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.

2023 UPDATE:
This remains one of the highest-read posts on this blog, and some kind soul actually saved the little flyer from the original packaging for all these years, and recently sold it on Ebay.  Now, through the magic of technology, we can see it for ourselves! Behold!


pylgrym said...

For behaving well in my dentist's office, I was awarded my choice of little goodies from her prize box, and always chose a dinosaur from this family. Did my dentist eat sugar cereal in 1955? Well, everybody did.

Lyn Humphrey said...

I really enjoyed your article on these dinosaur figures. We used to get similar (but not exactly the same) freebies in England cereal packets during my childhood (mid -50s to mid-60s). The type of dinosaurs were the same though, and interestingly, the Brontosaurus was referred to as a 'Thunder Lizard', just as yours was.

Anonymous said...

I'm 68 years old. For some reason I just remembered getting toy dinosaurs with Fritos in about 1962. I searched Google to see if I was crazy. Thankfully your article refreshed my memory. I enjoyed your article, thank you.

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

Glad to help! Also I hope it helps give a little more info for folks who want to search Ebay for them!

Vicki said...

I still remember collecting those little dinosaurs. I was always the first one to open the bag , lol. Now I buy them online...waaay too many of them.lol

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

@Vicki - Thanks for your great comment! At least they are still plentiful and available! Looking at past auctions, I couldn't believe that somebody had saved the original little flyer from the packaging that showed the whole set, so it's added to this post for everyone to see!

Anonymous said...

Yep, I remember them from my childhood....talking about freebies in snacks....Not my imagination, but I distinctly recall coins being placed inside candy lollipops..you never knew what coin you received till you were almost finished....I wonder how many choking kids were rushed to the hospital....clutching a shiny penny!

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

@Anonymous - Now there's one I hadn't heard of! Let's hope they were uncirculated!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for helping an old man with his memories! One of the first memories I have is of reaching up to play with my new brontosaurus on the counter of our kitchen. Gold-flecked white, quite modern. Mom had poured the Honey Wheats out into a Pyrex mixing bowl to get the prize from the bottom of the box . In my mind it was the Sinclair dinosaur, a little confused as to why a cereal company was giving out gas station prizes. I too loved the dimetrodon and rhamphorhyncus. (Sorry, not a pterodactyl. As a 4 year old authority on dinosaurs, I would have had to correct you!)

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

@Anonymous--those are great childhood memories! That's funny that you thought it had to do with Sinclair gas...makes perfect sense to me! I'm continually impressed how these awesome dinosaurs were so dear to so many people, and still fresh in their memories!