Kitschy Collectibles and Historical Advertising Premiums

Remember digging through that cereal box to find the prize at the bottom? Manufacturers and retailers learned long ago that offering free items (called advertising premiums) attracted customers and created brand loyalty. Advertising premiums date back to the late 1700s but became much more popular in the 1900s. Did your grandmother collect an entire set of dishes just by purchasing boxes of oatmeal or soap? We’ve scoured our archives to find fun examples of advertising premiums over the decades.

Kellogg’s was the first cereal to offer an advertising premium when they introduced the Funny Jungleland Moving Picture Book in 1910. Customers could mail in two packages of Corn Flakes and get the book for free.

Beginning in the 1920s, Quaker’s Mother’s Oats ran an advertising campaign where each package of oats contained a piece of china. The promotion proved popular with American families already pinching pennies to survive the Great Depression. With each purchase, customers might find items like a teacup, saucer, 6-inch plate, or an oatmeal bowl inside the box. Quaker’s promotions continued for years, with the company giving away dishes, cookware, and flatware with purchases.

Dishes packaged inside boxes of oats in the 1920s

Powdered soap was the perfect packing material for pottery in the 1930s. To encourage brand loyalty, Par Soap began including individual pottery pieces, like cups, saucers, or salad plates, inside every large soap box.

Dishes packaged inside boxes of soap in the 1930s

What was it like to find a dish inside a box of soap? Click on this short video and find out!

Sometimes the advertising premium was the product packaging itself. In the 1930s, Kraft began offering their processed cheese in reusable glasses called “Swanky Swigs.” The glasses were decorated with stylized motifs and could be washed out and used as drinking glasses when the product was gone. Many ads encouraged customers to “collect the whole set.”

Omaha Sunday Bee-News: March 14, 1937

In 1939, Chicken of the Sea introduced individual tuna-shaped pottery dishes as a fun way to serve tuna salad. The dishes came in four colors and were such a hit that the company introduced tuna-shaped salt and pepper shakers in 1940 and tuna-shaped plates in 1941.

Chicken of the Sea tuna-shaped dishes in the 1940s

Another example of premiums included within the packaging is Sealtest cottage cheese. In the 1950s, Sealtest packaged its cottage cheese in reusable tumblers or colorful pottery bowls. Customers could amass an entire collection over time by purchasing that same brand each week.

SealTest cottage cheese bowls in the 1950s

Many of these nostalgic advertising premiums are now sought after by collectors. Do you have any kicking around your house? Share your memories in the comments below and learn about more historic advertising premiums on™ today.

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51 thoughts on “Kitschy Collectibles and Historical Advertising Premiums

  1. My Mother used to get a free dish towel inside every box of Dash laundry detergent. They lasted for years and years.

  2. I remember being a very young boy and my mother asking me if I wanted to own part of Alaska. I don’t remember which cereal company it was that promoted that shortly after Alaska became a state. I think my mom sent in the required information for the offer of 1 square foot of Alaska land.
    I figure that a couple of scenarios could apply. I owe back taxes, it was a hoax, or someone owes me rent for squatting on “my” property.

    1. The company was Quaker Oats promoting Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice (“The cereal shot out of guns!”). It offered a 1 sq inch of land and a 5″ x 7″ deed, in the Yukon Territory of Canada. However, in 1965 the 19 acres of land were seized for non-payment of taxes. The deed may have some value at antique shops, price dependent upon the whatever “antique collection” is in vogue.

      More detailed info about how and why it came to be found at:

      1. I lost my deeds when my parents sold the house while I was overseas in the military…along with several other things worth a lot more.

    2. I think I still have my certificate somewhere for the plot of land I purchased in Alaska. I think it was for a bit more than one square foot though and as I recall the money was for some Alaskan relief following some catastrophe they had. Some day I should go up there and visit my property.

  3. When I gre up in the 60’s the dish detergent LUX Liquid had cloth pixie elves with plastic faces (today called tree huggers) included in the packaging at the top of the bottle during the holidays. I still have several of these and have fond memories of decorating our Christmas tree with them.

