1940 to 1949: World War II and Cracker Jack

Cracker Jack prizes from 1940 to 1949

World War II brought about the greatest change in Cracker Jack prize creation. As resources became scarce due to the war, new materials were needed. This led to the introduction of plastic Cracker Jack figures midway through the 1940s. Prior to that, plastic Cracker Jack prizes were mostly small celluloid charms. Innovations in the injection molded plastic process enabled the mass production of inexpensive items opening a new era for the Cracker Jack prize.

1940s Cracker Jack tin lithograph clown
Cracker Jack 1940s tin lithograph clown.

The New Cracker Jack Prize, One Word: Plastic

For many, it's inconceivable to consider a Cracker Jack prize collection without plastic. The plastic toys, figures, and charms comprise the majority of available Cracker Jack prizes today. As there is no Cracker Jack without the prize, how could there be any Cracker Jack collection without plastic prizes.

Plastic Cracker Jack figures are easy to collect. They are usually colorful and have a flat base enabling the figure to stand. First introduced in the mid-1940s, the injected-molded plastic figure quickly became a fixture for Cracker Jack prizes. The flat plastic figure with a base is typically called a "stand-up" or "flats" and come in various colors. Some, but not all, have a marking that says "Cracker Jack" or "C.J. CO." molded in the plastic either on the top or bottom of the base. Other types of the plastic figures have Cracker Jack markings on one side of the figure (usually on the back side). Plastic Cracker Jack prizes are represented by all topics and themes including animals, transportation vehicles, various sports, and Western figures.

Cracker Jack Nosco mailman stand-up figure
Cracker Jack 1940s mailman figure, made by NOSCO.
1940s Cracker Jack rabbit giraffe squirrel duck goat elephant pig
Cracker Jack 1940, injection-molded animal figures.

Since the inception of "A Prize in Every Box" in 1912, Cracker Jack included the toy item or premium mixed in package with the candied popcorn and peanuts. It wasn't until decades in later 1948 that Cracker Jack began distributing prizes wrapped waxed paper.