Rushville Republican

March 25, 2014

Somethin' for nothin'

By Linda Hamer Kennett What's in the attic?
Rushville Republican

---- — When I was seven Jackson-Perkins, in conjunction with Kellogg’s, offered rose bushes as a premium with box tops from Bran Buds. Being a frugal housewife my Mom set out to get herself a rose garden by taking advantage of this offer. Now she needed 8 rose bushes, which required a lot of box tops. So, we ate Bran Buds for breakfast, bran muffins for lunch, casseroles topped with bran for dinner and one day I realized she had even replaced the chopped nuts we used on our ice cream with the crunchy little critters. For two years, if you ate at our house, you ate Bran Buds. Finally Mom completed one of the most beautiful rose gardens in the neighborhood, and as for the rest of us..........we never at Bran Buds again!!

Cereal and box-top premiums have created a number of categories in collecting from toys and gadgets to house wares. But how did all of this get started? Let’s take a brief look at the history of “gettin’ somethin’ for nothin’”.

Cereal Premiums originated in 1901 when Quaker Oats offered a fortune-telling calendar for a label and five-cents. In 1909 Kellogg’s followed suite with “The Funny Jungle and Moving Picture Book” for the proof-of-purchase of two boxes of cereal and ten cents, an endeavor that distributed over 2.5 million copies of the book from 1909-1932.

Quaker Oats responded in the early 20’s with a mail in offer of one box-top and 50 cents for which you received instructions for converting the round Quaker Oats box into a crystal radio set that actually worked! In the years to come plastic boats, decoder rings, hand puppets, toy boats, and a barrage of games and gadgets were included “in box” by all major cereal companies.

The General Mills largest contribution to collectible premium toys resulted from their 20 year sponsorship of The Lone Ranger, from 1941 {on radio} through the long running TV series that started in 1961. In addition, they sponsored the popular radio show, “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy” from 1933-1950. This collaboration, which spawned the”Breakfast of Champions” campaign, also gave us a number of incredible gadgets from the show that could be had for a dime and a Wheaties box top.

Not all premiums promotions were aimed towards children. In 1929 General Mills introduced “Betty Crocker Coupons” that came in each bag of flour and could be used to reduce the price of Oneida flatware. In 1937 the coupons were changed to appear on the outside of the packaging of a number of their products including brownies and cake mixes. Varying in point value, they were redeemable for house wares through the Betty Crocker Catalog which was printed through 2006.

Kellogg also focused a large part of their premiums to the adult crowd. Through the years the have offered mail-in inducements for rose bushes and seed packets, and in-box premiums like spools of thread, button packages and, for a short period of time, nylon stockings

By far, the most bizarre of all premium offers came from Quaker Oats in 1955 when they sponsored the “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon” TV series. With each box of cereal the customer received a deed for one square inch of the Yukon Territory. To this day the “Great Klondike Big Inch Land Caper” is considered the most successful sales promotions in North American business history with over 21 million parcels distributed! Until next time.........Linda

Linda Hamer Kennett is a professional liquidation consultants specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached for question or comment at 317-429-7887 or lkennett@infy.rr.com