Warner’s Safe Cure: Christmas Wishes from Down Under

Although I am a couple of weeks late, I recently stumbled upon this full-page Christmas Warner’s Safe Cure ad from The Sydney Mail dated December 20, 1890. I really like the ad because it is an excellent example of the classic Warner’s Safe Cure pitch. That is, lots of claims about the health benefits of Safe Cure supported by a variety of testimonials from happy patrons. Because of the size of the ad, I had to break it into three parts:

The Sydney Mail - Dec 20 1890 - A Christmastide Greeting 1

In 1890, the British enterprise, H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd. was distributing products not only to London, but also to Melbourne and Dundein. The ad contains the classic mix of sweeping health claims along with testimonials to the effectiveness of Warner’s Safe Remedies.

The Sydney Mail - Dec 20 1890 - A Christmastide Greeting 3

The final portion of the ad gives us a snapshot of the products that H. H. Warner & Co. Ltd were marketing in 1890. Those products included “Safe” Cure, “Safe” Diabetes Cure, “Safe” Rheumatic Cure, “Safe” Nervine (in two sizes), “Safe” Asthma Cure, “Safe” Pills, “Safe” Plasters and Tippecanoe.

The Sydney Mail - Dec 20 1890 - A Christmastide Greeting 2

This is particularly interesting because I had always wondered if Tippecanoe had been marketed outside the United States. I had never seen any evidence that it was sold from London or Frankfurt. It had been suggested to me that it was sold from the Melbourne Office, but I had never seen confirmation of that fact. This advertisement provides that confirmation and also includes the Asthma Cure and Safe Plasters among the products available to Australasians. It also confirms the location of the Melbourne Office at 147 Little Lonsdale Street in 1890.

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I find that Warner’s Safe Remedies newspaper advertising can provide some very interesting clues about the scope and extent of the available products. My initial reading of this ad was that it was merely an expression of seasonal greetings. A closer look, however, revealed some more important details from down under.

Warner’s Safe Diabetes Cure

Warner's Safe Diabetes Cure, 1906-1908. From americanhistory.si.edu.

While this is not a perfect Warner’s Safe Diabetes Cure label, it’s still nice. One of the things I really love about Warner’s labels is that they really exude Victorian detail. This label was obviously post-1906, given the reference to the Pure Food & Drug Act. As yet, the word “CURE” is still used. Just goes to show that the transition from Cure to Remedy was not instantaneous. 

Are Pressburgs Still Rare?

Green Pressburg with Label 9

The short answer is an absolute “Yes”!! The reason that I post this question is that it has been asked of me on several occasions, most recently at the Baltimore Antique Bottle Show earlier this month. However, as with assessments of rarity among antique bottles, the answer comes with caveats. Indeed, not all Warner’s Pressburgs are created equal. In an absolute sense, even the most common Pressburg, the amber pint Safe Cure is considered rare among Warner’s collectors, but just not as rare as it used to be.

Pressburg Diabetes Cure 3

The rarity of Pressburg Safe Cures turns on a number of different factors; however, chief among them is the fact that the Pressburg Office was open only between 1888 and 1890. As Warner’s foreign offices go, that was extremely short. Although I have never seen an production estimates for the Pressburg Office, its limited existence means fewer bottles of Safe Cure went into distribution and in a smaller market. Another factor is that until the late 1980’s, the former Pressburg was located squarely behind the “iron curtain,” with exceedingly limited access by Western collectors. Since then, more Pressburg Safe Cures have surfaced and, I expect, will continue to surface.

BlueGreenPressburg3

To my knowledge, Pressburg Safe Cures have appeared in three color variations: amber, green and aqua. The green variant tends toward the blue/green end of the spectrum as opposed to the more common olive greens we see in the Frankfurt and London Safe Cures. Of these three color variants, amber is the most common, followed by green and then by the most rare aqua. At this point, there are two important caveats. First, my comments are limited to the “Safe Cure” only. The Safe Diabetes Cure (“Diabetic Cure” on the label) is amber, but is in a league of its own. Second, labelled Pressburgs, regardless of color, are extremely rare. A label in good condition is a premium and all bets are off.

Warner's Safe Cure Pressburg with labels

Pressburg Safe Cure 4

As a rule, Warner’s Pressburgs are not strongly embossed. The reason for that is unknown. It does, however, suggest that the Pressburg bottles were not made in the United States, London or Frankfurt and shipped to their ultimate destination. I have also been asked about valuing Pressburgs. I always hesitate to value bottles, because as soon as you do it, the information is obsolete. With that in mind, several years ago amber Pressburg Safe Cures were bringing $900-1000 a piece. Recently, I have seen them in the $350 -400 range. The green and aqua variants have held their value. Greens tend to bring $1200-1500 and aquas, if you can find them around $2500+.

