Sandwich Generation
The Excitement of Retirement

Cereal Toys

When did cereal toys disappear? I sometimes eat dry cereal for breakfast during the warm months of the year and there haven't been toys – at least not in the brands I eat – for decades.

Like most children, I probably drove my mother nuts begging for Rice Krispies or Shredded Wheat or Krumbles (remember Krumbles? It was discontinued half a century ago) depending on what the toy inside was.

Many were small plastic figures slightly larger than Monopoly counters – animals, trains, cars, flowers, hats, etc. - with a little hole attached so my friends and I could keep them all on a string, like a charm bracelet. Sometimes there were decoder rings, badges and other trinkets promoting radio shows we listened to.

I've forgotten most of them, but 60 years ago or so, these toys were an important part of my young life and it was not unknown for me to empty out a new cereal box, when mom wasn't around, to retrieve the toy that had sunk to the bottom.

So I was intrigued when I read somewhere recently that Cheerios has revived the cereal toy with a series of Lego racing cars. There is still snow on the ground here in Portland, Maine, but I couldn't resist picking up a box when I was at the market yesterday. Just as in days of yore, I opened the box as soon as I got home. (Well, I put the fish in the fridge first.)

What a disappointment. The car is enclosed in its own plastic bag so it sits on top of the cereal bag. Easier to find and maybe more sanitary than when I was a kid, but not nearly as much fun as digging through the cereal.

Worse, the car is already assembled. Booooo.


And worst of all, there are only three Lego pieces. I was imagining about 10 little pieces I'd need to work at putting together. It's boring when there's nothing to figure out.


That fourth item (no, not the cat) is a group of stickers you can attach to decorate it like a professional race car. Overall, I am not impressed, although Ollie found it amusing enough to give those black wheels a couple of pokes. Then he lost interest too.

But the exercise sent me to the web to see what I could find about vintage cereal toys. Basically, not much, except on eBay. But there were hardly any as old as my era, the 1940s and early 1950s.

One of the cereal toys I've never forgotten was a plastic submarine. On its bottom was a tiny container into which you placed baking powder. The sub would then dive underwater and resurface on its own, again and again. I loved that toy and spent a lot of time with it in the bathroom sink. I was – oh, seven or eight years old.

And guess what? Among all the modern “antique” cereal toys on eBay from the 1970s and 1980s, I was delighted to find this one, identified as a 1950s cereal prize - and identical to the submarine I remember.


Now that's a classy toy - look at the detail compared to the race car. It's cheap enough too, under $10 including shipping, and I almost bought it before I realized how silly I was being.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sydney Halet has written an ode to Old Fashioned Married Life.]


We had the baking powder submarines in England too. In fact they are the only cereal toy I ever remember, but what fun in the bath.

My daughter loved the little toys in Kinder Eggs, which were indeed very ingeniously designed. I still have some of them!

I was always sending away for that stuff, and fortunately my Dad was fond of cold cereal (I was not), so I had no problem getting the box top or coupon or whatever was required. But it always took so long to get something! I remember waiting impatiently for a map that was keyed to the Lone Ranger program, the idea being the listener could follow along on the map each episode where the action was unfolding. (The Old Trapper's
cabin, the Lost Valley, etc.) Night after night the program would tell me to "follow the Lone Ranger as he rides north toward the Hidden Mine, kids". But it took something like six weeks to arrive, and by then they had dropped the promotion, and the map (although attractive, I recall) was useless.

I guess experiences of this sort taught me some valuable life lessons, but I'm not sure just what.

Ooooh! I remember that submarine! Thank you Ronni!

We chase our youth all the time, don't we? I remember diving into cereal boxes for the toys too, as well as Cracker Jack boxes.

Golly, I remember that submarine and the baking soda!
Remember when bread bags were cellophane and held shut at each end with big square stickers? I collected the stickers from Merita Bread because they had pictures of the Lone Ranger. Merita was a sponsor of the Lone Ranger program.
I don't remember the brand, but there also were some iced oatmeal cookies that included a prize in the bag. The prize was a crepe paper contraption on a string and you would twirl it in the air and it would make a whistling sound.
Didn't take much to entertain us in the 50's!

Do we play enough--or at all-- now that we're "grown-ups"? Heard someone on the radio who has written a new book about this and why it's important for us as well as young children.

Checked with the other old person here and Krumbles was unknown to both of us. Maybe only west of the Mississippi?

How about the Little Orphan Annie Decoder ring?

Every night I listened to that program and the announcer would call out numbers and if you had the decoder ring you could translate those numbers into a secret message.

It took me months and a lot of bottle deposits to get the money to send away for that ring and it was torture waiting for it to come. Every night I would listen to the numbers being read and wishing that ring would arrive so I could get the secret message that was being sent.

Finally the big day and the ring arrived.It seemed like days until it was 5 P.M. and time for the numbers.
The announcer started saying the numbers and I started spinning the ring and writing down the letters that corresponded with the numbers and soon a "secret messgae" started to form. It said DRINK OVALTINE

I cried for days and NEVER drank Ovaltine again.....

