Memory Lane: Nabisco Dinosaurs

Ah, there they are! The whole gang. Free Inside! For a little golden while in the 1950s, these gloriously crude little dinosaurs came free inside boxes of Nabisco cereal–Wheat Honeys and Rice Honeys, to wit. You can only imagine with what eagerness I opened each fresh box of cereal and rooted around until I found my prize.

Actually these figures were a little smaller than pictured above, which made it terribly easy to lose them in the sandbox. I still have a few of them, and I wouldn’t part with them for all the tea in China.

Looking back, I’m amazed at what little it took to make kids happy, back then. Well, these toys made me happy, at any rate. So did a 5-cent pack of baseball cards, which costs $5 now and probably makes no one happy.

All right, maybe you’re not into dinosaurs. But there were all kinds of nifty prizes in cereal, those days. Little plastic figures of characters in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (remember that?); bronze or silver-colored plastic doodads representing famous breeds of dogs; little spacemen, The Spoonmen, that you could attach to your cereal spoon… little cars, little speedboats. All of them simple, tiny, cheap–and lovable.

I don’t even what to know what they’re offering 9-year-olds today. I’m sure it would depress me.

17 comments on “Memory Lane: Nabisco Dinosaurs

  1. Lee, I don’t remember those little dinosaurs and probably because I was a faithful Frosted Flakes kid. What Tony the Tiger offered once was simple magic tricks that were mostly cut out from the back of the box. I remember demonstrating the “Floating Tiger ” trick for my parents. I don’t think I was able to collect the magic tricks but I had fun with the ones I had.

  2. Fearing lawsuits, small items have become the province of adults, and no longer are made for children. I didn’t use the word “toy”, because I think that disrespects the value these items can have. Even the simple illusions cut from the back of a Frosted Flakes box tend to show a child how something in this world works.

    Nabisco dinosaurs are obviously more valuable than their cost (free/promotional) would suggest. I think it’s very nice that you’ve kept these all your life. I wonder if that’s where Lord Reesh got the idea. 🙂

    But, in all seriousness, it illustrates something important about all persons, at least when circumstances permit, is that we have internal continuity. We are the same person throughout our life and the objects that we treasure as children will still hold meaning for us years later.

    When I was a child, I built model cars from kits, starting around the age of five or six. I doubt that any of these exist anymore, but I have a number of diecast models that were purchased as completed models. The point is, when I was five, I saw a kit for a ’49 Ford Club Coupe and realized that was the perfect vehicle (for my imagination). A few months ago I saw a diecast of a 1968 Mercedes 280 SL and decided that was the perfect vehicle. There’s no need to invoke imagination on this example, I’d gladly drive one of those every day and actually do drive the Japanese-made equivalent every day.

    Lee has written, on more than one occasion, about dinosaur replicas from his past and he writes about interesting creatures from the natural world. His childhood and his adulthood are well aligned. One of the first functional items I desired as a child was a guitar. Every morning I wake up and one of the first things I see are my guitars, neatly hung on the wall opposing my bed. I loved pickup trucks and roadsters when I was a child and my driveway contains a small pickup truck and a modest roadster. I would venture that my childhood and my adulthood are well aligned.

    Childhood and adulthood usually are well aligned, unless there are significant extenuating circumstances. Our values, interests and aspirations tend to be consistent throughout life, if not indentical. Beyond that, I think it’s great that Lee has preserved some items from his childhood. I wish I had.

    1. I haven’t got any of our model cars, though–more’s the pity. Just a picture of them displayed on our bedroom wall, on a special shelf my father built for them. Maybe my brother has some of them squirreled away in his toy-chest. And my sister has saved a few items from her early childhood, but not many.

      These old things, be they tiny plastic dinosaurs or whatever, for me evoke happy days and people that I loved, almost all of whom are gone by now.

      I have a big wooden box (built by my father) full of toy dinosaurs and animals. I’ve never counted them, but it does take quite a while to take them out and line them up. And believe it or not, I can remember which relative gave me which toy (crediting the ones from cereal boxes to my parents, who, after all, bought the groceries each week).

      I do wish I could remember the name of the company that made those plastic model car kits my brother and I liked so much.

      And I wish I still had my erector set: although if he has it, that’s all right.

  3. Model cars were a near obsession to me, as a child. What I really wanted was a car, and the tools to work on it. I wanted to see what was inside the engine and transmission of a car. AMT was the biggest name of models that I remember from my youth. Revel built some great models, more detailed than many of the AMT kits and with many operating features, such as opening doors and steerable front whaeels. There was a third company that came along, the name of which escapes me, but their selection was excellent.

    Many of theses kits had options. You could build a stock replica, a street custom or a full-on racing car. The only racing I knew about was the stock car races at the fairground, andt first I didn’t understand that the racing versions of these models were drag racing cars, a concept as foreign to me as could be imagined.

    But these models did me good. I learned a lot about how mechanical things worked, just from assembling plastic kits. Beyond that, they fueled my imagination and my dreams. How else could a kid from small-town Minnesota learn about AC Cobras powered by small Ford V-8s with four shiny Weber carburetors on top? Why else would I have an AC Cobra as the desktop picture on my computer, over fifty years later? Perhaps most importantly, where else would I have learned to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of this classic design, which was rather openly purloined from and early fifties Ferrari?

    I assembled the Cessna Skyhawk model and marveled at the way light aircraft were put together. Thirty years later I was working on real Cessna airplanes (which I loved). Is there a link?

    Then there were the JoHann models of Chrysler products, with functional torsion bar front suspension and the Hawk models of prewar and WW II aircraft, which sold for a princely 59 cents. My father had minor surgery when I was about seven and bought me a handful of those Hawk airplanes to keep me occupied while he was in the hospital. How many 59 cent items are still remembered 55 years later?

