While a deep dive into what constitutes a “collector” versus a “hoarder” is probably necessary, the extent that which people will go to hold on to the faintest glimmer of the good old days knows no bounds. Case in point, the small but fervent collector’s marketplace for…breakfast cereals??? Yes, but not just any cereal. We’re talking about the pop culture tie-ins of the 1980s! Collectors abound in this country, and I believe it to be a very “American” thing. We are so enraptured with holding on to any tidbit of nostalgia that nothing is off-limits. I feel your pain, brothers and sisters and theys and thems. I am one of ye.
You don’t have to be a cereal aficionado the likes of Jerry Seinfeld to find joy in these golden oldies.
They elicit warm memories of begging your mom to buy them at the supermarket and her usually saying no because she was a good mom and these were 100% unhealthy. “Have a bowl of candy, son. Pour some milk over it and relive the movie on the box with each bite.” No, that generally didn’t happen. But maybe one day you caught her in a good mood. Maybe last night’s episode of “Falcon Crest” was exhilaratingly saucy and she just said screw it. Here’s your cavity waiting to happen, enjoy it. With an endless amount of bad decisions on the shelves, here are your contenders for the most collected cereals today…
E.T… Ok, this was actually a good tasting cereal and it took the time to get on board with the theme of the movie. Made up of little E’s and T’s, it was peanut butter-based, which tied into E.T’s addiction to Reese’s Pieces. The only problem was it was not as fun as Alpha Bits. You could only spell “TEE” and the fun was over.
The Corny Crowd
Gremlins… I shouldn’t even single out this one. There were many boring corn-based cereals with some vague shape that was supposed to have something to do with the movie or show that were just awful. Did you like Pops when you were a kid? No! Ok, but would you like Pops if they were shaped like a Mogwai, Pac-Man, or the Batman symbol? Hell yes!
At least for Batman Returns they added a few marshmallows (which more than made up for Christopher Walken’s performance.) Throw Mr. T cereal in this mix as well, I guess. No one I knew ever really cared about the Mr. T cereal until Pee Wee Herman ate two bites of it to prepare for his big adventure. Gremlins, however, is a seminal 80’s film and deserved a better effort. Perhaps they changed to green upon getting wet with milk or a warning on the box to not eat them as a midnight snack? I digress, but more creativity was warranted.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Cereal
How many calories per spoonful? 69, dude!!! What better cereal for children than two guys who lust over one of their stepmothers? Some cereals don’t hold up culturally over the years. Even the G.I. Joe cereal might be canceled by today’s standards. (You can taste the toxic masculinity. GO, JOE!)
Wheaties put out a basketball-themed cereal called Dunk-A-Balls. (Yikes.) And much later there was even a Pirates of the Caribbean offering which I can only assume took a mega-pint of milk to fill the bowl. Johnny Depp may have won in the public’s eyes, but how many moms want him staring at their children from the box while they eat? Maybe just own it, I say. Let’s get Will Smith to endorse Honey Smacks.
The goldenrod standard of collectable cereals as well as the one you probably wanted most as a kid. Why? It was just the bland corn situation we had with the others in some mysterious shape. Well, it’s because of what it offered. Another connection to Star Wars which we clamored for in any capacity in which we could find it.
The cereal was awful. I hated it as much as Han Solo hated the actual C-3PO. But the box was amazing. Those masks on the back! A Stormtrooper! Vader! Chewie! It was another form of collecting as a kid. Had to get them all. I remember rifling through the boxes looking to complete the set. A genius marketing idea by Kellogg’s. Plus, some of the boxes came with two trading cards.
Face it, we bought it for the box. Finishing the cereal was only an end to the means of getting another box. “See, Mom? I like it!” No you didn’t. But if that’s what it took to get another mask, I’d muscle it down akin to a contestant on “Fear Factor” eating live cockroaches.
These are the kind of memories that collecting is all about.
So if buying a forty-year-old box of cereal and displaying it in a plastic cereal coffin makes you happy, you should do it. A well conditioned box of C-3PO’s goes for about forty bucks, which seems reasonable these days with supply chain issues. It’s money well spent to bring back a bygone era where every part of your day was filled with adventure and whimsy…even breakfast.