I hear this story often so I know this happened to a lot of us kids in the 1930's.

I'm wondering in these days of Playstations and computer games if kids would be as thrilled as several of us were with that submarine.

Oh that submarine! My brother got it because it was a boy's toy!

My kids used to fight over the coupons in cereal boxes. Many a morning brawl was started with the cry, "I get the cereal newspaper!"

I remember collecting boxtops and sending away for things. My prize (because I earned it myself) was a set of brother and sister Campbell Soup dolls. I think they cost a dollar plus 5 wrappers. They were substantial, cute little dolls with removable clothes. The Campbell Soup group won my lifetime loyalty!

I suppose McDonald's fills the need for surprise toys now with their Happy Meals.

My brother and I would fight over which box of Skinner's Raisin Bran Mom bought - there was a "girl" box and a "boy" box with appropriately gendered toys inside the cereral.

Then, there were the little red carboard barrels of peanuts that had money (coins) inside - yep right amongst the goober peas. Mostly pennies and nickels, but I occasionally found a whole quarter!

We rarely ate dry cereal for breakfast, my folks favoring pancakes, eggs & biscuits, or oatmeal; but, we usually kept a box or two on hand--Wheaties: Breakfast of Champions, Cheery Oats (which later became Cheerios), or Post Toasties (corn flakes). I don't recall "Krumbles" (in MO, TX, or OK) nor do I recall there being toys in anything other than Cracker Jacks.

I did, however, send in for a Sky King ring that had a magnifying lens, through which one saw a glow-in-the-dark "jewel". When one opened it up, the "jewel" was the enclosure of a tiny red-inked ball point pen (the first ball point pen that I ever saw!) and there was a "secret compartment" that was revealed. As I recall, it cost a hard-to-come-by 25 cent piece. Undoubtedly, there were box tops of some sort involved, but I don't recall what sort.

I liked the matchbox car we got in Cheerios a year or two ago (with their name on it). It went into the toy box that I keep here for when the grandkids come. I might have to look for that one as it looks like something they'd enjoy also.

I have been trying all morning to remember the ring I ordered and thanks to "Cop Car" I know now. I remembered it was a Sky King ring but couldn't remember the details. And....I am 99% sure it was from a Quaker product and I think it was Puffed Wheat. I'm pretty sure they also sponsored the Sky King television show too.

I also ordered a boat that ran on baking soda but it was just a little plastic yellow boat. I ran it once in the bathtub and then took it outside and blew it up with a firecracker!

What a nice nudge to my memory! Surprisingly, I remember that submarine too. My my. I wonder how many other buried memories are there? As Bob Hope said "thanks for the memories..."

Nancy's experience with the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring reminds me of a TV movie classic, "A Christmas Story," which I never fail to watch every year during the Christmas season. It is set in the late '30s and chronicles the efforts of a 10 year old boy, Ralphy, to convince his parents to get him a Red Ryder (yes, that how it was spelled) BB gun for Christmas.

As the story unfolds, he anxiously checks the mail each day to see if his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring has arrived. When it finally arrives he copies down the numbers for the secret message given at the end of the next Little Orphan Annie radio program, then hides in the bathroom to decode the message. The result? "DRINK YOUR OVALTINE." His frustrated response is, "The secret message is a stinking commercial?" His facial expression cracks me up every time

Since I was about Ralphy's age during the period portrayed in the movie and many of my experiences were similar to his, this movie brings back many memories and stirs up much nostalgia.

In addition to toys being in cereal boxes, I remember my mother getting wash cloths, cups, saucers, and various other things in the boxes of laundry detergent. These, of course, didn't interest me. I cared only about what was in the cereal boxes.

Hi Ronnie,

If you want to take a trip down memory lane without being tempted to buy something take a look at these photos on Flickr:

There are some things from childhood that remind us of our creativity and the little things that sparked it, thank you for the reminder Ronni. Please purchase that submarine-- I bought an "easy bake oven" circa 1962 on eBay after many days of procrastination wondering if I was being "too silly"....and now everytime I look at it, it reminds me to not be afraid to BE silly---to "tap in" to the creativity that was so effortless when we were young!

I remember that submarine, but what I've really been missing and craving for about 50 years now is an orange Howdy Doody bar. :)

Ronni Just think how much fun Ollie would have with that submarine floating in your kitchen sink.

Order it.....


Ronni, glad to see I wasn't the only kid who thought the submarine was a great toy. Thanks so much for the memory.

I remember the sub, too!

And Disney figures--Lady and the Tramp, etc.

Put the stickers on the lego car, and it won't look so bland.

You know they can't put ten tiny pieces in there--"choking hazard."

Even Crackerjack toys have gone--all you get now are little fake tattoos.

Who was the young child (female) on the Merita Bread advertisements?

