Profitable promotions Cereal promotions offer numismatic collectibles
and sometimes even some cash

 

By Emily Mullins
COIN WORLD Staff

In the year 1906, breakfast, the most important meal of the day, was forever changed. W. K. Kellogg had entered the cereal business and his light, crispy Corn Flakes introduced America to what Kellogg promoted as a healthier start to the day. The company Kellogg founded, whose products are today sold in more than 160 countries around the world, celebrates its 100th anniversary in April and continues to lead the market in cereal production.

While cereal is a staple to the diets of most Americans, many companies rely on promotions to increase sales or attract attention to particular products. These promotions encompass a wide variety of interests, including the numismatic hobby, creating a whole new dimension to numismatic collecting.

IN JANUARY 1989, Post's Super Golden Crisp brand cereal offered a promotion in which 6.2 million specially marked boxes of Super Golden Crisp contained a foreign coin, while 180 boxes contained a U.S. American Eagle gold bullion coin.

According to its Web site, the Educational Coin Company had been a supplier of bank notes and coins for the past 40 years. The company specializes in supplying genuine, yet inexpensive, world coins and bank notes in bulk and packaged sets specifically for product and service promotions, educational purposes and resale. According to the firm's Web site, as the world's largest such dealer, the company typically has more than 4,000 coin and banknote varieties from more than 200 countries.

Some particularly successful promotions the company has sponsored involve various brands of breakfast cereals.

In January 1989, Post's Super Golden Crisp brand cereal offered a promotion of a free foreign coin in every box. The collection comprised six coins, one each from Korea, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, Finland and Sierra Leone. The coins were actual foreign legal tender and came packaged in cardboard holders featuring Sugar Bear in costumes traditional to the country.

According to the promotion's official rules, 6.2 million specially marked boxes of Super Golden Crisp contained a foreign coin, while 180 boxes contained the "lucky" coin, a tenth-ounce American Eagle gold bullion coin. Boxes with the American Eagles were not specially identified and finding one was the luck of the draw. The prize was valued at $65.

A NUMISMATIC PROMOTION sponsored by Ralston Purina's Almond Delight brand cereal took place in 1988 and offered real and replica notes. According to the official rules, 4.9 million boxes of specially marked Almond Delight were reserved for the promotion.

The promotion also offered the chance to win another American Eagle by mail through the Collector's Coin Sweepstakes. One randomly selected name out of every 35,000 entries would win a gold coin. The offer was valid until Jan. 15, 1990.

Along with the coins, the promotion also offered a collector's tray that housed the six coins and their holders for $2.95 plus two proofs-of-purchase.

Post Cereal in Canada also sponsored a numismatic promotion when Fruity Pebbles brand cereal offered world bank notes in specially marked boxes. In a different promotion, Post's Honeycomb brand cereal offered 19 world bank notes from nine different countries including Argentina, Bulgaria, the People's Republic of China and Brazil. Boxes without genuine bank notes instead contained Post Cereal play money.

The Educational Coin Company also provided U.S. and world bank notes to a promotion for Ralston Purina's Almond Delight brand cereal. The promotion promised free money in every box. Purchasers could receive either U.S. paper money in a denomination of $1, $5, $50 or $500, or one of 18 different foreign notes from Bulgaria, Bolivia, Indonesia, Argentina, Ireland or Brazil. According to the promotion's official rules, customers had a one in 46 chance of receiving a box with a U.S. note.

REPLICA NOTES created by the American Bank Note Co. used the original steel engravings, some of which were more than 100 years old. The replicas were printed in six denominations: $.25, $1, $2, $3, $1.75, and $9.

A similar numismatic cereal promotion also sponsored by Ralston Purina's Almond Delight brand cereal took place in 1988 and offered real and reprinted U.S. bank notes. According to the official rules, 4.9 million boxes of specially marked Almond Delight were reserved for the promotion. One in 20 boxes contained legal tender U.S. paper money. The program totaled 50 $500 notes, 425 $100 notes, 2,225 $20 notes, 22,250 $2 notes and 222,500 $1 notes.

All other packages contained one of six different collector-quality replicas of historical U.S. currency. The intaglio replicas were created by the American Bank Note Co. using the original steel engravings the firm used in making the original notes, some of which had been produced more than 100 years old earlier. Denominations of the replica notes were $.25, $1, $2, $3 and $9, as well as a $1.75 railroad note issued by the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad in the early 1800s.

A collectible souvenir sheet of all six bank notes was also available through the promotion, printed by the American Bank Note Co. as well.

Ralston Purina also sponsored numismatic promotions with its Meow Mix cat food, offering eight different collectible coins free in specially marked packages.

Perhaps the most well-known numismatic cereal promotion involved General Mills' Cheerios brand cereal offering Lincoln cents and Sacagawea golden dollar coins in 1999. Through this promotion, the first coins of the year 2000, Lincoln cents and Sacagawea dollar coins, entered circulation via specially marked boxes of Cheerios in December 1999.

