Mark Wickens

Collector of olive oil labels and fruit wrappers

Collectionneur d'étiquettes d'huile d'olive et de papiers d'emballage de fruits (papiers d'agrumes)

Collezionista di etichette di olio di oliva e incarti per frutta


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Since at least the mid 1880s, fruit growers (and packers) in no fewer than 65 countries and colonies have used printed fruit wrappers. Collectors estimate the number of fruit wrapper designs since the beginning at 300,000 to 500,000, and the number continues to grow.

As collectibles, fruit wrappers do not have a particularly large following, but Pablo Picasso collected fruit wrappers, which must say something about their artistic quality. Many of these designs are beautiful, captivating or intensely interesting and resemble little works of art, especially those that bear titles, which serve as brand names, such as Ali Baba, Beauty Goddess, The Cathedral, Eagle, First Love, The Flower, Fountain of Health, The Golden Castle, The Harem, Hercules, King Lemon, The Ladybug, The Laughing Orange, The Lioness, The Monastery, The Monk, My Little Niece, The Partridge, The Resurrection, Three Daughters, The Twins, Two Peacocks, Two Roosters and The Royal Cats (some of these are translations).

As this list seems to indicate, virtually everything is fair game for fruit wrapper designs: fruit, of course, but also cars, ships, airplanes, bicycles, trains, pyramids, churches, mosques, palaces, manors, villas, towers, barns, gods and female deities, angels, Victory ladies, farm workers, peasants, kings, queens, princes, squires, aristocrats, clowns, little boys and little girls, babies, sailors, generals, mammals, birds, fish, mermaids, flowers, coats of arms… The list seems endless. Furthermore, there are countless combinations of design elements, e.g. a clown riding a bicycle. Each year brings a new crop of designs, and there are always plenty of surprises.

Of course, what is curious about most of these designs is that they have nothing to do with fruit or agriculture. But what is even more intriguing is that growers and packers in a given country will use designs that have nothing to do with their country or the country of destination. For example, one wrapper from Argentina depicting a bagpiper was used around pears exported to Canada and various European countries, and a Swedish apple wrapper from the late 1960s or early 1970s depicts the head of an Amerindian chief, yet this wrapper was used for the domestic market.

I have scanned a few of my wrappers and included the images in this site. Some of the wrappers are larger than my scanner’s bed, with the result that they have been truncated a bit at the top or bottom or along the sides. Fruit wrappers vary considerably in size, but many measure approximately 20 x 25 cm (ca. 7½ x 9½ inches) or 24 x 24 cm (ca. 10 x 10 inches).

These countless thousands of designs, many of them with four or more colors, can provide hours of enjoyment.