Toys inside of a cereal box has become quite an uncommon thing nowadays - and by 'nowadays' I mean 'this century.' I don't know if production costs were too high, or there were choking concerns, or (the most likely reason) they didn't want to further entice young teeth to consume sugary snacks, but I do know that, whatever the reason is, it's fucking stupid.
But let's not make this about the dumbness of right now, but rather the fun & magic of back then - because, y'know, Bennett Media... But this past Summer, something considerably less dumb came to my attention: an offer from Cap'n Crunch in which one could "receive" figurines of... Cap'n Crunch! Right off the bat, these are and were exactly the kinda treasures I would cross oceans of time to get my hands on. In other words: they don't make 'em like this anymore. In fact, they don't make 'em anymore; nowadays the most you can hope for is a coupon code to play an online video game. But these - these - were no such intangible farce, but rather monuments commemorating the most important thing of that singular moment: cereal.
Don't get me wrong: the instant gratification of plunging your hands into the depths of rough, scratchy shards of riboflavin and corn and pulling out a shiny new object that now belonged to you was a big part of the draw - but the "send away for" prizes "with proof of purchase" held a little more weight; it had the elements of a special quest, and the anticipation was more drawn-out. Like, waaayyy drawn-out - like months. Thus and so, that was the mission extended to me when I noticed (at some point last August) that Cap'n Crunch was offering "figurines" (not nearly statues, but not quite "figures" either) of the Cap'n himself - free with the purchase of two boxes of his personal brand of Crunch. The tragically demanding detail of this offer was that it ended on the 31st of August -- and in that time, I procured four boxes of the gum-shredding goodness, which all but guaranteed me two of the coveted Cap'ns (and denying me a complete set). All I had to do was go to the website and enter the codes "found inside specially marked boxes." And maybe it's my old age or their poor verbiage, but I dug through those bags of Crunch looking for that goddamn code -- until, outta the corner of my eye, I spotted the faintly-printed number branded on the inside of the box.
Hey, it wouldn't be a fulfilling treasure hunt without a few head-scratchers and curve balls. And so I enter the code and I'm informed that the two Cap'ns I chose should arrive within 6-8 weeks (!). And within probably 20 days, I get these beautiful, heavy-duty figurines:
I may go as far to call them statuettes - they're way bigger & louder than I'd imagined, and I suddenly understood how they probably couldn't have crammed these into the box. Though, as I say that, I'm reminded of some of my most favorite cereal prizes from over the years, and some of them had no business being mixed in with part of a complete breakfast. Whereas some, of course, felt as though they were conceived, grown, and born out of the cereal box.
This set of Cap'ns (as incomplete as it is) joins the ranks of some of my favorites - which I will share with you now.
Post Fruity Pebbles
- Dino Eraser (1987)
This is just one of the earliest things I can remember, and its connection to the cereal or to The Flintstones meant nothing to me - I was completely and eternally infatuated with that color. And it's funny - this was one of two Dinos that you could've received, and the other was a much darker purple -- as though the manufacturer simply couldn't get the exact shade from the cartoon to translate into rubber and just said "fuck it, let's make both." This was mine, and it was the superior hue of the two, as it is the color of my blood and my soul.
Post Super Golden Crisp
- Coins From Around the World (1989)
I've mentioned before how coin collecting has periodically found its way into my life via odd little circumstances - and this was one of the oddest and one the first. I recall some stern parental guidance regarding leaving the coin in the coin holder - as my father, to this day, has genuine concern that I will choke to death on something. No matter - the colorful little depictions of each coin's respective country of origin was almost better than the coins themselves.
Kellogg's Rice Krispies
- Model "A" Truck
I'm guessing Kellogg's was proud of this partnership with Matchbox, as the offer lasted for nearly 30 years - and I call it an "offer" because, yes, this one was a mail-in. Most likely my first experience with the bittersweet anticipation of a "send away" toy, it conditioned me to treasure it that much more; this wasn't no regular Matchbox car, this was a trophy, and I displayed it as such.
General Mills Golden Grahams
- Best of Beakman's World (1993)
To the best of my memory (and my memory is best), this Best of Beakman's World VHS cassette tape wasn't a 'proof-of-purchase' deal - it was right there in that box of Golden Grahams, wrapped in plastic and VCR ready. And I know this was the case because I watched it as soon as I got home from the grocery store, while eating the cereal. And so, to this day, whenever I eat Golden Grahams, I can hear the Beakman theme song in my brain -- which means my neurological bass and treble levels are set to exactly where I like them.