Cracker Jack: Little toys, big memories

On a warm August morning I ventured out to purchase the local newspaper and search for rummage and estate sales. I picked out a few good ads and then charted my course. The sale that looked promising opened at 8 a.m. Upon arriving at my destination, a large white yard tent could be seen. There was a woman in the yard who politely told me she was alone and to come back in thirty minutes.

Cracker Jack162 AT 4-23.jpgAfter driving to some other sales in the area and coming away empty handed, the decision was made to take a slow ride back to my first stop. Upon arriving there, some cars were parked on the street and people were rummaging through boxes inside the tent. I hurried to park my van and walked briskly to the yard.

Excitement Builds

The tent was loaded with boxes and bins of all sizes and there were many items scattered on the grass. I quickly picked up some old board games, Tyco toy trains in their original boxes, a complete train set from 1977, a Fisher-Price record player, Hot Wheels cars, a Fort Knox metal combination bank, old 45s, and some Connie Francis picture sleeves. It occurred to me that almost everything in this tent was old and there might be more hidden treasures. By this time my adrenaline was flowing at full speed and I wondered what else could be found. Near the bottom of a huge box was an old coffee can with the lid on. To my delight it was filled with all kinds of small plastic toys!

Cracker Jack158 AT 4-23.jpgAfter looking at a few of them I knew they were Cracker Jack toy prizes. After going through many more boxes and combing the tent thoroughly, it was time to check out. After reaching an agreed upon price a friendly lady helped me load all of my vintage finds into my van. It is so much fun to find toys that once were part of my childhood.

Although the Cracker Jack prizes were the smallest toys, they left their impression on me. Upon returning home I dumped them out and began to marvel at these little treasures made of such colorful plastic. Some of the prizes I found were: animals of all kinds, spinning tops, whistles, magnifiers, tools, puzzles, key rings, sports figures, circus people, flicker cards, ocarina, a trophy, cars, and others. Some of the prizes were still in their original wrapper and a few of them were never put together. Many of the prizes that Cracker Jack made needed some assembly. Some were as simple as just snapping two pieces of plastic together, while others required a bit more work. I can just imagine a youngster showing a completed car to their mom or dad and saying, “Look what I just made.”

Cracker Jack166 AT 4-23.jpgAfter going through all of the toys, many of them looked familiar. Some of my favorites are: the tiny whistle, palm puzzle, (where you had to maneuver two steel balls into two small holes) sailor Jack and Bingo, and flicker cards. I was totally impressed with their multiple images as the card was moved back and forth. My research on Cracker Jack toys found that many of the little prizes have no markings on them at all. Some of the markings found on this lot are: The C. J. Co; Cracker Jack, C. J. C. O; The Cracker Jack Co, and Cracker Jack SP. The values on these little toys range in price from under a dollar for the more recent, while some of the very early prizes can fetch thousands of dollars. A search on ebay shows many sellers offering these little toys in small lots of 10 to 50 pieces or more. Some of these lots sell in the range of $10 to $30 and higher. Cracker Jack has a great Web site and it can be viewed at

Toys Tug At My Heart

The more I looked at these little toy prizes, the more meaning they had. It almost seemed as though it was 1961 again and I was just buying a box of Cracker Jack from our neighborhood store for 10 cents. My memories of opening the box and eating this wonderful confection will last forever. Those coated peanuts were so tasty. Every kid could hardly wait to get to the bottom of the box and claim their prize. After consuming countless boxes of the sweet stuff, my collection started to grow. Somehow through the years they got lost, broken, or thrown out. Now this coffee can is just full of them and those precious memories can be relived at any time my heart desires.

The array of many colors is like precious artwork to me. The cute designs put a smile on my face. My original intent was to sell the complete collection, but these little toys just tug at my heart. I just cannot seem to part with them.