1970 to 1979: Cracker Jack Pinball, Mazes and Magic Slates

Cracker Jack prizes from 1970 to 1979

The quality of Cracker Jack prizes increasingly declined throughout the 1970s. Although some plastic prizes like spinners or magnifiers were included in the mix, the trend was towards cheaper paper-based or cardboard prizes. Also, in keeping with stricter child safety laws, gone were any prizes with tiny parts that children could swallow. By now, Cracker Jack prizes were mostly rectagular or square and there was a sameness to them. There was still variety and fun to be found with Cracker Jack prizes, but creativity was limited and had to fit within the box.

The Prize was Rectangular

In the 1970s, Cracker Jack gave away a large variety of prizes 1.25" by 1.75" in dimension. Prizes of this sort were typically miniature booklets and palm-sized games in assorted types and themes. In keeping with the past, Cracker Jack continued to release the prizes in series or sets to encourage collecting. The rectangular-shaped Cracker Jack prizes distributed during this decade included cardboard construction sets, tattoo booklets, joke and riddle mini books, iron-on patches and "magic slates" pads.

Among the most favored of these prizes were plastic pinball games and maze puzzles. Cracker Jack began producing the paper and plastic pinball game in the 1960s and continued to issue them throughout the 1970s. To play, you only had to pull back the tiny plastic arm or lever at the bottom of the game and, when you released the arm, it shot the plastic or metal ball into the small play area to score points. The games came with themes like Bo Peep or Money Tree or High Man and, while scoring was easy to figure out, Cracker Jack provided the instructions for play on the back.

1970s Cracker Jack Highman pinball game
Cracker Jack High Man pinball game from 1970s.

The maze puzzle, while inferior in quality, offered a similar collecting opportunity as the pinball game as were there many variations. The general design of the maze puzzle was the same--each had a thin cardboard base with an eye-catching graphic and molded plastic affixed on top. Inside, there was one or more tiny balls usually made of plastic. The puzzle instructions were marked on the back of the card. There were different types of games, most required you to get the ball from the start position to the finish while others required you to get the balls to marked areas on the card.

1970s Cracker Jack octopus maze puzzle
Cracker Jack Octopus maze puzzle from 1970s.

The Prize was Square

Cracker Jack also released numerous square-shaped prizes in the 1970s. Most measured 1.25" by 1.25" but some were slightly larger like the plastic funny viewers. Again, Cracker Jack produced these prizes in sets and series, some in several series. Most of the square-shaped prizes were paper-based like cards or stickers, this included tilt or flicker cards, "magic" riddle cards, and stickers of all sorts--regular, shiny and glow-in the-dark.

1970s Cracker Jack magic riddle card
Cracker Jack Magic Riddle. Left, front view; right, back view. The riddle appears on the back of the card. Rubbing the front of the card make produces the answer to the riddle.
1970s Cracker Jack funny viewer
Cracker Jack Funny Viewer, four different types.