The worlds of trading cards, comics, coins, and stamps have all long been known as collector’s havens, but there’s another one out there that’s been historically fairly niche and that might now be changing: Cereal Box Collecting. Yup, we’re talking that box on the morning breakfast table that you fish around in for the toy surprise inside and then pitch into recycling.
While breakfast cereals themselves have been around since the late 19th century, it wasn’t until post World War II that companies started targeting kids directly, with TV and radio commercials leading the way. In the stores, the manufacturers began using tie-ins back to the commercials, with mascots (like Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger) and using imagery from their shows (or offering in-box toy surprises, like decoder rings).
There’s always been a small market for the boxes as collectables – be it for the sports star on the box, the baseball cards built into the packaging, the superhero art, or the nostalgia factor. In recent years, however, the number of collectors has been increasing as crossover interest carries individuals to start hunting for boxes. For example, Star Wars collectors will go after cross-marketed cereal boxes, like this box of Kellog’s C-3PO’s from 1984 (currently going for a buy-it-now price of $1,500.
As the number of individuals coming in increases, box prices are moving accordingly – A 2012 post by Cereal Price Guide notes a 1972 box of Sir Grapefellow having a price range of $100-200, and now that same style of box went on Ebay in January of this year for over $1,000.
One of the big points of collectibility is that cereal boxes haven’t historically been items which people thought to keep around. It’s not like a comic that might be re-read, or a trading card that similarly is kept for a period of time. Cereal one opens, eats, then throws it away (that’s not even including the era’s where you would cut out the box tops to use for a mail-in offer). That lack of permanence has continued to keep the overall numbers of surviving boxes relatively low.
Sports-related cereals with their athlete tie-ins continue to be popular, with Caitlyn Jenner’s original boxes moving at a healthy clip. Interest in other boxed items also exist, but tend to gravitate around a specific reason, like a Nabisco box that went up on Ebay with an asking price of $11,000
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