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The Alphabet King?

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Meet Jeffrey MaxwellA Trip Through the Alphabet Kingdom
Five years seems like a short time when your having fun -- that's how long the Alphabet26 Website has been online! And I've come a long way in that time. I placed my first ad in the July, 1996, issue of The Prize Insider to buy alphabet animals and dangles, and by the December, 1997, issue a headline read "The Alphabet King: Jeff Maxwell" December '97 was also the month that I started the Alphabet26 Website. I had already convinced some collectors that I was a little ABC crazy when I announced that I had collecting goals and that I intended to collect alphabet animals in single-shade sets in at least seven different colors. Needless to say, collecting alphabet prizes from Cracker Jack has certainly been an obsession for most of the time I have been running this site. In fact, some people think I've really gone off the deep end -- especially my wife, Diane. She would even say I've gone -- well, you get the picture.  This website is a way for me to carry that obsession a little further and share it with all my friends. Now I have collected alphabet prizes for over seven years and have accomplished a lot, but it seems that I have just begun my epic journey.

The Spark of an "ABC" Obsession

I started collecting Cracker Jack prizes one Summer day in 1989 (or '90?) when I bought a small collection of prizes at an estate sale. Cracker Jack Prizes by Alex Jaramillo I then bought a book that had just come out -- Cracker Jack Prizes by Alex Jaramillo. (Alex is a collector and friend from whom I have collected much information and advice in past years. Thank you, Alex.) Over the next years, I picked up Cracker Jack prizes at flea markets and toy shows, but really didn't get serious CJCA Logountil I learned about the Cracker Jack Collectors Association (CJCA). The support I found in that group of collectors has provided me with the best reason of all to be a Cracker Jacker.

Jeffrey Maxwell and Tom Egan at the 1996 CJCA Convention Plastic Tinder for the Flame

The Second Annual Convention of the CJCA was held in June, 1996, and I was able to attend. Not only did that spark my interest -- it lit a fire under me. Since then, I have put most other hobbies aside to spend most of my free time collecting and studying plastic Cracker Jack prizes of the 1940s through the '60s. My friendships with members of the Association are really what have tended my flame for the hobby. Check my Links Page for the CJCA Web Site, and learn how to become a member of this great organization.

The 1996 CJCA Convention

IN THE PHOTO ABOVE - Here I am (left) standing with Tom Egan (right), who was then the Operations Manager for the Borden Inc. Grocery and Special Products Division Northbrook, Illinois Facility.  We are pictured here at the 1996 CJCA convention banquet standing in front of a Cracker Jack castle, made by CJCA Member Tom Sak.  Don't you think that would be a castle fit for any king?

IN THE PHOTO BELOW - This is also at the 1996 CJCA convention banquet.  I am on the left in the blue shirt.  I have become good freinds with many of the people at this table over the past couple of years.

Jeff, Jim, Gail, and others at the 1996 dinner. Choosing to Alphabetize

At the convention, I was able to buy several of the ALPHABET DANGLES , which I had not previously seen for sale in Oklahoma where I live (and where I have still not unearthed many of them). I also led a discussion group with information I gained from my past experience as a retail toy dealer on prizes which are not Cracker Jack. Some of those prizes were ALPHABET ANIMALS. I decided that I wanted to collect not only the Cracker Jack ones, but the non-CJ Alphabet Animals as well.

The 1998 CJCA Convention

John Craig and Jeffrey Maxwell - June, 1998 IN THE PHOTO AT LEFT - John Craig (left) and me (right) at the 1998 CJCA Convention in Minneapolis.  John is a telented artist and graphic designer who has the distinction of having designed several sets of Cracker Jack prizes in the 1970s - he was the keynote speaker at the banquet.  (As far as I know, he has not designed any alphabet prizes.)  Photo by Barry Brandon.

1998 CJCA Dinner IN THE PHOTO AT RIGHT - Here I am (left) with Diane (my wife) next to me and a group of friends at the 1998 CJCA banquet.  Photo by Barry Brandon.

IN THE PHOTO BELOW - Here is what I like to do the best -- trade Cracker Jack prizes.  This picture was taken in the hospitality room of the 1998 CJCA Convention by Barry Brandon.

Trading Prizes at the 1998 Convention Gathering the Alphabet Crumbs

I have bought many small collections of Cracker Jack prizes since that first bunch, and many times there are other things that are mixed in, which one Cracker Jack friend calls "chaff." It wasn't long before my accumulation of gum machine charms and vending machine prizes grew to a sizeable amount. One might say I have "collected" gum prizes in parallel with the Cracker Jack prizes -- but I am always careful to keep the two collections separate (although I do share both hobbies with some of my friends). Now I even buy the gum prizes by themselves, especially when I don't see Cracker Jack prizes for sale.

Expanding My Alphabetic Horizons

It seemed like a logical progression to carry my alphabet theme into my gum charm collection as well. I don't buy every charm I see, but I buy most of the alphabet ones (most means the reasonably priced ones). I also have added to my collection the extra prizes from alphabet sets such as numbers and punctuation, as well as advertising and header cards and whatever lagniappe (thanks for the word Jim) that comes along.

Getting the Alphabet Kingdom in Order

I would not call myself "The Alphabet King," just a contender to the throne. I am a long way from having the definitive alphabet prize collection, but I am enjoying the pursuit and having great fun with my hobby. I hope you have enjoyed sharing in my obsession even a fraction of the amount of joy I have had in sharing it with you. And most importantly, "We" command you have fun!

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This page created 02/18/1998
Copyright 1998-2002
By Jeffrey Maxwell
Cracker Jack Collectors Association - CJCA