Candy wrapper historian Jason Liebig (Source: CollectingCandy.com)
Okay, so maybe we have candy on the brain lately. Advertising dollars aside, big brands devote tremendous resources to the design of their packaging. Nothing is random. Fonts, colors, shapes, logos and layout are all tailored to make us psychologically want the product. Otherwise, what could possibly explain the retro packaging craze?
We recently had the honor of chatting with Jason Liebig, a passionate Manhattan candy enthusiast who has collected thousands of wrappers dating back to the early 1900s. He catalogs, photographs and stores his candy packaging like an archivist from the Smithsonian. Perhaps his collection will ultimately wind up there.
To Jason, preserving a meticulously opened King Size Kit Kat is culturally as important as a turn-of-the-century box of Cracker Jack. He’s documented more than 40 different packages of Milk Duds and sometimes candy companies even come to him for archival material.
Founder of CollectingCandy.com, Jason warns of the dangers of trying to save the candy itself for future generations– it’s meant to be eaten now! He shares much of his always-expanding wrapper collection on his Flickr photostream. You can follow Jason Liebig on Twitter @CollectingCandy.
Our Interview with Jason Liebig, Candy Wrapper Historian
Q: When I told my wife about your collection, her immediate reaction was, “So this guy collects TRASH?” and then she rolled her eyes. How common is that view of your hobby versus the percentage of people who appreciate what you’re archiving?
Jason: I’m the first person to state that “I collect trash.” I think it’s a novel thing to document and preserve what other people throw away. Even the companies that produced these wrappers over the decades have tossed them out. Many brands have very little corporate sense of history, and no archives to speak of — only a very few have any kind of packaging archives. So I consider this material a wonderful element of our shared pop culture and our shared consumer culture.
Most folks consider what I do to be fun and fascinating, especially folks with an artistic or design eye. Artists and designers are the biggest fans and supporters of my work. I recently received an e-mail from a designer who overhauled the website of Pearson’s Candy (Bit-O-Honey, Nut Goodie, Salted Nut Roll). He pointed to my work as inspirational for the look he created for them. That was pretty cool. A lot of pop artists consider my work an invaluable resource. Helping artist Paul Rousso develop his amazing 3D candy wrapper sculptures has been one of the highlights of my candy work thus far.
My archival work provides a nostalgic window to countless people, but it’s also an academic resource that has afforded me the chance to work with New York’s Museum of Food and Drink, among others. And I’ve provided archival resources for a few of the candy companies themselves, including Life Savers and Just Born (the Mike and Ike folks).