Design and typography of heroin bags


I’m surprised at the uniformity of the bags themselves. Is there only like 1 heroin bag dealer in the world?

I wonder if some of the names just come from whatever rubber stamp the dealer was able to find when starting their business?

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The bags were from a period of time in which the photographer was using, so it’s likely that they all came from the same distributor. I’m no expert on drug packaging, but when I was living in Brooklyn in the early nineties, I could see both the red-capped vials associated with crack and postage-stamp-sized mini-Ziplock baggies on the street, although I don’t know if they were used to package the same type of drugs. (And, yeah, I think that some of the rubber stamps were not specific to drug dealers–I’ve seen friends’ kids’ papers stamped with “Nice Work”.)

It ain’t exactly blotter art


that’s gotta be a double entendre, though, right? the dealer saw that homework stamp and had a laugh–“Oh, I’ll use that!”

“Work” is a synonym for drugs, although I’ve only heard it applied to coke/crack. the derivation is the street dealer asking his supplier “you got any work?” i.e. “I’m trying to buy quantity to flip, not just personal,” but of course usage devolves into any quantity. I’ve heard UK drum and bass guys refer to addicts as “work-heads.”

anyway, it seemed like a found-object type of joke, like that dude in the club that got a “Coke© vendor” tshirt from a thrift store. popular guy.

then the one that says “cure” has to do with the term applied to the dosage that functional addicts use; just enough to not go into withdrawl, rather than to get high.

I don’t even do those kind of drugs, but I think all that is right.

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I lived outside of NYC in the mid 90s, and (in my community) the little Ziplock type baggies had marijuana in $5-10 quantities… usually about a gram.

This work is adorably cute, if you have never known anybody who was addicted.


(as I now notice jack pointed out) Chances are the dude went to the same dealer consistently and the same dealer/supplier tends to get the same baggies all the time. It is most likely stamped on there by the supplier, not the dealer. It’s as much about differentiating this white powder from that white powder as it is about marketing. The guys want to keep track of what is what.

In terms of what is stamped on there: kinda? They want something original and something that at least presents the contents as exciting, edgy, interesting or fashionable. You probably wont find many people who want unicode character U+1F4A9 on their dope. I once had a scanned collection of every pill I got. I think that computer died in the ass when I was living overseas and I did not have the foresight to store them elsewhere which is kinda a shame… I had at least 20 different high res scans. I have a photograph I took more recently that I’ll try to remember to share in here or on the flickr pool of a pyramid-style stack of pills with the Apple logo on them.

The vials are used for crystal drugs. The little ziplocks are usually weed, but often pills as well. These ‘glassine’ envelopes are used for powdered drugs because the stuff doesn’t stick to them as easily.

You’d see weed and coke in tiny ziplocks but never dope. Also dope was the only drug branded like this; other things might be known by the color of the bag or vial top, but they weren’t labelled RAMBO or TERMINATOR or what have you. This may well be specific to 80s-90s Lower East Side, I have no idea what the market in L.A. or Berlin or wherever else was like.

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