any way I can, so you may have a greater appreciation for this remarkable art-form, and, to help make you more comfortable in doing business on line within the label collecting (and dealing) communitie(s). --

I have been involved in the Internet for many years, and have spent the past two-and-a-half years working with a web-site development company in Auburn California, called rejobi. I was a co-founder of the web site for independent musicians, and am the sole proprietor of this site So, if you have any questions about on-line aspects of the label hobby, please feel free to contact me, and I'll be happy to speak (or email) with you. Thanks! Pat Jacobsen -- 2/17/99

To visit the above-mentioned sites, click here:

<> <rejobi> <>

(Page last updated: 3/17/99)
Please feel free to email me with questions or comments! -- Pat <email me>