"Dig In" for Dinosaurs!
By Kurt Kuersteiner (© 1997 Monsterwax Monster Trading Cards) for The Wrapper Magazine from issue #151
It's amazing to think that 65 million years ago, the Earth was literally crawling with monster-sized reptiles. They dominated the planet for 280 million years (compared to only 3 million years of humans). No one is quite sure why Dinosaurs became extinct. But if they hadn't, humans would be little more than bite sized snacks for most of them.
Fortunately for us, it is the humans that currently terrorize the planet. As omnivores, we eat an incredible variety of plants, fish, birds, mammals, and yes- even reptiles (including the Alligator, a direct descendent of dinosaurs). So it is with a certain amount of irony that more and more food packages are being marketed with prehistoric pictures. Maybe it's mankind's way of thumbing our noses at the creatures who would have eaten us like Tic-Tacs, if not for the protective barrier of time.
Whatever the reason, these Dinosaur premiums are a lot of fun to collect. Unlike a lot of card sets, food premiums are very rarely "dumped". They tend to be difficult to finish once they have disappeared from the shelves. Sometimes that shelf life can be very short. Many of the items we're about to discuss may already be gone. But the sooner you start the search, the better off you are. With that in mind, let's start digging for dinosaurs!
Certainly one of the most lavish dinosaur decorations is found on Betty Crocker "Fruit Roll-Ups" boxes. Each box features two 4 1/2" by 2 1/4" cards on the back. It takes six boxes to finish the set of twelve. It's not hard to identify the cards since they are in plain view on the back, but locating the six different flavors of Fruit Roll-Ups can be difficult indeed. (I had to have the "Crazy Colors" and "Cherry" boxes sent to me from Arizona!) The colorful artwork makes it worthwhile though. There's corresponding text on the inside portion of the box as well (all "gray backs", of course). The cards are perforated, but many collectors save the entire box. Some of these boxes are probably still on the shelves today.
While on the subject of boxes, Golden Grain Macaroni & Cheese offers four different dinosaur "mini" cards on the back of some of their cardboard containers. There are four in the set and they measure 1 5/8" by 2 15/16". These are handsome color paintings in a simple sort of way, but are completely blank on the reverse. Only the creatures name, dimensions and weight are featured on the bottom of the picture. The cards are easy and inexpensive to complete, and are still available in most stores at the time of writing (October '97).
Another series recently available are inside Kid Cuisine TV dinners. These frozen meals are high in carbohydrates but small in portions. (They tasted fine the first dozen times, but after that, the penguin on the outside of the box started looking more appetizing than the greasy food within.) However, the cards are really fun. They feature glow in the dark skeletons of each dinosaur, visible whenever the lights go out. This same gimmick was used in 1993 by Farley's candy on four cards. These cards are twice as nice- if not in quality, at least in quantity. There are eight in the set. But be forewarned: The breakdown can be tough. The outside box only says "free super funpack inside", and that doesn't necessarily mean cards. Some boxes have cartoon place mats instead. I spent over $60 (and gained 5 pounds) to finish just two sets. I had the best luck with the pizza meals.
A quick aside for Disney Collectors: Kid Cuisine is starting to include trading cards of Disney's Jungle Book. (Others to follow?)
Everyone remembers finding prizes inside Cracker Jack boxes, but how many recall finding Cracker Jacks inside ice cream bar boxes? I missed this 1995 experiment in frozen science, and good thing: I'm told it did more damage to bridgework than the Hurricane did to Homestead. Doesn't anyone at the factory try this stuff first? The ice cream part tasted fine, but the Cracker Jack outer coating became as sticky as glue! The only visible reminders of this failed product today are the fancy cars purchased by nouveau riche dentists and tiny but colorful dinosaur cards hoarded by collectors. How small is tiny? Try 1 3/4" x 1 5/16"! The art is nice, however, and there are 15 in the set.
The recent Jurassic Park sequel created an entire slew of merchandising. One of the more notable food premiums came inside Burger King "kids club meals". One of twelve different cards were included with a "Land Before Time" toy. I like these cards a lot, but they tend to be damaged by the toy.
If you enjoy 3-D Jurassic Park action, you should get a kick out of the dinosaur holograph card plastered on the outside of Canadian boxes of Cheerios. (There is only one variety of hologram.) For those of us who can't afford to travel to Canada for a box of cereal, I'm told you can order it via fax (and Visa card) at the following number: (905) 832-5350. The full box is $5 plus $8 S&H. What a deal! (for the shipping department.)
On a related note, it's rumored that the first batch of Lost World videos will contain some sort of Jurassic Park card. Details are fuzzy, but is should be out by the time this appears in print (release date was Nov. 4th).
Uh-Oh! Spaghettios! Remember those round canned noodles in tomato paste? If you're a dinosaur collector, you might have to gag down a few more cans and soon. The 1997 Cambell Soup promotion included four different dinosaur stickers under specially marked labels. There are four different labels with five stickers each, but one of every five is the friendly Spaghettio man. So the total number of 20 stickers includes only 16 dinosaurs.
And finally, after all the focus on fast food and poor nutrition, health minded collectors will be glad to know about Dannon dinosaur stickers. These unnumbered stickers were released in 1995 with yogurt, a total of six pairs (making twelve singles if separated). They are even smaller than the Cracker Jack cards, measuring only 1 1/8" x 1 3/8". The backs are blank and the artwork is cartoonish. Dannon still sells the kid oriented six packs that these stickers originally came with (called "Danimals") but they no longer contain the stickers. The packs are covered with garish Dinosaur artwork. You can either save the entire six-pack and let the yogurt age gracefully through the years or you can try to tear off the labels (and fail like I did). The peel off tops look pretty cool, too. You'll feel good knowing your purchase helps support the National Wildlife Federation, though how this benefits the dinosaurs remains to be seen. There are four different six packs, but only one of them has the dinosaur theme.
That's all for now, dino-diggers. Wash your plates and go work off that saturated fat. You know what's for supper until you finish your set. Um-um good!
A special thanks go to collectors Ken McLaughlin, Cecil Duncan, Todd Riley and Harris Toser for information contributed to this article.
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