  4. In the 40’s, the boxes themselves had various structures that had to be carefully cut out then assembled.
    I ate enough Cheerios to collect all of the Lone Ranger structures for the Frontier Town. I had to send in to get the 4 map sections on which to place the buildings and items such as the Lone Ranger’s hideaway. Then there were the packages with single-serving boxes of assorted cereals. The box cutouts made houses and buildings. That was a great city to play with. I also remember struggling to eat Shredded Wheat biscuits so I could get the dividers (between layers of 3 biscuits) for the airplane cutouts! So much to get and do!

    1. I also enjoyed the Nabisco Shredded Wheat because I was always more interested in reading than playing.
      I don’t recall any airplanes, but the dividers often had western stories, camping tips and the like.
      Innocent days.

  5. What lovely memories you have! Do you remember the little grey submarines that would move under water if you put baking soda in the turret? Just before getting into the bathtub was a perfect time to launch!

    1. I had forgotten all about those! Thank you for mentioning them. Nice memories associated with launching those with my brothers.

  6. I remember grape jelly in reusable drinking glasses, and flour sacks with a variety of prints that could be used to make anything if you were handy at sewing..or could be used as is for a pillow case. Flour sack dresses were not uncommon. I also remember dishes in washing powder.

    1. I remember the flour sacks, too. Made a very nice bathrobe from some when in college. The pattern was quite pretty.

      1. I wouldn’t have had everyday dresses if it weren’t for feed sacks, and my dad wouldn’t have had underwear, nor me for that matter. I remember in grade school when we got out for summer, my mother made matching dresses for me and my friend who was spending the week with me.

    2. Oh, I remember the jelly glasses! They had characters on them, like Howdy Doody and Goofy. And long after the jelly was gone, we would still refer to them as “jelly glasses”. After they all broke, we probably replaced them with something redeemed with “S&H Green Stamps” or “Plaid Stamps”.

    3. I believe it was Pillsbury flour that began packaging with wearable cloth.
      I’ve heard of them but have never seen one. I suppose they simply wore out with use, as would any practical item.

      1. Those cloth flour bags could be used for “dish towels” or sometimes they came with a design imprinted on them that could be embroidered for pillow cases.

        1. A man old enough to have been there told me that the larger flour and feed sacks were made into items of clothing.

          1. Well I was there. I remember my mother choosing bags of feed at the country store, which were about one yard of fabric each to make my dresses. Sometimes I got to choose. 🙂 Others made my dad’s undershorts, and summer shirts. The plain white ones were washed numerous times to rid them of the dye that was the name of the product and company. They made dish towels or pillow cases. The smallest ones could be made into handkerchief for daddy.

          2. Just saw this from an earlier post.
            “Made a very nice bathrobe from some when in college.”
            ‘made from some’ is the key.
            With enough sacks of any size – patterns carefully chosen – you could make a king size spread! 🙂
            And all you wimmenfolk sewed, I believe.

    4. We hosted a traveling exhibition earlier this year called Thrift Style, which was about using feed and flour sacks to make dresses!

  7. Mother used to buy chipped beef in small glass containers which, when emptied and washed, served as juice glasses for breakfast. There was also some company (which I can’t remember now) that had blue and white abstract-shapes dinnerware; either it came free with a purchase of the product or sold for a minimal sum with purchase of the product. I was a child then, and cannot remember it exactly. My grandmothers used to collect green stamps or yellow stamps (depending on whichever a particular vendor used) and I would help put them in books which could then be traded in for various items. Each item in the catalogue had a certain number of required books to redeem it.

  8. I saved coupons from General Mills products and was able to get a service for eight set of Stainless Flatware for my “hope chest”. Or they might have been Betty Crocker coupons. Been so long ago……lol The next time I saved the coupons for flatware, I had to add some additional funds ( $$) to get it.

    1. Ms Kinzey, I did the same thing. My son has the flatware now and is still using it. Betty Crocker did us a good deed!

      1. That she did. I was really disappointed that I had to add cash to the coupons the last time that I got flatware. I think that I passed the first set on to my daughter. It was good quality stainless.

    2. I started saving Genetal Mills coupons off the bag in the later 50s for 15 + years. I got my Twin Star set and use it to this day with all the accessory pieces like butter knives & jelly spoons still looks like new!

    3. Betty Crocker coupons!! Several of my mother’s friends used the coupons plus $6 for one 5-piece place setting of beautiful stainless! I remember I started out with 10-12 place settings as wedding gifts! Sometime around 2006-2007 or so they announced closing it down, and I bought more place settings plus extra serving pieces!

