Picks and Pans Review: Cracker Jack Prizes

updated 08/07/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/07/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Alex Jaramillo

Who among us has not known the thrill of rummaging in the tacky, stale clumps of caramel corn, ignoring the stray peanut or two and coming up with one of those little paper envelopes? There isn't very often anything in one of those envelopes worth the effort it takes to open a Cracker Jack box, yet the quest is an irresistible pleasure, and one this book celebrates.

Jaramillo, a memorabilia-shop owner, waxes overpoetic at times, such as saying the Cracker Jack motto (The more you eat, the more you want) "bypasses our consciousness, but its simple assertion and rhythmic structure probably resound through the corridors of our being."

The pictures of prizes over the years will evoke memories, though, and Jaramillo's historical notes are fun. The confection's name, for instance, came from a salesman who took a mouthful one day in 1896 and—using a phrase that was, roughly, the "far out" of its day—exclaimed, "That's a Cracker Jack." The set of 144 baseball cards among the prizes in 1914 is now worth about $12,000 in mint condition. In the '30s, experiments were tried with chocolate-covered Cracker Jack.

In the '40s, a plastic figure given as a prize caused an uproar when some red-baiters decided it looked like Joseph Stalin. The prize was withdrawn from circulation. The '60s were the heyday of plastic doodads and by the '80s, Cracker Jack (now owned by Borden, Inc.) began offering cash giveaways for those who found certain prizes.

Okay, enough of that. Now, let's get this box open, and...Where is that thing, anyway? (Abbeville, $19.95)

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