03 September, 2012

Cracker Jack Prizes SUCK.

Photo by Time Passages Nostalgia
Once upon a time, Cracker Jack prizes were real, actual miniature toys. Originally, they were made of cast potmetal, like the ones at right: a little replica wood-burning stove, a battleship, an airplane, an ice skate, a replica carved pipe, and I guess that blue thing is probably a thimble. 

Photo by Time Passages Nostalgia
As time went on, the prizes got somewhat chintzier, like these plastic ones from the 1960's. But they were still actual miniature toys, real toys that had some kind of play value.

The Cracker Jack company, though, wasn't finished getting cheap and stingy with the prizes. Even as they were raising prices and making packages smaller (as if no one ever notices that, right??) the prizes kept getting crappier through the 1980's until finally the best a kid could hope for was a booklet of dye-transfer temporary tatoos. Remember those? You'd wet your arm (probably with your own spit, admit it, you know you did) and press the tattoo down to transfer the inks to your skin.  Compared to the tiny compasses, plastic charms, and other little toys that they replaced, those tatoos were junk. But let me tell you, compared to the absolute shit that Cracker Jack calls a "SURPRISE," the tatoos were gold coins.

You get down to the bottom of the package of Cracker Jack, and this is what your find: a little paper packet that looks like it might be four pages wide. And it's tiny. Like the size of a big postage stamp. You know it's going to suck, because it's way to thin to be anything decent made of paper, like a five-dollar bill or something.  And to add insult to injury, they print "GUESS WHAT'S INSIDE?" on the front. Really, Cracker Jack? You want me to guess?  You really want me to guess?  Okay: Is it something shitty with no goddamn fun value at all? OF COURSE IT IS! What do I win for guessing right? Oh yeah: I win something shitty with no goddamn fun value at all!

I opened it anyway and look what I got. Cracker Jack calls it a "pencil topper." It's got two little pencil-sized slits in it so when you slip it over the end of a yellow pencil you can pretend it's being humped by bees. 



TomW said...

This is the third time I have gone back to this post because it's so funny to read.

I wish it wasn't true, though.


Danielle said...

I agree that the "prizes" have gotten shitty and don't know why they bother anymore. I vaguely remember cute plastic toys from the 1970s--even a ring. Some surprise they offer now.

Vintage ReInvented said...

You are absolutely right about these so called Surprises ! As an avid collector of Cracker Jack prizes, people are often amazed that the company would actually place a glass colored cat with a metal collar. I have been collecting these toys for over twenty years, mostly from the 1910's - 1950's when they were treasures, ebay is full of these toys, and the value of some are incredible. Thank you for your article, Beth

Anonymous said...

I just got a packet of Cracker Jack, and mine had a Mariners sticker in it. So a shitty prize about a shitty sports team.

Tell you what, I'll trade you for your bees humping a pencil.

Unknown said...

All I ever get anymore are those lame ass stickers of sports team logos. Dudes, I don't even dig sports! I do remember the tats... I loved those!

Mr. B said...

I don't think it's as much an issue of CJ being cheap as too many kids are too retarded to realize that you don't take the plastic toys and try to swallow them or stick them in any other of the body's orifices. If Junior chokes to death, you get a nice big lawsuit. That is why you can't buy Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs here. Hell if you try to bring them across the border from Canada and you're caught with the damn things, it's like a $1000 per egg fine or something (they have cool little plastic toys in them, you see).

Some call it a 'choking hazard', I call it 'natural selection'.

Mormor said...

I just bought a bag of Cracker Jack, as a child of the 60's I feel cheated!
My prize was a square of paper that read New Prize Inside! Lift and peel...after lifting and peeling it has some angry looking baseball sticker, with 3 steps to download an app, take a pic of lame ass sticker,and last but not least...experience it come to life...WTF? It says STICK IT BLIPP IT
geesh...stick it indeed...