Page 1 of 4

Best pratices for cleaning, storing and displaying prizes

Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 2:10 pm
by spudgy
:help-wanted: Hello everyone! I've been wanting to ask for your advice on how to best care for my growing Cracker Jack collection for quite a while. This is what I've been doing;

Inspecting: If a plastic toy is cracked, warped, melted, missing a piece, or scratched, it goes into my "damaged" box unless it's a really rare prize. If a piece has been damaged by being glued down, even it it's just the underside of the base, it goes into my "broken" box. If it isn't too badly worn (dull surface) and I don't already have another like it, I'll put it in my display until I can replace it with a better one. Of course, if I'm trying to collect as many colors as possible of a particular piece, I might be a little less critical.

Cleaning: Usually, if a plastic toy looks good, I don't do anything to it at all but if it's grimy, I soak it in a mild soapy cool water (liquid hand soap) then brush it lightly with a soft toothbrush but I'm afraid I risk dulling the surface. The only way I know to remove deeper stains is by lightly and carefully scraping with something with a sharp edge but I avoid doing this because it might leave scrape marks or alter the piece. I would love to know if there is a way to restore the shiny appearance of a shop-worn piece. If a metal piece is missing some paint or is bent, I don't do anything to it; it just goes into my collection. I also don't do anything to paper items.

Displaying: At present, I'm using a metal chest with several shallow drawers lined with black felt but my collection has outgrown that, so based on advice on this forum, I'm looking into 16x12x3/4 inch Riker mounts or else building a wood cabinet with shallow drawers. Three-dimensional pieces like the farm animals, dinosaurs, and some put-togethers pose a different challenge. I'm not sure how well the Riker mounts would work for them and maybe 3/4" depth wouldn't be adequate. One problem with the metal cabinet is that the pieces keep sliding out of place too easily. Also, darker pieces don't show up against the black background. Displaying a set that has mixed dark and light pieces presents a unique display challenge. For paper items, Riker mounts would work well but get expensive. For the smaller paper items, I guess plastic sleeves would work but I'm not at all sure if the plastic might degrade paper or plastic over time.

Whatever I use, it would be nice to maintain some uniformity so that prizes can be displayed together, preferably by the beginning date of manufacture, rather than have some displayed in drawers and others in books, etc. It would be nice, too, if a large part of the collection could be seen without having to open various drawers, books, etc. I guess I need to be careful to keep the collection from being exposed to direct sunlight.

I guess that's asking a LOT but any ideas you've picked up from your own experience will be much appreciated.


Re: Best pratices for cleaning, storing and displaying prize

Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 2:45 pm
by spudgy
:foreheadslap: I forgot a very important part in my original post; ORGANIZATION! It would be really interesting to hear about all the different ways people organize their Cracker Jack prizes. I can think of some basic ones, such as chronological by date of manufacture, by series, by color, and by theme. I would love to hear about "specialty" type collections, such as just Indians or sports figures or puzzles, or...?

Thanks again!!!

Re: Best pratices for cleaning, storing and displaying prize

Posted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 1:23 pm
by larrydw
Hello All,
One reason I began to collect CJ was that I was collecting cast iron mechanical and still banks. At an outdoor antique show Mary and I met up after several hours of plying the field. We both spent about $1000., she on fashion doll clothing and I on banks. She had her purchases in a plastic store bag and it weighed about 12 ounces. I was lugging around a shopping bag that weighed 70+ pounds. At that point I decided to collect something smaller. As to storing the CJ collection I compromised between cost of displays, ease of viewing, and where to store things.

For paper and thin plastics, I used the Ultra Pro plastic sheets for baseball, etc cards. I stored those in 1" binders and the binders in plastic milk carton cases.

For the plastics, I used some Riker mounts, but those proved to be heavy and expensive. I settled for 12" by 14" by 1" cardboard boxes. The inside, I lined with the plastic anti-slip matting.

I would also look for and use jewelry cases as they are only 1" deep. I gave up trying to organize pre-1940 prizes by age, the series prizes would be kept in order with always a space or two for additions, and the plastics by theme and color. More thoughts later.

Re: Best pratices for cleaning, storing and displaying prize

Posted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 1:47 pm
by Jeffrey Maxwell
Wow spudgy! What a great post! Of course I have to address your last issue first,

When I first joined the Cracker Jack Collectors Association, I was a bit intimidated by the senior ambassadors of Cracker Jack who had already been collecting for 25 years. Wes, Alex, and Harriet (the Queen of Cracker Jack) were my heroes in the hobby, and my inspiration for getting serious about it. With only a thousand of the most common post-WWII CJ prizes in my collection, how would I be able to make a contribution to this hobby? I came to the realization that there is no way I could collect everything -- I didn't have the income or space for that.

