Monday, August 6, 2012

Small Change in Packaging

Just one of the many highlights in the Graphic Arts Collection of the Princeton University Library blog are their samples of small 19th century envelopes known as "change packets". These elaborately decorated little envelopes from middle-class London shopkeepers were used to provide a customer with their change after a purchase. This genteel practice may seem excessive by todays' standards, but at the time, the packets would serve as a miniature trade card for the shopkeeper. They were also an early advertising promotion for some national brands such as the biscuit manufacturer, Huntley & Palmers who would offer the packets to shopkeepers for free or reduced rates in exchange for advertising their brand. Typically, printers and stationers would supply the shopkeeper with either custom designed change packets for their business or a stock design, sometimes with topical references promoting local current events. The little envelopes measuring about 2 1/2 inches square, were big on design and included some impressive examples of 19th century typography and illustration. They often included a printed legend on one side, such as "The Change, With Thanks". Author and ephemera collector Maurice Rickards, mentions in his book, The Encyclopedia of Ephemera, that some change packet specimens included an expression of thanks such as "The favour of your recommendation is respectfully solicited". Not a bad practice.

::From Princeton University Graphic Arts blog.


  1. These are wonderful. I save beautiful pieces of paper but wonder what is the fine line between collections, saving for posterity and being a "pack rat"? Just wondering aloud...
    I wonder what Ivory Jelly is made from and what makes it so good for invalids? I am a bit disturbed that an elephant is you think it was really made from tusks?

  2. Just went and researched my question and YES, the jelly was made from pulverized ivory. So, thanks to the internet for your informative blog and the answers to questions.

  3. Well that is totally disturbing! I was so focused on the design, I didn't even consider the content. The sad thing is the ivory jelly was probably a folk medicine. ; (


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