We all know breakfast cereals are marketed to kids, and that fact directly contributed to the amount of sugar in them, the competing colorful characters on the front of the box, side panel games, and best of all PRIZES INSIDE to lure kids into begging mom to buy it. Oh the siren call of "FREE INSIDE!"

Other foods regularly had prizes in them too. we all remember crackerjack prizes:

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but how about...


Screaming Yellow Zonkers?!!


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It was similar popcorn stuff that I ate by the handful looking for the alien before my brother found it. We were severely scolded if we dumped out the box so we had to eat our way to the plastic space creature.

At the grocery store my brother and I carefully scanned the boxes of cereal because one could be easily fooled by the mail away offers thinking that those toys were in the box. "One toy in the box is better than a much better toy through the mail"...isn't that how that cliche goes?

When we discovered a box of sugar laden rot-your-teeth goodness that actually had a prize in it, we immediately switched from being quiet observant shoppers to noisy obnoxious whiney brats.

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My favorite tactic was fall to the floor. Not only is it more effective than clinging to mom's dress and begging, it causes a scene that any mother quickly wants resolved as you are impeding other carts in the isle.

You must last through the whispered threats of the beating you are going to get or the "I'll tell your dad" and refuse to move until the box containing your prize is safely inside the shopping cart.

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You must maintain your vigilance all the way to the checkout line to be sure mom didn't put it back.

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My favorite kid's cereals were the General Mills Monster Cereals: Chount Chocula, Frankenberry, Booberry, Fruit Brute, and Yummy Mummy. They often had toys in the box instead of just a mail in offer or cut out cardboard prize.

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I am not sure why cheap plastic junk toys so enthralled me as a kid but I had to have them. Here are some figures and toy secret compartment rings.

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My favorite was the spooky speedsters that came out in 1981. Although being light weight plastic they didn't roll that fast at all.Once any body weight was applied the axles would bend and render them immobile.

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Similar was monster bike spinners that you put on your handlebars. Mine seldom stayed on long though and because of the road rash they suffered I quickly retired them to save them.

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Check these out reflective holograms!


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I loved those reflector thingys, almost exactly like the shields from the Marvel Secret Wars dudes I had

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A lot of my early drawing as a child experimented with carbon paper,stencils, stamps, and rub shapes. Here is some cool stamps and shapes to rub with your crayons

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article image Here are some monster crayons

rubber pencil tops made good missiles to throw at your brother

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toothbrush Holders??? Weird. article image

A lot of cereal boxes had stickers or trading cards in them. Probably a lot cheaper to include than a toy.

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Sometimes actual records came with the Cereal. Awesome!

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much more recent CD I found years later



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Other good cereals to score toys in were Fruity Pebbles, Cookie Crisp, Freakies and Capt'n Crunch. These cereals were marketed solely at kids so often included a plastic toy of some sort unlike boring unsweetened brands like Life, Corn flakes and Cheerios that were marketed more towards adults that seldom had more than a mail away offer.

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Some classic toy prizes were the sticky grabber hands (seldom survived more than a few vigorous swings,) and the sticky octopus that walked down mirrors. Quick! grab it before it hits the floor and gets covered in grit and lint.

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Baking soda tub toys came in many shapes from cereal characters to scuba divers and submarines.

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Nothing will light up someone's face like pouring the cereal box into your bowl in the morning and seeing the prize package land in it. ahhhh, pure magic!!!

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Occasionally something truly amazing would come packaged with the cereal like the Addams family flashlights in 1991 Cousin It, Uncle Fester, Thing, and Lurch!

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Or the famous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cereal bowls in 1990!

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But the most ambitious bribe to buy cereal ever has to be the holy grail of all cereal premiums the Batman bank during the short lived 1989 movie tie in when I was in 7th grade.

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The curious cereal premium phenomena may have been clever product placement to get consumers to buy cereals loaded with sugar, but I didn't care it definitely influenced me and my parents' purchases. Dentists everywhere rejoice!

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Now where is the best toy?

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Drat! My brother already found it!