The 1960s brought big changes to The Cracker Jack Company. In 1964, they were acquired by Borden, Inc. which moved their operations to Columbus, Ohio. Since its creation in the late 1800s, Chicago had always been the home of Cracker Jack. Cracker Jack would remain a division of Borden, Inc. until 1997 when it was sold to Frito-Lay.
Putting the Pieces Together
In Cracker Jack Prizes, Alex Jaramillo wrote that after acquiring Cracker Jack, Borden management wanted to "try a few new ideas" in their approach to prize creation. Among the new ideas was introducing prizes that could be "assembled from parts" to form a toy like a miniature model. In Cracker Jack Toys: The Complete, Unofficial Guide for Collectors, Cracker Jack expert Larry White has these prizes classified as "put-together" or "snap-together" prizes.
During the mid-1960s, Cracker Jack released over fifty series of these "put-together" or "snap-together" prizes in varying themes including trophies, animals, purses, transportation vehicles, famous buildings, tops and rings. There were even strange groups like nose-rings, pet carriers, and bobbers. Some of the prizes like the soccer player shown below, consisted of tiny parts that were easily lost.
In today's market, these types of prizes can be purchased from Ebay, often already assembled and sometimes glued together or with missing parts. Though not often, it's possible to get a "put-together" or "snap-together" Cracker Jack prize still "on the sprue" or, in other words, not broken apart and assembled. Depending on type of prize and condition, they often fetch between $8.00 - $15.00.
While sought after by current Cracker Jack collectors, according to Jaramillo, the Cracker Jack fanbase of the 1960s considered these prizes "too complex" and Borden discountinued them.
Is This Really for Children?
Because of small parts, Cracker Jack prizes like the snap-together charm bracelet presented a safety hazard for small children. The plastic bracelet as shown below measures about 1.75" by 1.25" and is unassembled. The outer tubular frame is the bracelet portion and inside the frame are tiny charms. Assembly requires taking apart the plastic prize, removing any additional plastic and placing the tiny guitar, saxophone, camera, and record player charms on designated areas on the bracelet. Note that the charms are almost all less than 1/2 inch in length. In today's standard, this type of prize would've never been allowed for children due to those tiny charms.
One of the more interesting sets of Cracker Jack put-together prizes is the one devoted to buildings, some famous and others mundane. The well known structures represented as Cracker Jack prize include Sphinx, Mt. Vernon and the Parthenon. A mature Cracker Jack collector may want to collect these, but surely not a five year old. It's clear that the intended market for Cracker Jack are kids, both big and small.
A Collection of Miniature Books
In the 1960s, Cracker Jack moved away from producing the highly-detailed plastic figures distributed in the 1950s. While plastic toys were still produced for Cracker Jack, they were mostly made of softer, lighter-weight materials and by then, no metal or tins prizes were being developed. Probably, to reduce costs, Borden began producing more paper-based Cracker Jack prizes. Among our favorites are the miniature book sets that they created. The books were small, about 1.25" in width by 1.75" in height with book covers made of cardstock or thin cardboard. Each had about ten pages that were made of cheap newsprint paper, some with color printing. The cool thing was that the books had actual content that could be read, they were just not for show.
Cracker Jack produced different series of books including a set of 20 encyclopedia books, a psuedo magazine providing a kid's view of the future called "Hello! 1980," and several series of multi-colored mini-books. The mini-books included well-known titles like Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs as well as other works like When Columbus was a Boy and How Man Learned to Fly.