The Importance of Labels – Part 2

In most cases, labels add to the aesthetic value of bottles as well as to their monetary value. Labels give you a sense of seeing the product as it might have appeared to a potential buyer in the 19th Century. This is particularly true of Warner’s Safe Remedies, because they provide such great detail about the ailments the product was designed to alleviate.

Warner's Safe Cure Label

In the case of Warner’s Safe Kidney and Liver Cure, that included “Stone in Kidney & Bladder, Inflammation of Kidneys, Bladder & Liver, Catarrh of Bladder, Jaundice, Dropsy, Malaria, Female Weakness and Pain in Back”.  The Warner label is also colorful because it includes the trademark iron safe along with the names of all of the Warner’s Safe Remedies available for purchase.

The value of a label also turns on its condition. The above label is in virtually mint condition, which really adds to the character of the bottle.  However, like bottles, labels are not always mint. Often, portions of the label are missing or may have content stains that make the label unreadable.  If a label is less than 50%, I don’t think it adds much, if anything, to the value of the bottle. Indeed, I have heard some dealers say they would rather remove a bad label than keep it on the bottle. The same is probably true for labels in poor condition.

Warner's Animal Labeled

Although I am a bit biased, I would say that Warner’s Safe Remedies labels are a bit more interesting than your average patent medicine label. Perhaps it’s the wonderful graphic of the iron safe or the detail detailed claims of the maladies it was designed to cure. Whatever it is, well-preserved Warner labels add a unique flavor to the bottle.

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Labelled Warner's Safe Cure Pint from Frankfurt in Emerald Green

Needless to say, labels on rare Warner’s are even more valuable. Above are examples of labels on a green Animal Cure, on a Pressburg Safe Cure and Safe Diabetes Cure and a rare apple green Frankfurt Safe Cure. Labels on these rare bottles are extremely hard to come by, especially in good condition. In short, the value of labels on Warner’s Safe Remedies defy any hard and fast rules. It is safe to say, however, that the better the condition and the more complete the label, the greater the value it adds to the bottle.

Dan Cowman Collection  Dan Cowman Collection

Indeed, there are some Warner’s collections, like Dan Cowman’s, Terry McMurray’s or Mike and Kathie Craig’s, that are built on labelled Warner’s and other labelled cures. While no one can quibble with some of the wonderful colors in which Safe Cures appear, shelves full of labelled Safe Cures make an amazing impression. One can only imagine walking into a drug store in the 1880’s and seeing boxes and labelled bottles of Safe Cure lining the shelves.

While the bulk of my Warner’s collection consists of unlabeled variants, I really treasure those nice labelled examples that I have. Labels simply add to the excitement and appeal of the bottle and…..in most cases…..the value.

 

Warner’s Safe Cure on Sale!

In researching Warner’s Safe Cure and the advertising that invariably is connected with it, I occasionally come across period ads that make me chuckle. In this 1896 ad for Lundblades in the The Great Bend Weekly Tribune from Great Bend, Kansas (about 120 miles northwest of Wichita), you could pick up a bottle of Warner’s Safe Cure for the low, low price of 95 cents, rather than the MSRP of $1.25. Not a bad deal – 24% off. But, consider for a moment, the time value of money. $1.25 in 1896 would be the equivalent of about $36 in 2015 dollars. So, in today’s dollars, you would have saved about $9.00 on a bottle. Perhaps Lundblades claim of “Drugs – Cheaper Than Ever Known” is not so far-fetched.

Lundblades Great Bargains - The Great Bend Weekly Tribune - 7 Feb 1896

The Importance of Labels – Part 1

One of the perennial questions that comes up among bottle collectors, especially those of us who collect cures and remedies is “does a label on a bottle increase its value?” The answer to that is most often “yes,” but there are some qualifications to that answer. It is not an absolute truth. It’s important to understand why labels are valuable. In my mind, there are two primary reasons that labels are important. First, they provide valuable information about the bottle and the product it contained. Second, they add to the aesthetic quality of the bottle.

H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd. w/ Nervine Label

From an informational standpoint, a label can make an enormous difference. This is particularly true where the bottle is unembossed and, but for the label, its contents would be lost to history. This is also true where, in some cases, the manufacturer may have used a generic bottle to contain different products. Let me give you two examples in the context of Warner’s Safe Remedies. Early Melbourne cures were likely manufactured in Rochester or London and shipped to Melbourne for resale. This is likely, because glass manufacturing in that British colony was not well-developed in the late-19th Century. Consequently, early Melbourne cures have the familiar embossed “Safe” and identity of contents, such as “Safe Cure,” “Diabetes Cure,” or “Nervine.” Later Melbourne bottles were manufactured there and bore the generic embossing “H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd.”/Melbourne”.  Absent a label, the actual contents of the bottle would be unknown. Undoubtedly, it was cheaper for the Safe Remedies Co. to produce a single bottle and vary the label. The photograph above shows an H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd. bottle with a Nervine label and box.

