11/09/1998 at 01:00 AM EST
For Stanley, it was Livingstone. For Peary, the Pole. For Scott Bruce, it's the box for Kream Krunch, a short-lived '60s cereal featuring oat rings and freeze-dried ice cream bits. "I would maim for that box," says Bruce, 43. "It's my Holy Grail."
Call him a Froot Loop, but Bruce, author of the recent Cereal Boxes & Prizes: 1960s, is the world's leading authority on vintage containers of Quisp, Quake, Cocoa Puffs and such. "Most of this stuff ended up in landfills," he says, surveying his (empty) 5,000-box collection. "It's a miracle that any of it survived."
Thanks in no small part to Seattle native Bruce, an Amherst-educated ex-sculptor who has spent a decade combing classified ads and old grocery stores in a quest for a 1963 Cap'n Crunch or 1972's elusive Pink Panther Flakes. Most fall into the $200 range, but the rarest—say, a '69 Wheat Honeys boasting a rendering of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine—fetch as much as $1,000. No wonder Bruce hides most of his stash at several secret sites near the Cambridge, Mass., home he shares with his wife, attorney Beverly Kogut, 42, and sons Nick, 7, and Will, 3. "I live in morbid fear of getting ripped off," he says. "These boxes are going to put my kids through college."
Bruce's newsletter, Flake, once counted Jerry Seinfeld among its 2,000 readers. Wife Beverly, though, doesn't share the passion. "The house is a cereal box-free zone," she says. "Our only ones are in the pantry; we use those for breakfast."