Green Pressburg with Label 7 Green Pressburg with Label 8

Finally, so far only the Safe Cure and Safe Diabetes Cure variants from Pressburg have surfaced. If you know of a Pressburg Nervine or Pressburg Rheumatic Cure, please let me know. Examples of either would peg the rarity meter. And so, I hope I have shed some light on the current market for Warner’s from Pressburg. If not, shoot me a comment.

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.

WSCurePressburgLabels

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: Beautiful Blue/Green Pressburg

 

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This year has certainly been interesting from the standpoint of rare Warner’s surfacing for auction and sale.  Most recently that list includes a beautiful blue/green Pressburg Safe Cure pictured above, which fetched $2325 on eBay this past weekend.  When you talk about Warner’s Safe Cures, anything from the Pressburg Office (1888-1890) is considered rare. That is because that office was only open for two years and likely produced and sold fewer cures than any other office.

Within the category of Pressburgs, there is also a range of rare to most rare. For example, an amber Pressburg Safe Cure is perhaps the least rare of the Pressburg Safe Cures produced, while the Pressburg Diabetes Cure is perhaps the most rare. When the focus shifts to color, it has been my experience that Pressburg Safe Cures appear in three colors: amber, olive green and aqua. Of those three, aqua is, by far, the rarest. The seller of this Pressburg Safe Cure billed it as “NEVER SEEN BEFORE TYPE AND COLOUR.” The color was described as “apple green,” while the type included the embossing of “two crossed hammers” depicted in the photo below.

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Without seeing the bottle in person and in natural light, color is difficult to judge. The photos that accompanied the eBay listing looked more like a deep aqua to me.  Even if that were true, it would still place this bottle among the rarest Pressburgs. I believe I have seen less than five examples of aqua Pressburgs in my years of collecting Warner’s. I am unable to offer any explanation of the crossed hammers, other than it was the mark of the manufacturer.  I don’t think that mark changes the “type,” which is still a Pressurg Safe Cure. The embossing on Pressburg Safe Cures is never very strong, but this example shows pretty good embossing strength. Having said all of that, the successful bidder on this bottle added a real gem to his or her collection.  Moreover, the seller haled from a town in Hungary just south of Budapest, so this bottle actually surfaced from its original market, where it has resided for almost 125 years. Here are a few more pictures from the seller:

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Warner’s Safe Cure: Pressburg Diabetes Cure

Pressburg Diabetes Cure 5 Pressburg Diabetes Cure 1  Pressburg Diabetes Cure 3

Warner’s Safe Cures come and go on eBay. On any given day, there are dozens of them available for bid. Most of them are the ubiquitous Kidney & Liver Cure. But, every once in a while, a gem surfaces that catches everyone’s attention. Recently, one such gem emerged in the form of a Pressburg Diabetes Cure.

The Pressburg Diabetes Cure is, perhaps, the rarest Warner’s cure from the shortest existing foreign office in the Safe Cure empire. It is included in my “A List” of rare Warner’s Safe Cures and, prior to this sale, only one other was known to exist. The Pressburg Office existed for only two years from 1888 to 1890. When I wrote about the Pressburg Office back in July, 2008, I knew of only one example of the Pressburg Diabetes Cure. A labelled example, which was pictured. It now appears there are two.

The latest example was unlabelled and was listed by a seller from Poland. By the time the auction was over, the sale price had risen to an astounding $8735 driven by 49 bidders. I have to say that the final price suprised me. I knew the bottle would garner a nice price, but I had not envisioned a sales price approaching $9K. While I would love to say that it will be gracing my Warner’s collection, alas it is not so. As I have said many times, rare Warner’s Safe Cures do show up on eBay and other auction sites, but, unless you are watching, they too may come and go. One thing is for certain, they generate lots of excitement among collectors.

The photographs accompanying this post are courtesy of the seller.

Warner’s Safe Cure: Fantastic Frankfurt!

Warner's Safe Diabetes Cure Frankfurt a/main Pint

Please pardon my terrible alliteration. I was trying for a suitable sequel to Marvelous Melbourne. I recently featured a beautiful green half pint Melbourne Nervine that had been unearthed in Leipsig, Germany.  Well, history has repeated itself and yet another rare Warner’s Safe Cure has surfaced from Leipsig. This time, it was a pint Frankfurt Diabetes Cure a/main. This is another terrific Safe Cure that does not surface very often and it brought just under $2000 when it sold on eBay. Alas, some of us will have to settle for pictures rather than the actual bottle. Enjoy!

Warner's Safe Diabetes Cure Frankfurt a/main