The CJCA went a long way in helping me decide how to collect, and ultimately how I wanted to organize my collection. Collecting for myself was an amazing passtime, but Ann's awesome leadership in getting the CJCA going, followed by Roberta's incredible dedication to the newsletter, enabled those of us collectors who really wanted to get involved to turn this hobby into something bigger than ourselves. But the conventions are one of the most important things that helped me to see how I wanted to proceed with my CJ collecting. (I am certain there are a number of other collectors who can say the same.)

One important thing that came out of the conventions -- and later the Internet -- is the study groups and Larry's commitment to spearheading that over the years. The information contributed by CJCA members who spent an incredible amount of time discussing and comparing series after series went a long way to fill in the checklists of prizes we all take for granted now. Larry's book is the most complete source to figure out the chronological order of prizes, and whether or not any given set is "complete." While putting prizes in the order they came out is a very good way to organize a collection, it is not necessarily the best way for every collector to organize his or her collection.

Knowing I was not able to devote a lot of space to a collection, I decided that I would specilize in what I already collected -- plastic. My collection developed into three major categories: plastic prizes, all other prizes, and everything else. "Everything else," of course, included everything that was not a prize, and although I had accumulated a number of items of advertising, packaging, displays, decorative CJ items, and other CJ licensed products, I did not put a lot of time or effort into that part of collecting because of limited funds and space. "All other prizes" included all the CJ prizes that were not in my main area of collecting that I picked up when I bought lots and collections of prizes in pursuit of things I was actively seeking. Plastic was it for me, because I had already collected plastic and preplastic items over the years before taking Cracker Jack collecting seriously.

I still had in the back of my mind that if I was going to collect, I wanted to do something to distinguish myself from other collectors. I personally knew more than a dozen members of the CJCA who I considered major collectors in the area of plastic prizes, so I knew I would need to become even more specialized than that. I loved unassembled put-togethers, but I often couldn't afford them IF and when I found them, and I would never be able to put together a collection like Barry's. At the time I was an English major in college, and I had already been using the email address of Alphabet26. So it seemed like a logical thing to specialize in CJ prizes with an alphabet theme. After all, with at least 26 pieces each, the alphabet sets are some of the largest sets of plastic CJ prizes, including Alphabet Animals, Alphabet Dangles, and alphabet lenticulars. (By the way, while I have usually gone along with most folks who group lenticulars with paper prizes, I have often considered them to be a subset of plastic prizes.)

Now to address the question of STORAGE and DISPLAY

Once having made the decision to specialize in plastic prizes, and to further specialize in alphabet prizes -- that became the focus of my collecting efforts. I was born in 1963, so I never really was much interested in pre-WWII prizes -- I just couldn't relate to them -- so I can only address prizes put out after 1946 with the invention of the screw injection process of molding plastics. I have always organized my collection by types of prizes. In plastic prizes, all my flats (or stand-ups), dangles, armables (or put-togethers) were in Riker mounts. All of my modern plastic, like funny viewers, the 1980s big dangles and plastic bookmarks I kept in 20-pocket coin pages. My B-series and similar Borden prizes were in the coin pages too, of course. Spinners (or tops), whistles, and other things like that went into my Riker boxes with flocked compartment trays.

By the way, you mentioned that you were not sure that Riker mounts were thick enough. You can get them in 1" and 2" deep also. With the white nylon fiber to safely hold them in place, I have always found them to be the best way to organize all lightweight prizes. It is better to put heavier items in the drop in trays with flocked compartments or in heavier wooden display boxes. If you can afford to make the investment, Riker trays are always superior for organizing small things than keeping them in boxes or some other kind of drawer or filing system, because if you want to show your collection, you don't have to make extra preparations to display them. (Hmm... Maybe I should check into becoming a salesman for Riker mounts.) The only things I kept in boxes were recent acquisitions waiting to be sorted and the broken ones I gave to children to play with.

I have known many collectors of Cracker Jack prizes who are not part of the CJCA or any other organized group of collectors. Most of these I know through buying and selling collectibles at flea markets and toy shows for 25 years in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Some of them are specialists, in that they collect CJ as a part of a larger collection that is not limited to Cracker Jack. Thus Cracker Jack prizes are cross-collectibles. They collect only prizes that involve a certain motif, such as animals, or even a specific animal or group of animals, or they collect CJ prizes that fit into their dollhouse, or they collect prizes made of a certain material, such as ceramics, metal, plastic, etc. One collector in Arkansas that I traded with a lot collected only lenticulars from VariVue and Optigraphics. He had no interest in Cracker Jack outside of lenticulars. Later I bought from him the bulk of his collection of lenticulars, which I still own. This included the 1980s archives of the Texas-based Optigraphics Corporation, which were the source for my articles on lenticulars in the CJCA newsletter.

Many of the casual CJ collectors I know are of a variety you didn't mention before. They are "type" collectors. In any collecting hobby, this is one of my favorite types of collections. These collectors have no interest in collecting every prize of any series. They collect ONE EXAMPLE of each series. A collection of this type can be one of the most interesting for non-collectors to look at, because it encompasses a wide variety and range of what is out there -- at a glance. My friends who collect like this are not interested in hearing me speak for hours about alphabet prizes or plastics collecting -- they just want the highlights.


