Monday, April 20, 2009

Special Reed Boxes I have Known...

Special Reed Boxes I Have Known…

By Mike Zucek-North Central Regional Sales Manager

Last month, I left you with a teaser…regarding the old brown Rico “wood grain” boxes. Well, would you believe that the original Rico boxes were actually constructed of real California redwood! They were beautifully made, with dovetailed corners and a paper “cigarette pack” seal. They had a full length fabric hinge and to top it all off, were wrapped in orange/yellow cellophane. (These are now real “finds” for the collector!) After WWII, redwood was getting expensive and a change was in order to help keep down the cost of the reeds. Why not eliminate the wood, but keep the wood appearance! The “wood-grain” box was the logical result. This package continued in use until the early 1980’s, when the now ubiquitous “orange box” came on the scene.

In 1983, the Rico Company decided to produce a new package that eliminated all the layers of tissue that were used to separate the reeds. The Dispensapak was the result and was an immediate…….FAILURE! We knew right away that something was wrong as many customers promptly spilled the reeds on the floor while trying to figure out how to operate this new “trick” package! We immediately performed a costly re-design based on the time proven “Novapak reed holder” and learned a valuable lesson about the “KISS” principal in the process. Our quick about face, while not totally avoiding some embarrassment, allowed us to finally arrive at the right package and, more importantly, avoid forcing our mistake on the customer.

In 1987, Rico produced a special “sampler pack” for its line of Mitchell Lurie and Frederick L. Hemke Premium reeds. These packages held 8 reeds in Novapaks with an assortment of strengths from 2 ½ through 4 ½. They were in attractive, three inch square, “shrink-wrapped” boxes that were clearly marked S A M P L E R on one end flap.

Likewise, a few years later, when Rico introduced the ground-breaking Grand Concert clarinet reeds in ¼ strengths, another sampler pack was made available. These were based on the same package that the GC reeds were normally available in, but with the addition of a gold band seal that covered three sides of the box. On this seal was printed “Compliments of Rico International” and “Reed Strengths 3, 3 ¼, 3 ½, 3 ¾, 4” and finally “Complimentary Sample”. The white box held “standard blank” models and the dark blue box held “thick blank”.

Finally, perhaps the most unique reed package ever produced by Rico….the “Inaugural Reed Sampler”… “In Commemoration of President Bill Clinton, Music Enthusiast January 20, 1993”. These reeds were actually presented to president Clinton at the White House, but also made available in limited numbers to attendees at the 1993 Winter NAMM show. Each sampler consisted of an assortment of 4 reeds (2 Rico Plasticover, 1 La Voz and 1 Rico Royal in a Reedgard IV) for soprano, alto, tenor or baritone sax. The box was white with a blue banded overwrap, and had a picture of the White House at the top front. The Rico logo was in red and each reed, rather than being stamped with a brand name, was instead marked “1993 Inaugural Reed”. The Plasticover reeds had white lettering and one each of the remaining reeds was in red and blue.

In some future postings, I’ll get into the packaging history of Rico family brands that for many years never bore the Rico name!!!


  1. Hi, Mike,
    You are bringing back a lot of great memories!!
    Thank you :-)
    Martha Solano

  2. I wish you would bring back the Sampler packaging concept for every brand of reeds you make!


    I see all these wonderful brands that you have, but I'm not willing to risk $20 to $30 or more on one particular strength... only to find out later that the box I bought is either too soft or too hard.

    The samplers that you described above would be perfect: Multiple strengths for one brand, and multiple brands for one strength.

    If you offered that, I'll bet you that your customers would be more adventurous, and would try new brands that they've never experienced.

    So please: Bring back the samplers!!!

    Steve Kobb

  3. I've got the white house Clinton sampler - bought it at a local music store sidewalk store - still unwrapped. I'm glad i held on to it~

  4. I've got 1 box of alto and 1 box of tenor Bill Clinton inaugural sampler reeds. Can you tell me what they are valued at currently?

  5. I wish I knew what the value was. I had an antique dealer say it should be worth a good amount in time, since it has a date on the box and has not only political interest but also music/jazz interest.

  6. what a important port.I got many from this.thank you so much.keep further about more reed boxes follow

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