|A Trip Through the Alphabet
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.
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
until 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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
Gathering the Alphabet
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
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!