I loved toys in cracker Jacks and cereal!Even though I had alot of big expensive playthings the little gifts were so charming,colorful,and unique!The sub was reintroduced in the seventies.Mine was light grey.I find the array of periscopes,snorkels and antenne very interesting.Plus its operation was truly entertaining,and educational.Raisen Brand gave out great brightly colored marbles(What happened to vivid colors!)9 in every box!Trix had a great collection of tractortrailor trucks.Captain Crunch had fast cars with a metel wheel in the center,whichmade them zoom......Than there was a wine colored Mercury Couger in 1967.Obviously a Ford CO promotion.Eraser tops for pencils were popular.Mostly cartoon characters.Do you remember the Frito Bandito controversy?Cracker Jacks had cute stuff.Tiny speed boats ,baby dolls,cars.Compasses,magnifying glasses,and the legendary rings.Mine were mostly,red,or green...Those simple things are now gone.Lost to bottom line thinking,liability suits,and a decline in the gracious personalties who ran companies in the past.Self made people,not overly credentialed nerds with the mentality of robots.

there also was a frogman that used baking soda, but i prefured the submerine.i sent for a ring one time but i don,t rember who from. it was a rocket, you take off the back plastic fins and look inside to see sparkling lights. it was real neat.

i remeber that ring it was great!i do not know what made all the light move but now that i think about it
the only thing i can come up with but seems scary that it could have had some sort of atomic waste ! concidering the time frame and the lack of safty reguarding this era let me know what you think i could be way off.

What ever happened to the good cereal toys. I got Sheera once. A bunch of toy trucks, little dolls, etc. Now it's a stupid sticker and online coupon codes. Stupid.

i recently went to the supermarket, and every single cereal box had a stupid sweepstakes on it. i really doubt my 4 year old cares about the one in a million chance to win a nintendo ds. finally, after about a year of waiting, the penguins of madagascar came out with a flipping toy. only about 2 boxes had it tho, but still. i looked back at some of the toys my now 16 year old daughter used to get. she has a working tiny scooter with buzz on it, from cheerios, and a skull mouse promoting pirates of the carribean. a computer mouse. in a cereal box. now theres just a piece of cardboard saying: i'm sorry, you've lost. please try again! wow, that's reeeally fun to play with. my daughter used to rollo that scooter up and down the slide and race it against a little plastic skateboard from some other cereal. now, though, they can go online and create a comic strip of honey defenders. not very fun. i miss cereal toys.

I had some frogmen who "swam" on the same baking soda principle. But I was a total dinosaur nut as a kid and had loads of them, from cereal boxes and elsewhere.
Keep eating those Cheerios. Heart Healthy (as opposed to Sugar Pops).

buy the submarine, have some fun, I do it all the time, I will buy cereal just because of a prize inside, I grew up in the 80's but now I look foward to cereal prizes to share with my kids, but they are too far and in between. right now there is a hostess promotion for mail away twinkie the kid watches, just like the ring that was mailed away for. btw, it was probably a Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring.

I have just come into possession of three small cardboard boxes, 1x1x2 with the names, Orphan Annie, Clyde Beatty and the The Gumps.
One name on each box.
I think it may have been a Cheerio promotion..? around 1950?
Can anyone shed light on this, please?
They may have contained fim.......don't know though.
Many thanks.

Does anyone remember the Kelloggs Disney Mini Pals? They were from the late 60's. I had quite a few and have been trying to locate them on line. I wanted to show my kids but can't locate. Kelloggs actually gave me the name of the figurines. Just curious.

Just bought the submarine filled it with baking soda. Waited & waited nothing. Finally read the directions, BAKING POWDER. Maybe Alan G. wouldn't have blown his up with a firecracker. Sure did make me laugh. Still laughing, Thanks

I remember I sent away for a little metal cannon rhat woul shoot puffed rice I was real young 1950 I woul love to find another one.

A send away premium I can't find a mention of anywhere was a small raygun about 4 inches long with most of the backend being made by inserting one AA batery into the rayguns 'behind'. Pushing on the spring loaded battery caused a small lightbulb to glow. Along with this raygun you received a 3x3 card that was basically like a small piece of movie projecter screen but not quite as glass beaded. You wrote on the 3x3 by touching the ray gun tip to the 3x3 in the dark which of course caused the phospherescent afterglow of all you had written ... anyone remember this little raygun ?

Rite-O-Lite with Luma Glow card ! I found that little red ray gun 'messages in the dark' mentioned above ... but can't seem to associate it to any particular series. most probably Captain Video. I do think it wasn't a cerial premium ... I dimly recall sending in money and Baby Ruth wrappers ....

Judi-Kelloggs Disney Mini pals - I was cleaning out my moms house and came across four wooden "peg like" disney characters - Robin Hood, Rumplestiltskin, Pocahantis and Fryer Tuck... they look like they were made from dowls and wooden balls with clothes made of felt and cotton. I have never seen anything like these before and I don't remember them coming from cereal....

Posted by: Rose Duemig; Friday July 20, 2019 @ 2:50pm

Sorry didn't finish my first thought. My brothers said they came from Kelloggs cereals. I check Kelloggs and could not find any info. Would anyone have some info or direction where to check them out.


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