Perhaps the most sentimental of all pop culture icons are those related to Saturday morning television. For those of us of a certain age, Baby Boomers through Generation Xers, our formative years were also the formative years of marketing to children on television. For while marketing to kiddies on TV began in the 1950s, it was during the 1960s that the lines between breakfast foods, cartoons, toys, and other merchandise became so blurred that you could literally eat your Saturday morning TV shows. Whether this is right or wrong, this is the stuff of childhood memories and therefore collector mania. Here are 10 easy to afford and find gift ideas for your pop culture collector.
Most of the hottest cereal collectibles involve cold cereals. Those were the ones with the best premiums. My parents wouldn’t let us send away for the stuff the cereal companies advertised on the boxes. Not even if it was free. They said it was a scam. (Years later, I would discover my Grandma had sent away for all that stuff for my Dad — Grrr!) But I think this anti-mail-away stance was just my parents’ way of avoiding more arguments between my sister and I. I mean, once we agreed on a breakfast cereal we couldn’t agree who got the free stuff that was in, or, in the case of cereal box records, on the box. How could we agree who would get the box tops or points from the single box of cereal my folks would buy?
My favorite cereal premiums were the Freakies. So they top my list at number one with a bullet, baby. I’ve already written a nostalgic ode to the Freakies, so I’ll just point you to new and official Freakies merch here, like this fantabulous BossMoss Wacky Wobbler, and keep my fingers crossed that someone who loves me and needs a gift idea for me is reading here.
Vintage and retro cereal boxes themselves are at a premium. Who saved those?! Well, whoever they are, they are geniuses. We all want to see those old boxes. And they fetch some serious money today because of it. I’m talking hundreds and even thousands of dollars here. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find affordable yet still cool items to please a cereal collector. Contemporary items, many with vintage characters and retro designs, are available now in everything from bowls to tee-shirts. If you aren’t sure exactly which cereal is most beloved by your pop culture collector, why not go with this Kellogg’s Breakfast Club T-Shirt featuring Dig ‘Em the Frog, Snap, Crackle, Pop, and Tony the Tiger. (Bonus points for the retro film reference.)
Not everything in this category of collecting is edible. Some of the cartoons and television shows were just television shows — if you believe that any television show isn’t just a vehicle for selling stuff, that is.
Truth be told, even without a cereal, a great number of Saturday morning TV shows also had its “stuff”. The kind of stuff that was in stores. The kind of stuff that you nagged your parents to to buy (as you had the cereals).
Among the most beloved and iconic Saturday morning television shows was Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids. You may not realize it, but there were Fat Albert action figures back then. Today’s nostalgia for Fat Albert has meant not only live-action films, but contemporary action figures of the cartoon cast.
Other popular retro Saturday morning cartoons which had action figures were the Masters Of The Universe (MOTU) series. This was one universe with a serious gender split, resulting in two series: He-Man and She-Ra, for boys and girls, respectively. He-Man fans need killer retro-styled He-Man tee-shirts.
Not to sound too much like a bitter woman, but while plenty of new He-Man merchandise is readily available it’s much more difficult when it comes to She-Ra. Thankfully, there’s The She-Ra Collector’s Inventory: An Unofficial Illustrated Guide to All Princess of Power Toys and Accessories, which has plenty of eye-candy photographs to thrill any fan.
Personally, I remain steadfast in my declaration that Thundarr The Barbarian was superior to MOTU, including She-Ra. Any fan would relish the chance to watch the episodes again. They can with the Thundarr The Barbarian boxed set.
There were two popular live-action CBS television series that predated those fantasy cartoon shows, Shazam! and Isis. Having aired and ended before the big action figure boom, there were far less products produced, making surviving items exceedingly rare. But both series have their DVD collections: Shazam!, The Secrets of Isis.
While some commercials looked like cartoons, and some cartoons sold merchandise, there was one true cartoon which was meant to push something else. That something was education, and that cartoon was School House Rock. These mini-musical cartoons were exceptionally catchy tunes and responsible for education by earworm. Anyone sitting in front of the TV Saturday mornings between 1973 and 1985 was immediately indoctrinated in the ways of political process, grammar, science, math, and whatnot. Just wear a School House Rock tee in public and you’ll hear for yourself.
If you’re having a difficult time deciding, Saturday Morning TV Collectibles: 60s ’70s ’80s by Dana Cain is like the old holiday Wish Books (department store catalogs). With it, you and your siblings can once again turn the pages together and squeal not only, “I want that!” but “I remember that!”
Circling of photos is not recommended.