In 1909, Kellogg’s offered the first cereal box prize: shoppers who purchased two boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes were handed a copy of Funny Jungleland Moving-Pictures, a little booklet illustrated with dancing tigers, storks, horses, hippos and more. Children pulled a tab to slide new pictures in and out, creating new combinations of the animals’ heads, bodies and feet.

Through the 1930s and 40s, most cereal box prizes were either handed out in-store or available through mail-order. In the 1940s, Wheaties offered this Jack Armstrong Hike-o-Meter for just 10 cents plus one box top: “More fun and thrills on your next hike or walking trip if you carry a genuine Jack Armstrong Pedometer!” (Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, a character itself invented by General Mills, starred in a radio series that followed his wholesome, world-traveling adventures.) While pedometers had been around for centuries, this prize dovetailed with the device’s increasing popularity.

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Perhaps the first prizes actually buried inside the box were small pinback buttons decorated with WWII U.S. Military insignia, available in Pep, at that time Superman’s favorite cereal.  

The invention of injection molding in 1946 revolutionized the cereal box prize: the process was quick-cooling and made it possible for recycled plastics to be pumped into toy shapes. In the 1970s, injection molding was improved to create hollow toys that were lightweight, durable, and cheap to make. All kinds of collectible figures—from rocket ships and submarines to cartoon characters and rings—could be cranked out and hidden beneath cereal. 

These brightly-painted steel emblems were distributed in Wheaties cereal boxes in the 1950s. The complete set of 31 American and European auto makers is represented, and includes enduring luxury names like Bugatti, Alfa Romeo and Rolls Royce alongside now-defunct manufacturers like Kaiser, Hudson and Riley. 

While most of the logos are instantly recognizable, the Dodge emblem is especially different from today’s ram’s head hood ornament. The Wheaties Dodge medallion bears a kind of English-looking crest made from a silver and red shield with the word “DODGE” running down the middle, topped with an orange-gold knight’s helmet. The image is a variation of the original “Dodge Family Crest” design introduced in 1941, and far-removed from today’s red-blooded style. 

View this lot and more in our upcoming auction! The sale goes live next Thursday.