    One thing I appreciate about your blog, your books, and you, is that you take time to see the beauty and wonder around you. That is a rare trait these days. These little things in life, tiny plastic dinosaurs, model kits and cereal box “prizes” are all part of who we became. I am the product of every experience in my life, as are everyone. We were fortunate to have grown up in a time when there weee some truly nice objects available.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t include some very detailed zoo animals that I used to buy. I don’t recall the brand, although I remember them as being from Europe. There were all sorts of bauerifully detailed animals, all made to scale. You could buy fences and create zoo exhibits right in your bedroom. The local farm store carries something similar and I have a baby rhino and a baby hippo decorating a bookshelf, somewhere in the house. The models taught me about man’s creativity, the zoo animals taught me about God’s creativity.

    1. Well done, Unknowable–AMT, that’s the brand! Yeah, we loved those–especially all the options they gave you. And I remember those Hawk kits, too.

      There were some dinosaur skeleton model kits, but I never could get the finished product to stand up. Nothing looks quite so sorry as a Tyrannosaurus listing to the left. Except maybe one that’s finished listing and just plain collapsed.

      Another thing a few of us kids in the neighborhood used to do was paint our dinosaurs. This probably diminishes their resale value–but if you’re a 10-year-old kid thinking about resale values, there’s something wrong with the way your parents raised you.

      Most of the kid-administered paint has worn off my dinosaurs by now–although a few of them still bear our handiwork: and we didn’t do such a bad job of it at that.

  4. Those AMT kits were a big part of the social fabric when I was growing up. Most of my neighborhood chums built models and there was even a club that a couple of elite kit builders formed. We built, rebuilt, modified and hot-rodded those models,swapping parts between kits. I could shoehorn a huge racing engine into a helpless little ’64 Barracuda and create a potent hybrid which would surprise everybody with its startling acceleration. Of course it was all imaginary,

    But that imaginary world was valuable. I followed a technical career path and one of the other guys ended up as an engineer with a company that builds lawn care and agricultural equipment. Ironically enough, twenty some years ago, I actually assembled a huge, real-life racing engine which was subsequently stuffed into a helpless little ’67 Barracuda, but it only served to create a hybrid prone to overheating and of little practical use. However, life did imitate juvenile art, in this case. 🙂

    1. My bedroom was a theme park of Jurassic automobile models, genetically engineered to assure that in real life they’d all overheat within seconds of being started and could achieve 6 MPG with a tailwind, which is exactly what happened with that poor little Barracuda with the 440 and the racing cam.

  5. You all sound like you’re having too much fun reminiscing about models from days gone by. Many of the models I had, dinosaurs mostly, have gone the way of many an old toy. I have no models remaining from my childhood. Mom was a Thrower-Outer. If it wasn’t where it was supposed to be, it got tossed. But, I still enjoy reading about dinosaurs and watching videos and documentaries about the latest finds. When I do come across an article about some new saurian evidence coming to light, I feel like that little girl again who bought a stegosaurus skeleton model from the local hobby shop so eager to put it together with Dad (who didn’t know he was going to help me with this!)
    By the way, I loved paper dolls when I was young and guess what I collect: PAPER DOLLS!

    1. When I was a kid, I always thought paper dolls were cool. Now, as a boy, I wouldn’t be caught dead playing with them, but I thought that they were sort of neat. I think it’s just the idea of something so simple, with so many possibilities.

      In our current day, with computers and color printers, I would imagine that paper dolls have all sorts of potential for unique clothing designed on a computer and then printed and cut out.

    2. Marge, was that an Aurora Stegosaurus? I’ve still got mine! And the Brontosaurus, too.

      Dinosaurs and paper dolls–cool combination. Very cool!

    3. Guess what!! Someone has! I don’t have a photo; just take my word on it.

    4. As long as they’re tasteful. 🙂

      I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, dinosaurs have been the subject of much in the way of creative fancy over the years. From the Flintstones to some of the prehistoric creatures in Lee’s books, the natural world gives us a lot of good material for creative opportunity.

    5. Lee, I don’t remember the brand name but I did buy it in a hobby store. The skeletal pieces were very realistic. I still remember Dad working so hard on it with me but in the end we found a small bone still in the box!
      We used airplane glue on it. So you still have your model? The only stegosaurus model I have on display is an origami model I made not long ago out of a library book. He’s folded out of some lizard green paper and watches me as I work in my kitchen.

  6. UnKnowable, I am a member of OPDAG, Original Paper Doll Artists’ Guild. I’m mostly a collector but many paper doll artists submit work that’s gorgeous, fantastic, imaginative, and so many other adjectives I could use. Many pd artists are retired fashion designers, fashion forecasters, fashion illustrators, but many are also just creative people, both men and women, who enjoy paper doll making and want to see the one-time little girls’ domain activity flourish. One artist does do all her work on computer. Several artists use both manual drawing/painting along with computer enhancement and finishing. I could go on here about paper dolls but I won’t. In fact, I’m planning on getting off here for now and finishing up some paper dolls that are in need of some coloring and cutting out.

    1. It sounds like a vibrant and interesting field of interest.

      I’ve always been fascinated by toys that allow people to choose from options and try arranging items in different ways.

      My particular hobby is music, specifically arranging music for the guitar. Classical guitar technique is a matter of calculating ways to play melodies and accompaniment which are feasible within the limitations of the instrument. My arrangements tend to be of Standards, Country and Soft Rock, utilizing classical approaches to a great degree.

      In a sense, it’s a matter of mix and match, which would seem to be the name of the game for paper dolls as well. I would venture that both pursuits are good for the mind and satisfying. My graphic skills barely rival the average pre-scooler, so I ended up using sound as my medium.

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