Page 1 of 1

Are Gumball Charms Cracker Jack Items?

Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 6:33 pm
by Kart
I have been told by people who swear gumball charms are Cracker Jack items and I have also people swear that they are not Cracker Jack items. Who is right?

Re: Are Gumball Charms Cracker Jack Items?

Posted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 10:50 am
by gracecarriveau
Actually gumball charms are NOT the same as official Cracker Jack prizes. Although if I remember correctly from what I've read, certain companies that produced tiny prizes and charms were often commissioned by Cracker Jack to produce charms. These same companies also made charms for gumball machines. But usually Cracker Jack prizes will have some sort of trademark that distinguishes them from the cheaper made gumball charms and prizes. Some however, do not and those are the ones that can be really hard figure out. Fortunately there are more CJ prizes with trademarks then without. I hope that made sense, I feel like I've rambled on a bit. :)

If you have any in question and can post a pic or two, I can try to help you identify some as I'm an avid collector of both!

Re: Are Gumball Charms Cracker Jack Items?

Posted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 10:07 pm
by Jeffrey Maxwell
Dear Kart and other CJ Friends.

Are gumball charms Cracker Jack items? Well, it's sort of like this. We can say that all snails are animals. But we cannot say that all animals are snails. While it is accepted that Cracker Jack used charms similar to those used in the bulk vending industry, the number of the charms in the secondary marketplace today is surely too great to assume that they are Cracker Jack.

First let's make sure we are on the same page. I am referring to charms made of celluloid or plastic, usually measuring an inch or less. This includes the metal looking prizes with a plastic base material utilizing "vacuum plating" and "vacuum metalizing" (both terms coined by bulk vending industry leader Sam Eppy, the first to use both processes in charms). Myriad variety of charms were made by various companies, including Penny King of Pittsburgh -- and Carl Guggenheim, Plastic Processes, Paul A. Price, and Eppy all of New York. (I have often wished I lived in NY so it would be easier to research this stuff. But then again, I don't live in Chicago or Columbus either.)

If I remember correctly from ancient discussions about charms research over the years, Samuel Eppy & Co. of Jamaica NY (organized in 1939), one of the biggest distributors of gum charms -- both wholesale to the international bulk vending industry and (to a lesser extent) retail through a large network of gum vending machines in the New York City area -- was a supplier to Cracker Jack at some point. But I would venture to say that the impact of Eppy and other suppliers of charms on Cracker Jack was limited, because gum machine charms really don't meet the normal standard of the bulk of prizes put out by either The Cracker Jack Co. or Borden Inc. There are only a few actual records of charms purchased by Cracker Jack.

I started buying accumulations of plastic trinkets long before there were any widely available texts about Cracker Jack prizes. But when Alex's book came out around 1990, it became more important for me to completely separate my known Cracker Jack prizes from everything else I had. By the way, I was surprised as to how much of my collection (which later I learned consisted of "in-pack" prizes from Cracker Jack, cereal, bread, cigarettes, ice cream and other retail products, premiums, mail order toys, dime store toys, plastic cake toppers, and bulk vending toys) turned out to be in Alex's book, because before then, I had no clue. From that point I started concentrating on collecting only Cracker Jack prizes. It was also at that point that I decided not to include "gum charms" in my Cracker Jack collection.

One problem is that most flea market, antique and toy show vendors (and later eBay sellers) had no idea whether or not specific mini promotional toys were Cracker Jack or not, so they just lumped them all into one category. I ended up buying thousands of gum charms as parts of accumulations of "Cracker Jack prizes". Another important thing to keep in mind when dealing with those people who swear they got a certain item out of Cracker Jack is the fact that -- just like me, and perhaps others reading this -- they were nine years old when they accumulated a lot of that stuff a hundred years ago, and they don't really remember first hand from where every individual item came.

After collecting Cracker Jack prizes for several years, I looked up one day and found I had a considerable number of gum charms. There was an effort of a small group of people to form a gum charm club that resulted in a few issues of a newsletter in the 1990s. (I don't even remember any of the members names.) I made the first Web site on bulk vending charms in 1997, the same year I started my Cracker Jack collecting site. Unfortunately, that original site did not survive, and the only remnants left are found on a couple of pages on my Alphabet26 Museum site that is archived by the CJCA.

