Collectors Corner: Food Icons
By Michele Alice
We don't know about you, but the post-holidays winter blues have taken over. Spring may be coming, but not fast enough, and with not much to do outside of work but shovel snow and try to stay warm, our thoughts just naturally dwell on food.
You think the Super Bowl is all about football? Nah, it's really just an excuse to indulge in pizza, wings, and your favorite snacks. You think Valentine's Day is all about flowers, Hallmark cards, and romance? No, it's really just an excuse to eat lots (and lots) of chocolate. You think we enjoy sweating and staining and grunting our way through spring so that we can fit into our summer clothes? No, but it's the price we seem willing to pay for using "comfort" food as a treatment for SAD (seasonal affective disorder) all winter.
Of course, with all this talk of food, it's just natural that we would turn our attention to a few famous food icons and how they intersect with the collectibles markets.
Created in 1921 to act as a representative for General Mills, the Betty Crocker image has undergone several makeovers through the years and has appeared on a number of products. The cookbooks, published in both regular and binder formats, have proven to be very popular, selling in the millions, and various editions appear regularly on the secondary markets. Judging from recent online-auction activity, first editions of the first book (Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, 1950) with dust jacket can sell for up to $65+, but the 1969 "Red Pie" edition often fetches up to $100+ while the 1961 edition, Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book, is in even greater demand, with final auction values approaching $125 and more.
Betty Crocker: Resources
The Betty Crocker Official site includes Betty's History, The Portraits, recipes, glossary more.
Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book Review - Collectability - This page at Cookbook Village provides more detailed info on this and other Betty Crocker cookbooks. Nice site for the general cookbook collector!
The California Raisins
Launched to stardom by a 1986 Claymation television ad for the California Raisin Advisory Board, The California Raisins appeared in their own Saturday morning cartoon series, Emmy-nominated primetime specials, and on products ranging from lunch boxes and clothing to LPs and bedding. The small PVC character figures are particular favorites among collectors. Originally available at retail outlets, for proofs-of-purchase from Post Raisin Bran cereal boxes, and as promotional items from the Hardee's restaurant chain, many of the figures range from about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches in height. Most are fairly common and sell for just a dollar or two, but rare pieces like Mama Lulu (aka Mom Lulu Arborman), Cecil Thyme Carrot, Leonard Limabean, and A. C. - all from the second "Meet the Raisins" retail set by Applause and marked CALRAB under their feet - can fetch individual prices up to $125+ (for Cecil) to $240+ for the complete set.
The California Raisins: Resources
Collectible California Raisins: An Unauthorized Guide with Values, by Pamela Duvall Curran.
The California Raisins - Listen to some great music while exploring this fun site. Includes back story, discography more.
The California Raisins - Wharble.com site, covering "Cartoons, Comics, & Their Collectibles," has whole section devoted to the Raisins. Pics and descriptions of dozens of Raisin products.
It's hard to believe that Mr. Peanut is almost 100 years old. One of the longest-lasting American advertising icons, Mr. Peanut was born in 1916, the result of a contest to create a trademark symbol for the Planters Peanut Company. With so many years under Mr. Peanut's belt (if he had one), it's no wonder that his image is one of the most recognizable in the world. There have been Mr. Peanut cast iron banks, watches, neon clocks, jewelry, pens/pencils, toys, die cast models, glass jars, playing cards, salt and peppers, and even salad utensils. A recent search for Mr. Peanut and Planters Peanuts items reveled that a wind-up, walking Mr. Peanut from the 1950s just sold for $350, while a pair of glass jars with bail handles and tin lids from the 1930s fetched $460. And collectors are always on the lookout for vintage display and advertising pieces, some of which can sell for several hundred dollars.
Mr. Peanut: Resources
Look Who's Talking for Mr. Peanut Now - Did you know that Robert Downey Jr. has been the voice of Mr. Peanut since 2010?
Mr. Peanut Collectibles - Lots of photos of all types of Planters items. And check out the section on Fakes.
Mr. Peanut Goes to the Smithsonian - Will be part of the "American Enterprise" exhibit slated to open in 2015.
Planters - Official website includes company timeline and ad gallery.
Planters Peanut Collectibles, 1906-1961, by Jan Lindenberger and Joyce Spontak.
Planter Peanut Collectibles: A Handbook and Price Guide, by Jan Lindenberger and Joyce Spontak.
Collecting Food Icons
Luckily for collectors, many items with these and other well-known trademarks regularly turn up a yard and estate sales, consignment shops, thrift stores, and - of course - online, so it is usually not too difficult to start or add to a collection for quite reasonable prices.
If you would like additional information on food icons, check out A Century of American Icons: 100 Products and Slogans from the 20th-Century Consumer Culture by Mary Cross, and Encyclopedia of Consumer Brands - Consumable Products, by Janice Jorgensen.
About the author:
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9
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