January 28, 2021

Antiques & Collecting: Cracker Jack the first junk food

Companies that have been in business for a long time often have updated and changed the logo or slogan used in advertising. Collectors can usually identify the age of the ad from the words and pictures that were used. Cracker Jack was first sold in 1896 from a cart in Chicago.

The mixture of popcorn, molasses and peanuts, sometimes called the first junk food in America, was very popular. It sold well at the Chicago World’s Fair and got even more notice when the familiar song sung at ball games said, “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack.”

The company developed a box that held a single serving, added coupons for prizes in 1910, then small toys in 1912, and in 2013, a code that leads to an online puzzle or game.

The box has pictured the sailor boy, the founder’s son, and his dog, Bingo, since 1918, often changing their looks. A 9-by-14-inch die-cut cardboard store sign that pictured an early version of the sailor boy sold at a Kimball Sterling auction for $615.

The early toys are popular with collectors, and there is even a Cracker Jack Collectors Association. The most expensive prize? The baseball card series from 1914-1915, worth over $100,000.

A very old silver cup that has been passed down in the family has not one, but two handles. Why? It has an English silver mark for 1671.

The two-handle cup was used to drink caudle or posset. Most of the cups were made and used between 1650 and 1690. The body of the cup was covered with chased flowers and animals. Each cup had a lid.

The cups were popular with the wealthy and were sometimes given as trophies. They are not often added to large silver collections today because so few old ones are offered for sale. An antique cup would sell for over $2,000.

The full-sized cup held caudle and other hot drinks at parties. White caudle was made from oatmeal, spices and white wine. Brown caudle used ale, brandy or dark wine. There was also a non-alcoholic tea caudle made with tea, eggs and spices.

Posset was made of eggs, milk, cream, sugar, almond extract, lemon rind and scotch whiskey, topped with meringue. All these drinks were served hot. It must have been great on a cold night. Small cups were made to be used by invalids who needed both handles, but probably drank different mixtures.

Current Prices

Bookends, horse standing by stall door, cast metal, bronze color, pair, 6 1/4 inches, $75.

Bamboo brush pot, carved, scholars playing “Go,” bamboo trees, clouds, 6 inches, $480.

Disneyana, toy, Mickey Mouse, Jazz Drummer, jointed arms, Nifty Toy Co., Germany, 7 inches, $845.

Tip: To remove a gummed price sticker, try heating it with a hair dryer. The glue will melt a bit, and it will be easier to peel off the sticker.

Terry and Kim Kovel

For more collecting news, tips and resources, visit www.Kovels.com. © 2021 King Features Synd., Inc.