It is up to every collector to determine for themselves how to collect, and what to include in his or her collections. If you ask anyone who knows me, they can tell you I am a big advocate in specializing within an area of collecting to maximize ones impact on that specialty. This comes out of the fact that I have always been very poor and cannot afford to purchase, collect, and store everything. So I do not try. But some collections came to me without much effort, like gum charms. So I have them.

The bottom line? I do not include Cracker Jack prizes in my gum charm collection -- any more than I would include gum charms in my Cracker Jack collection. It is a good world order for me.

Happy Collecting!

Re: Are Gumball Charms Cracker Jack Items?

Posted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:41 pm
by dianep2
:)clap Jeffrey, Thank you for your very well written and informative article. I enjoyed reading your take on this topic.

Re: Are Gumball Charms Cracker Jack Items?

Posted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:17 am
by Luke
That was a great read Jeffrey, thanks. I know it's a long shot, but if you remember the url to the gumball website, we could use the Wayback Machine to see the old website.

Re: Are Gumball Charms Cracker Jack Items?

Posted: Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:08 pm
by Jeffrey Maxwell
Luke, man, that was a long time ago. I wish I could remember my wife's birthday. But if I think of any clues, I will look for the web site sometime.

For nearly a year, probably around 1998-99, I spoke and e-mailed at least weekly with a New York man whose family took over Sam Eppy's equipment and machines. He is a major player in the bulk vending industry today. This is a company that has so many bulk vending machines selling on routes in New York that they make and rebuild their own gum machines. Together we created a tight outline of a book about the history of bulk vending, with information that would be of interest to both members of the bulk vending industry as well as collectors. But he couldn't continue, because, during the course of our conversations, he bought a major route with thousands of new machines that they had to service, and we lost touch. I didn't pursue it, because I didn't even have enough money to travel to NYC to do some needed footwork for research. I have some regret that I let the ball drop on that. I don't even have a copy of the outline that I know of. But he initially contacted me through that first website that I put together on bulk vending charms.

Speaking of charms, I remember a conversation, probably in the mid to late-1990s, with Ron Toth (someone who has collected or dealt in a little bit -- and usually a whole lot -- of every variety of small advertising collectibles). I bought a bunch of different plastic charms from him over the years when I was collecting alphabet prizes. I mentioned to him that I had been doing some trading in bulk vending charms. Of course, I was collecting for the fun of it, but I was always on the look out for value and the possibility of resale when I bought collections. Ron told me that I should not spend a lot of money on charms, because, unless they are licensed items, they will never have much value, just because there are so many of them. But that was before eBay took off.

Nowadays I think more in terms of investment and what I can resale, because buying and selling is a way for me to keep in touch with the things I love so much, even if I can't afford to collect them. (And if I happen to find some things I want to hold onto for awhile, then that is a nice side benefit.) I often see common plastic gumball prizes for sale on eBay for $5.00 each now -- items I have seen dozens or even hundreds of times in the past. Some celluloid and bread charms are going for $10, $15, $20 and up. I'm not talking about this is just the price the sellers are listing them for, but they are actually selling them for that price. I have spent a lot of time looking at closed auctions to see what sellers are actually selling, not just what they are listing. I am even selling Cracker Jack prizes on eBay for more than I thought I ever could. I have been paying close attention to the people who are buying from me, so now I know exactly why these items are selling.

The mini promotional toys that are fetching great prices on eBay are not all going to collectors of gum machine prizes, Cracker Jack prizes, or in-pack prizes of cereal and other products. They are being bought by either non-collectors or cross collectors. Non-collectors are great, because they are impulse buyers. They are the ones who buy something because they remember something similar from their childhood, they just think it's cute, or they are gifting it to someone they think would like it. But as a seller, my favorites are cross collectors. I have often sold every "squirrel" item I have listed, because a squirrel collector found my online store and could click on "Buy It Now" several times. I also sell to Cracker Jack collectors, because I get enough of the Cracker Jack prizes you don't find every day to keep them interested.

I think I mentioned on here one time that as much as 40 percent of the items found when you search for "Cracker Jack" on eBay are not Cracker Jack items, and a large number of them are gum machine charms. So a lot of people just assume that the numbers must be right. They just don't take into consideration that many of the sellers on eBay are generalists, and really don't know a lot about everything they are selling. As a result, I am afraid that Cracker Jack prizes and gum machine charms will be forever linked in one way or another. After all, even I kept my Cracker Jack prizes and my gum machine charms in the same place as a child.

Have fun!