Re: Best pratices for cleaning, storing and displaying prize

Posted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 2:54 pm
by spudgy
Thanks, Larry. I know exactly what you mean about collecting smaller things. I've collected large 1940s pottery for over 30 years and have had to lug two or more very heavy urns all through a large flea market or antique mall on more than one occasion. I even collected bowling balls for a short time. Go figure. You can probably imagine what my place looks like after buying several items per week for that many years. Now I'm trying to sell most of it one item at a time but I don't think I'll live long enough to empty my house. Cracker Jacks though, are an ideal collectible for someone who hopes to someday downsize; they're small, affordable, there is a lot of variety, and they are as American as Apple pie. Mainly, they remind me of my childhood.

Regarding storage and display, I've always hoped I would come across the perfect large cabinet with lots of wide, shallow drawers. A blueprint cabinet would be dynamite except that they take up so much floor space. One blueprint drawer would hold hundreds of CJ prizes and the cabinets have around 5 drawers each and they're stack-able. Maybe someday. I guess I need to try a few plastic sheets like you mentioned to see how I like them before buying a bunch. Three-ring binders would in fact offer a lot of flexibility and I think they are possibly the best solution for smaller paper prizes.

Thanks, again.

Re: Best pratices for cleaning, storing and displaying prize

Posted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 4:33 pm
by spudgy
Jeffery, Thanks for taking the time to share so much good info.

I guess I should admit, like you were when you first started, I'm still a bit intimidated by so many far more knowledgeable collectors than myself, but we all have to start somewhere. I don't mean I'm a very new collector. In fact, I've collected sporadically over many years before I found the CJCA but have gotten far more interested in the last year or two. Also like you, my favorite medium is plastic, especially the marbled and translucent plastics, although I don't have that many of the translucent prizes. I'm not even sure which or how many of the CJ prizes were made in translucent plastic. I guess one reason I like the plastics is because those are the ones I remember getting when I was a kid. I'm much older than you (I was born in 1940) but I guess I didn't get that many metal prizes back then. As a result, it's a little harder for me to relate to metal.

As for specializing, I'm not yet to that point in collecting. For now, I still get a great thrill out of getting new items whether they're duplicates or not. Occasionally, I'll luck into getting one or two that I didn't already have. I keep thinking I might put together one whole display with nothing but one specific shape in every color I can find. I started thinking about doing that because of a similar display I saw (it might have been on this site) of all elephants and it was spectacular.

I definitely agree that Larry's book is indispensable. I've learned so much from it. At this point, my collection is organized by date first issued which I could not have done before I got Larry's book. Also, the descriptions of the various types of bases is very useful.

Well, Jeffery, thank you again for such useful info. Hope to see more from you down there in the jungles of Peru.

Re: Best pratices for cleaning, storing and displaying prize

Posted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 4:38 pm
by spudgy
:oops: Oops! Sorry about misspelling your name there Jeffrey.

Re: Best pratices for cleaning, storing and displaying prize

Posted: Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:09 am
by spudgy
AH! I found the site I mentioned earlier that has the picture of an all-elephant display which shows many different colors of the same shape.
It is on Jim Davis' site, "The Cracker Jack Box". You may have to cut and past the URL.

Isn't that great?

Re: Best pratices for cleaning, storing and displaying prize

Posted: Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:34 am
by dianep2
Hi Spudgy,
Yes, Jim Davis' collection of elephants is very impressive. The colors are beautiful. There is such an endless range of them. If you would like to see other collectors arrangements of a certain prize in many different colors, on this website go to "Odds and Ends" and click on "I collect Cracker Jack Kerchoo Trains, what do you collect?" There you will find collections of kerchoo trains, sea captains, mummies, rhinos and squirrels in many, many colors.

Larry and Jeffrey did a great job of discussing organizing and displaying CJ prizes. And you had already given those topics a lot of thought yourself. I guess you just have to experiment and see what works best for you. I like having my prizes in the glass covered trays so I can easily see them and "play" with them. I also use the coin collectors plastic loose leaf pages for anything two demensional.

Thanks for your interest in CJ collecting and sharing so much of your interest with all of us. It is great to have another CJ "kid" in our midst.

Re: Best pratices for cleaning, storing and displaying prize

Posted: Sun Jun 26, 2011 3:50 pm
by Jeffrey Maxwell
@spudgy. CJCA Charter Member Jim Davis -- through his award-winning Website "The Cracker Jack Box" -- was an early leader in putting information about Cracker Jack prizes on the Internet. I hope he gets a chance to devote more time to it in the future -- maybe when he retires -- because I know he has a vast wealth of information. Jim (along with Gail Sullivan and others) was also a key person in creating the CJCA Website when it first went online through Collector Online in 1997.