6/3/15

Nabisco/Frito-Lay Dinosaurs (1950's/1960's)

Today, we take a look at a very prized set of tiny figures that are dear to me.  First, a short backstory:  When I was small, occasionally I would get to play with these small plastic dinosaurs, because my father had a large bag of them, and he always told me that he earned them by eating many, many bags of Frito's corn chips.  Years later, he was nice enough to let me pick out a set of all ten for my own, and they are proudly displayed in a glass case in my office:
Only recently can I fill in a bit more of the details about their origin.  They were first offered in the 1950's by Nabisco, as a cereal premium, specifically "Wheat Honeys," which are the same thing as "Sugar Smacks," ...which are gross.  They even gave you a handy guide with extremely simple, kid-friendly names:
Although I don't think "Reptilian Tank" was a good test answer, even in the 1950's.  Hey, I just thought of something:
Anyway, there are two amazing things I notice on this Wheat Honeys box:  1) You could mail away for the entire set of ten dinosaurs for 25 cents, and 2) a large box of cereal cost TWENTY-THREE CENTS in the 50's.  That's amazing.  Of course, houses were like ten bucks, so go figure.
Fast-forwarding to the 1960's, these figures were again produced, this time as premiums included in bags of Frito-Lay products.  (Nevermind that cereal premiums are long gone, can you imagine getting free stuff in bags of chips? The last time I saw that was in the 1990's, when you could get little Star Wars discs.)  And that's where my set came from.  Here's a closer look at all ten:
These little guys actually have quite a bit of detail, which hopefully shows up in my crappy I-phone photos.  The technical scientific names for these three are Tyrannosaurs Rex, Goat Head, and Duckbill.
Here's three of the best. I think the Triceratops has always been my favorite dinosaur, with the Dimetrodon a close second.  You have to wonder if Frito-Lay thought they were unintentionally doing some marketing for Sinclair gas stations, with the Brontosaurus?
Stegosaurus and Diplodocus, which the cereal box refers to as "Sea Serpent," as in Loch Ness??
The distant relatives of Angilas and Rodan, the Ankylosaurus and the Pterodactyl.  It takes a lot of work to get the Pterodactyl figure to stand.  It has an angled flat spot, which makes it stand crooked for a few seconds, before it falls over.

One last point, about the amazing colors these things came in!  It's actually hard to photograph these things and get their colors to come across accurately.  They were available in several colors, and many of them are very unique.  You just don't see molded plastic in these colors anymore, and you know right away by looking at them that they are vintage.  Here is an attempt to better show this, using a white background (and correcting the photo some):
1)  Black, which appears to be pretty common for these guys.
2)  A rich green color, that is kind of close to a hunter/forest green, but not quite.
3)  Gray, but not so much on my computer monitor.
4)  A lovely soft purple; not so much to be lavender, but in-between.
5)  Kind of a mauve, is the best way to describe it.
6)  My favorite, it's like a gun-metal blue-gray that is extremely pleasing to behold.
7)  A vivid, red/orange/brown rust.

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