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Another good example are the “Safe Remedies Co.” bottles from Rochester. These bottles appeared well after Warner had lost the company to bankruptcy and its operation was in the hands of others. Like the later Melbourne bottles, the “Safe Remedies Co.” bottles were generic. They appeared in three colors: amber, clear and aqua. However, absent a label, the contents of a particular bottle would be a mystery.  The above photographs show the Safe Remedies Co. variant with the Safe Compound label. The Safe Remedies Co. bottles held not only Safe Compound, but the Kidney & Liver Remedy, Acute Rheumatic Remedy, Diabetes Remedy and Nervine among others. Below is a blotter from the early 1900’s showing the Safe Remedies product line.

Warner's Safe Remedies Blotter01032015

 

On occasion, labels can also give us additional information on the where the product was actually marketed. Generally speaking, this is not a problem with Safe Remedies, because Warner took great pains to make sure his foreign markets were featured on his bottles. This was particularly true for this 3-CIty cures that were sold in Toronto, but were embossed with Toronto, Rochester and London and his 4-City cures distributed from Dundein, New Zealand that were embossed Melbourne, Rochester, Toronto and Rochester.

There are, however, a couple exceptions to this rule that I am aware of (and perhaps others). One of these exceptions is Paris. The occasional Safe Cure advertisement listed an office in Paris, but no bottles embossed “Paris” have surfaced. Indeed, but for a London Safe Cure with a French label, there would be no evidence that Warner marketed his cures to the French.

Warner's Safe Cure with French Label

The other, and more recent, example of Safe Cures without an embossed place of origin is the so-called “No City” Safe Cure. Examples of this variant first surfaced about a year ago. They appear to be blank at the base of the bottle where a city would normally be embossed. Although I was and remain a bit skeptical about them, they might have been designed to serve a similar purpose as the H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd. bottles. Specifically, the allow the company to label them for a particular destination city. However, that is pure speculation on my part.

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The fact remains that labels can add considerable value to Warner’s Safe Remedies from an information standpoint. Next, I will address labels as an enhancement of aesthetics.

Safe Pills Abroad

When I first wrote about Warner’s Safe Pills over six years ago, I had assumed that the marketing of Safe Pills was limited to the United States from the Rochester Office. Indeed, Safe Pills were one of Warner’s original line of products along with his Safe Kidney & Liver Cure, Safe Bitters, Safe Nervine and Safe Diabetes Cure. Turns out, I was wrong. 

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In addition to his original Safe Pills, Warner also marketed his Cathartic Pills and later his Log Cabin Liver Pills. Of the three, the Cathartic Pills seem to be the hardest to find. Indeed, the pills are less common because, unlike the embossed bottled Safe Cure products, the pills were packaged in an unembossed vial with a paper wrapper.  All of the Safe Pills seem to have been a purgative designed to relieve constipation.

Warner's Safe Pills

WSCatharticPills1 Warner’s foreign offices clearly marketed his products in the pint and half pint bottles, which included his Safe Cure as well as Nervine, Diabetes Cure and Rheumatic Cure, until fairly recently, I had not seen evidence that the Safe Pills were sold abroad. It is now clear that his Safe Pills were sold abroad in London and Frankfurt. One would expect that they might also have been available in Melbourne and Toronto, but I have yet to see bottles to prove that. 

Warner's Safe Pills London (2015)

Frankfurt Safe Pills 1 Frankfurt Safe Pills 4

As I have said many times, every time I think I have a complete handle on what Warner sold and where he sold it, I am surprised to find something new. If you have run across Safe Pills from foreign offices other than London and Frankfurt, please let me know and send pictures. Sometimes it’s fun being wrong.

A Few of My Own Warner’s -Part 1

 

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I have been collecting Warner’s Safe Cures for close to 40 years. For most of that time, my collection has reposed in boxes, except for the occasional show display like the 2001 Warner’s Exhibit at the Rochester Show. A couple years ago, my wife bought me a wonderful china cabinet to display my bottles.  Well, old habits die hard and the china cabinet gathered dust, while my Warner’s continued their residency in my attic. My wife finally said, “If you don’t put something in that cabinet, I will.” She never bluffs.

So, I have gradually begun to display some of my favorite Warner’s. These pictures represent a small sample of the collection. Above are a rare pair of “Acute Rheumatic Compound” Remedies in amber and clear. These remedies appeared on the Warner’s Safe Remedies Co. bottles. You can also see a Warner’s Asthma Cure tin, large and small Log Cabin Extract boxes (that contain the bottles), two bricks of Log Cabin Liver Pills, a small Safe Yeast container and a clear Kidney & Liver Remedy bottle. 

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Above are three nice labelled H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd. bottles from Melbourne with full labels, contents and boxes. These are later Melbourne bottles. Like the Warner’s Safe Remedies Co. bottles, the contents were defined by the label. In this case, there are two Safe Cures and one Nervine.

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Here are three more fully labelled Warner’s: a Safe Kidney & Liver Remedy in amber, a 6oz. Safe Remedies Co. in clear with a Nervine label and a Safe Cure.

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This photo shows a Safe Tonic Bitters, a 12.5 oz. Warner’s “No Safe” Remedies Co. in amber with label, contents and box, a Safe Remedies Co. in aqua with a Safe Rheumatic Remedy label, a 6 oz. Warner’s “No Safe” Remedies Co. in amber with full label and a Compound: A Diuretic label, a half pint clear Safe Remedy, a sample Safe Cure with label and shipping container and a sample Safe Remedy.

The pictures are not terrific, but at least some of these great Warner’s are no longer boxed in the attic. More to come…..