Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

March 26, 2014

Linda Hamer Kennett: Somethin' for nothin'

When I was 7, 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 eight 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 housewares. 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 suit 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 more than 2.5 million copies of the book from 1909 to 1932.

Quaker Oats responded in the early ‘20s 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.

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.

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