There’s a market for almost everything on the Internet, and here’s your proof: There are dedicated collectors ready and willing to pay thousands of dollars for prized vintage cereal boxes.
Eater dives into the world of cereal-box collecting, a truly next-level ephemera obsession. It’s not a huge scene—maybe a few dozen people, not including those who’re interested in specific special edition boxes related to other enthusiasms. It’s not age that’s most important, either. Nope, the premium here is on nostalgia:
The most desirable boxes, then, are the ones with widest appeal: boxes emblazoned with popular cartoon characters, sports stars, or musicians, and those featuring a mail-in offer that could be sent off for some sort of limited-edition prize (think decoder rings and toy Navy boats). Often, the cereal box market intersects with other popular collectible categories. One of Fonseca’s most prized items is a box of New Kids on the Block cereal from a brief test run in 1990; it never actually made it into production, making it extremely rare.
Lots of boxes go for under a hundred bucks or a couple grand. [Updated to add: In fact it looks like most of them do go for under a hundred dollars, roughly in the real-nice-well-known-vintage-magazine price bracket. Fonseca tweeted me to say that beloved New Kids on the Block box was his costliest, and it set him back around $150. Which is less than even, say, a designer handbag habit.]
But the real rarities can be a lot pricier: “A pair of boxes of Nabisco Wheat Honeys and Rice Honeys from the late 1960s with a Beatles Yellow Submarine tie-in recently popped up on eBay for an astronomical $11,000,” adds writer Whitney Filloon. Yes—$11,000. Which seems absurd—and it is—but remember that these objects were created to be even more disposable than magazines or baseball cards, which can make them a real challenge to track down. This is the stuff that white whales are made of.
And to be fair, as disposable pop culture artifacts go, cereal boxes can be pretty compelling. One collector, writer Gabe Fonseca, has a YouTube show dedicated to various fascinating boxes and brands. For instance, this short-lived Ghostbusters cereal:
Yours truly especially cannot throw stones at any of this, as the proud owner of an ancient box of duBarry face powder who’d love nothing more than one of those Kotex packages where they gave away free Harlequin romances.
Anyway, anybody got a line on a Gremlins cereal package?
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Photo via AP Images.