Create Your Own Vintage Sign with Antique Crate Labels

Create Your Own Vintage Sign with Antique Crate Labels

Feb 15th 2014

One of the fun aspects of working with rustic decor is the pleasure we get in preserving memories of a way of life that far too few of our children ever get a chance to experience. Bringing the past back to life can be truly rewarding. And it's no coincidence that some of the most practical tools from our past make interesting decor today. Vintage crate labels are a good example. 

Between 1880 and 1960, fruit and vegetable growers attached colorful labels to the ends of crates that were to be shipped to other locations. Due to the cost to create them, farmers usually opted to have a large print run done all at once, and then they used that label inventory over the course of several years. So, tucked away in the corners of barns, packing houses, and even printing establishments, collectors have been able to find thousands of unique vintage labels.

The colors and designs of these labels hearken back to a different age and time, and they make beautiful wall decor. It's easy to create your own vintage sign using an authentic crate label, a barnwood frame, and a little bit of creativity. 

 Each of these beautiful rustic signs is created by combining two truly "antique" items into one "new" look. We start with an authentic vintage crate label, (usually in mint condition and often nearly a century old) then frame it with reclaimed barnwood. There are several good online sources for vintage crate labels, seed packets, and cigar box labels. Check out, and, for examples. Cost for labels ranges from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars, depending on availability, age, condition, and detail in the design.

Your grandmother might not understand your affinity for something as impractical as an old label framed in old wood hanging on your wall. After all, she glued hundreds of labels to fruit crates as a child when it was cherry picking season and everyone in town was pressed into service to bring in the harvest. There was nothing particularly exciting about fruit crate labels then. Labels were printed by the thousands, and you could find an old fruit crate in any corner market.

What she might not understand is that preserving this antique piece of the past somehow helps you preserve all of your good memories of her as well--the summer nights when you slept out underneath the willow tree, early autumn mornings when you helped gather the eggs from the henhouse, and Thanksgiving dinners complete with a piece of her "from scratch" cherry pie. Indeed, there's much more to it than just an old label.

Because crate labels don't typically come in "standard" frame sizes, you'll probably need a matte, a custom frame, or both. Here's what we recommend if you want to frame a unique vintage label:

1. After obtaining your label, visit a local frame shop or craft store and have them cut a matching matte for you, then mount the label and on an acid-free backing such as acid-free foamcore. Because the printing on crate labels often runs right to the edges, (see the Symms Sunny Slope Peaches label below as an example) the rabbet or groove on the back of the frame may cover up words or borders that you want to see. The matte helps prevent this because it can be cut to cover up only a fraction of the edge of your label. Most frame shops are happy to help you choose a color that compliments your label. 

2. Now that you have your label matted, it's time to order your custom barnwood frame. Measure the outside dimensions of the matte carefully. You can email us at info@mybarnwoodframes for pricing, or simply give us a call. The toll free number is 888-653-2276. We can build you a custom frame to fit your label. 

We think you'll agree that barnwood framed vintage labels are a great way to preserve a piece of America's past.