A little over ten years ago, I started collecting old cereal prizes. It was the right time to do it. Even the most humdrum old prize is good for a few bucks these days, but nobody was really paying attention to ‘em back then. I’d win auctions for ten bucks and walk away with piles of the things.
It was another obsession that burned bright for a few months before I moved onto other stupid shiny things. The hundreds of prizes I accumulated have now spent years trapped in plastic bins, hoping/praying that I’d remember them someday.
Well, lucky them — today I did! Below are five of my favorite cereal prizes from the ‘80s and ‘90s. May they conjure up memories and make you crave Corn Pops.
I gushed about the Starbots on a recent episode of the Purple Stuff Podcast, and while I suppose calling them the best-ever cereal prizes is an objective reach, they’re definitely my all-time favorites.
With a wink at Star Wars and Transformers, the Starbots were interstellar ships that transformed into adorably crude robots. Each came unassembled on a plastic rack (similar to how your old Ninja Turtles’ weapons were packaged), with a teensy sticker sheet.
There were four (wildly different) Starbots available, and each came in multiple colors. My favorite is the one shown here, which looked like a cross between Leader-1 and Playskool’s Alphie.
I absolutely treated the Starbots like “real” action figures as a kid. They palled around with Vader and Bumblebee, and it never once felt unnatural. That was an unusually high “rank” for cereal prizes, and I can’t name many others that got that sort of play in my childhood bedroom.
Starbots may have been my personal faves, but I’d still call Wacky Wallwalkers the *ultimate* cereal prizes. No matter how much time passes, I can’t hear “cereal prize” without my brain immediately darting to those sticky octopuses that slowly sashayed down our living room walls.
Wacky Wallwalkers were sold in stores, but they’re more famous for their scattered appearances inside cereal boxes. If you’ve never seen one in action, the idea was that you’d fling it at the wall, and then delight as your gooey monster slowly “walked” its way down to the floor. The trick didn’t always work, but when it did, it was admittedly magical.
Course, the real draw of owning a Wacky Wallwalker was the chance to participate in one of my generation’s greatest rites of passage: Chucking it straight up at the ceiling, telling nobody you did that, and then letting it stay there for months.
The next time you’re in a house that hasn’t been remodeled since 1986, check the ceiling for suspicious oil stains. I’m tellin’ ya — that’s from a Wacky Wallwalker.
Rescue Rangers Stampers!
Kellogg’s was extremely fond of the ink stamper concept, which they dusted off for everything from Boglins to DuckTales. The repetition never felt “cheap,” since the stampers were super high quality compared to most other cereal prizes.
This one is from a set of four Rescue Rangers stampers. It’s another of the MANY cereal prizes tied to the Disney Afternoon, which arrived so frequently that I’m not even sure I could name them all. (I wonder if that’s why I always associate an afternoon block of cartoons with breakfast?)
Monterey Jack stamps were fun, sure, but the real appeal was in what they led you to do. Suddenly you were penning letters to faraway cousins and dolling up your school notebooks, all for the excuse to stamp rat heads on everything. Most cereal prizes were only novel for a minute, so these stampers always popped.
Man, every time I bring up Leon Neon, all I get back are cricket noises. It’s not just an age thing, either. I could be talking to someone with the same exact birthdate, and if I mention Leon Neon, they just think I’m misremembering a football player. Where the hell were you guys?
The in-store versions of Leon Neon kits consisted of thick, bendable “sticks” that glowed in the dark. You could shape them into bracelets and even eyewear, and then prance around like you were at a rave on Saturn. (I preferred to leave the sticks straight and treat them like rods of radioactive plutonium.)
The cereal prize versions of Leon Neon were a bit scaled down. Instead of the thick, poseable sticks, you received what were essentially glow-in-the-dark jelly bracelets. Still way cool by cereal prize standards, and I’m sure they inspired a few kids to beg their parents for the retail versions.
Side note: The commercial promoting these prizes starred Fred Savage, from back before everyone knew his name.
Cherry Cola Nerds!
Nerds Cereal was one of Ralston’s true masterstrokes. Each box contained two different flavors, kept separate in their own bags. The cereal was based on the candy, obviously, but Ralston went to enormous lengths to make it feel just like it.
Naturally, sample-sized boxes of Nerds candy were frequent prizes. This was easily the most desirable of ‘em all. Cherry Cola Nerds were both awesome and super rare. They were only in stores for a short time, sharing their retail boxes with Rainbow Nerds. If you’re one of the lucky few who’ve actually tasted Cherry Cola Nerds, it was probably through the cereal.
And yes, that box is still full. I refuse to open it, mostly because I know I wouldn’t be able to resist even 33-year-old Cherry Cola Nerds. Cherry cola anything is my ultimate weakness.
Thanks for reading about old cereal prizes. Let’s do this again, sometime.