  9. My Mother had three copies of a print (approx 10X14) of a little girl by a chair. They were a promotion of some type in the 40’s or 50’s. Later in life she had them framed for my sisters and I. If anyone has any ideas on this I would love to know.

  10. As a young girl living on a dairy farm, I remember powdered calf feed had a plastic drinking glass in the bag – always ran out to the milk room when the delivery came to see what color the glass was (early 1960s).
    Also remember the free bath towel that came inside the box of laundry detergent – seems like Dolly Parton and Porter Wagner plugged the detergent on TV. Can’t remember the name of it now.

    1. I have several little “orange colored” plastic glasses that we received in some type of powder used to feed our baby calves. I use them all the time just for ” this and that.”

  11. My Mother-in-law collected depression glass. She gave me all she had for Christmas one year and we started searching for more at flea markets, etc. I have 8 of most things now and paid outlandish prices but the fun was in the hunt. My father-in-law thought we were crazy!!!

  12. I remember getting little orange plastic juice glasses with the drink mix Tang – which we were told astronauts drank! .

    Also, I remember saving labels from kool aid packets to trade in for glow-in-the-dark frisbee-like discs. My brothers and I had sone epic battles in the basement.

    1. When I was little, my folks saved cereal box tops to get me a small “box camera”. The first picture I took of my parents has my finger showing in one corner because I had it partly over the lens. I was a camera nut even at age 4.

  13. My uncles set up fitness classes, “Physical Culture”, in 1900 and advertised in the Richmond Climax and the Winchester Sun in Ky. “Physical Culture” was all the rage due to Benarr McFadden. I think some of this opening of classes was a way to make money when jobs were scarce. One of the uncles taught the technics through Chatuaquas in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Another went on to study and became a osteopath. You never know where an newspaper advertisement will lead you.

    1. I remember my mother and father stopping at a particular service station in the 1940’s so they could get soup and tea spoons when they bought gas. I still have some of the spoons.

  14. I think so but my mom did not do a lot of that! I don’t know about my family ancestors did or not but I’m curious to find out!

  15. Flour sack towels were the best for drying dishes!
    My dad & brothers received a drinking glass each time they filled the car tank. The only one left is a large Anchor Hocking with flying ducks. I have searched for information on it but have not been able to find anything.
    My aunt collected a set of drinking glasses with wheat, a farmer, and a horse & wagon.

  16. Hey, let’s not forget the toys in cereal boxes and Cracker Jacks! My favorite was the baking soda submarine diver. Childhood boy friend gave me first ring from Cracker Jacks! Oh the memories!!

  17. There was a soap promotion in the1920’s or 1930’s(?) that required coupons from the soap to purchase some absolutely beautiful Japanese china with an Azalea pattern. I found a few little pieces when my Mom passed, that had been carefully squirreled away in an upper cabinet in her kitchen. I researched it and found it must have actually been my Grandmother purchasing it owing to the dates of manufacture. I had never seen it as far as I remember. I scoured EBay for several years and amassed quite a nice collection. Just added 4 dinner plates to the set this week in fact. Beautiful delicate china- the tea tastes so good from it! Also remember the jelly glasses from the 50’s and 60’s, as well as the chipped beef, and Kraft Roka Blue Cheese glasses. Welch’s grape something or other came in small round glass bowls too. We had a lot of them at one point. perfect size for ice cream and pudding!

    1. Do you remember some cereal boxes that had a record on the back? You punched it away from the cardboard and then could play it on a record player.
      That memory is a bit fuzzy, but I don’t think I dreamed it.

      1. Nope. They were real.
        After my Dad upgraded our sound system from phonograph to turntable, we couldn’t play them anymore. 🙂

  18. I have a set of beautiful juice glasses with gold rims from my parents. My Dad said they collected them in Gold Lily Flour.

  19. In 1995 my dad ate many helpings of Malto Meal so that he could send away for a special Matchbox car for his new grandson.

  20. My brother and I collected coins from all over the world from cereal boxes. I think it must have been corn flakes or cheerios. I don’t remember any other kind except shredded wheat which offered a great excuse to overdo the sugar.

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