Businesses have always tried to provide items, sometimes for free, and other times for a deeply discounted price to bring customers in and keep them coming back. I think the years when I was growing up was a heyday of such promotions.
You might remember some of these. Gas stations would give out cars and trucks with their emblems. The old Sinclair stations would give away toy dinosaurs. My wife talks about a gas station near the Point Market that gave away these beach balls with a handle that you could punch or bounce.
Grocery stores did this as well. Remember when you could go each week and get another volume of The Golden Book Encyclopedia? They did another series of Natural Science Encyclopedias. I acquired the whole set through my dad’s weekly trips to the A & P.
Perhaps the classiest offering I remember were the Currier and Ives dish set. I learned on the JustCollecting website that these were produced in nearby Sebring, Ohio by the Royal China company from 1950 to 1986. My parents acquired a set at our local A & P during the 1960’s, replacing a collection of mismatched plates that were probably handed on from their parents. We could eat in style! A small number survived to this day and we inherited these. You see them in antique stores and flea markets everywhere. They are reproductions in blue of various Currier and Ives lithographs.
As I recall, it was not only the stores but also the companies that sold dish soap and other products that included things like glassware and dish towels. Of course, the fast food chains took this to a high art with collectible glasses of different comic strip characters, Happy Meal toys and other items.
Come to think of it, this practice continues down to the present. When my son was small, it was a series of yellow Sesame Street books we picked up at our local Bi-Rite when we lived in Cleveland. We walked into his room one day and he had used them to build a version of the bridge of Star Trek’s Enterprise! And my son has a whole box of “McJunk” from his childhood.
These days digital coupons and gas discounts have seemed to take the place of these promotional items. They serve the same purpose of keeping us coming back. But one wonders what collectibles we will pass along to our kids.
What promotional items do you remember from when you were growing up?