Antique Seed Packets
Antique seed packets are wonderful little works of art for decorating, and interesting colorful items for collecting. There is a collector base for antique seed packets, though it is not large. Of the antique seed packets available from warehouse finds, two predominate companies for older packets standout: Burt's seed packets and Card Seed Company. More recent packets include Lone Star Seed Company. However, it is very difficult to find antique seed packets from popular companies like Burpee or Ferry Seed. There are some smaller finds of a variety of companies, but they don’t match the quantity found of the above three.
When collecting antique seed packets, you will often find the same exact image is used on different company's packets. A few large lithograph companies did their business by printing packets with just the image of the flower or vegetable, later printing the company name as packets were ordered.
Burt's seed packets are probably the most sought after of the antique seed packets that are available since they are over 100 years old, from the 1910s. Word from seed-packet-collecting-communities say that the company had a very large leftover inventory and decided to sell its packets sometime in the 1960s. Until then, the packets had sat in the boxes they came in from the lithograph company. They ran an ad in the Antique Trader and collectors, decorators and dealers seized the lot.
Burt's seed packets were found in four sizes. You'll also find some very early stock seed packets, without a company name, which were printed by Genesee Valley and probably turned up in the Burt's seed packets find. Here’s a small sample of Burt’s seed packets.
The Card Seed Company packets turned up sometime in the 1970s. The story that the collector community tells is that the company went out of business in the 1920s and all the inventory were sealed up in one of its buildings. Old packets, store displays and posters weren’t discovered until the building was opened 50 years later.
Card Seed Co. packets can be found in a variety of styles. The most popular one is the Card Seed Co. vegetable over a black triangle, with row crops in background and a black border, dating from the 1920s. A couple flower packets are seen from that period, but these are rarer. Card Seed Co. used Genesee Valley Litho Co. to print these packets as well.
Of the earlier Card Seed Co. packets, there is a primitively printed off-white packet and a couple of smaller flower packets with a similar design. There is also a series of Card Seed Co. packets from the 1900s with nice color and background. These were printed by Stecher Litho Co. and Dunston of Dunkirk. These images show Card Seed Co. antique seed packets.
The majority of seed packets you will find from the 1930s to the 1950s were printed by Schmidt Litho. Note that Everitt’s Seed Store and Lone Star Seed Co. use basically the same vegetable vignette which was updated for the more recent Lone Star packet. The Everitt’sGourds packet was most likely produced in the late 1930s, while the Lone Star packet was produced during the late 1950s. The 20-year age difference is very apparent in these two designs.
Each packet has a number at the bottom, and the highest we have found is over 2900 so we assume there were at least 2900 different flower and vegetable images used. Schmidt eventually consolidated with Traung and Stecher to become Stecher-Traung-Schmidt, printing packets well into the 1980s. Packets had the same designs with a much whiter, newer and glossier look, as can be noticed on the two gourd packet examples.
We will refer to these antique seed packets as the 1918 series since they have a 1918 copyright on the lower left corner, which is right around when they were printed by Galloway Litho Company. Many smaller seed companies or nurseries used Galloway Litho Company, who would print large amounts of packets and run the company’s name in black for small batch orders. Note all the different company names on these packets. Many of these images were used by Schmidt later on, but the printing on these early ones is by far the best.