According to a January 2000 article of Coin World, many readers thought it strange, and even illegal, for coins to enter circulation before the year marked on the coins begins. However, the act is not illegal or even unprecedented, for the coins are legal to own as long as they did not leave the Mint and enter commerce unlawfully.

A GENERAL MILLS' Cheerios brand cereal promotion offered Lincoln cents and Sacagawea golden dollar coins in 1999. The dollar coins were identified in 2005 as being from a different reverse hub than those struck for general circulation. Examples of the dollar have sold for more than $1,000. Each of the coins included in the Cheerios promotion was packaged in a protective, plastic sleeve printed with the seal of the U.S. Mint, and came with a certificate of authenticity and a place for the owner to write his or her name, the date and how the finder celebrated New Year's Eve 1999-2000.

The promotion involved each of the six brands of General Mills Cheerios: Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Frosted Cheerios, Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, Multi-Grain Cheerios and Team Cheerios. All 10 million specially marked boxes contained a Lincoln cent, while every 2,000th box also held a 2000-P Sacagawea dollar. In addition, a certificate redeemable for 100 Sacagawea dollars was placed inside every 4,400th box.

Each of the coins included in the Cheerios promotion was carefully packaged in a protective, plastic sleeve. The holder was printed with the seal of the U.S. Mint, a certificate of authenticity and a place for the owner to write his or her name, the date and how the finder celebrated New Year's Eve 1999-2000.

A similar numismatic cereal promotion also sponsored by Ralston Purina's Almond Delight brand cereal took place in 1988 and offered real and reprinted U.S. bank notes. According to the official rules, 4.9 million boxes of specially marked Almond Delight were reserved for the promotion. One in 20 boxes contained legal tender U.S. paper money. The program totaled 50 $500 notes, 425 $100 notes, 2,225 $20 notes, 22,250 $2 notes and 222,500 $1 notes.

All other packages contained one of six different collector-quality replicas of historical U.S. currency. The intaglio replicas were created by the American Bank Note Co. using the original steel engravings the firm used in making the original notes, some of which had been produced more than 100 years old earlier. Denominations of the replica notes were $.25, $1, $2, $3 and $9, as well as a $1.75 railroad note issued by the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad in the early 1800s.

A collectible souvenir sheet of all six bank notes was also available through the promotion, printed by the American Bank Note Co. as well.

Ralston Purina also sponsored numismatic promotions with its Meow Mix cat food, offering eight different collectible coins free in specially marked packages.

Perhaps the most well-known numismatic cereal promotion involved General Mills' Cheerios brand cereal offering Lincoln cents and Sacagawea golden dollar coins in 1999. Through this promotion, the first coins of the year 2000, Lincoln cents and Sacagawea dollar coins, entered circulation via specially marked boxes of Cheerios in December 1999.

According to a January 2000 article of Coin World, many readers thought it strange, and even illegal, for coins to enter circulation before the year marked on the coins begins. However, the act is not illegal or even unprecedented, for the coins are legal to own as long as they did not leave the Mint and enter commerce unlawfully.

The promotion involved each of the six brands of General Mills Cheerios: Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Frosted Cheerios, Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, Multi-Grain Cheerios and Team Cheerios. All 10 million specially marked boxes contained a Lincoln cent, while every 2,000th box also held a 2000-P Sacagawea dollar. In addition, a certificate redeemable for 100 Sacagawea dollars was placed inside every 4,400th box.

Each of the coins included in the Cheerios promotion was carefully packaged in a protective, plastic sleeve. The holder was printed with the seal of the U.S. Mint, a certificate of authenticity and a place for the owner to write his or her name, the date and how the finder celebrated New Year's Eve 1999-2000.

In 2005, researchers found that those receiving the 2000-P Sacagawea dollars received something more than a simple dollar coin. The Sacagawea dollars were struck with a reverse die produced from a different hub than that used for the regular issue Sacagawea dollars. Numismatist Thomas K. DeLorey proved that there were in fact differences between the two coins, despite repeated denials from the United States Mint.

Although subtle, the differences can be found on the eagle's tail feathers; the central line of the tail feather shaft is raised on the Cheerios dollars, but is recessed on the coins for circulation. According to a July 2005 article of Coin World, the changes were done to make the tail feathers on circulating issues appear more realistic.

After this discovery, much debate arose among collectors as to whether the dollar coins should be classified as patterns or hub variations. However, although the Cheerios Sacagawea dollar is encapsulated as a pattern by the Numismatic Guaranty Corp., this identification as such is still not universally accepted.

The interest surrounding the Cheerios Sacagawea dollar promotion was so widespread that it was considered one of Coin World's top stories of 2005.

Examples of the Cheerios Sacagawea dollar have brought more than $1,000 at auction through eBay.

While most numismatic cereal promotions are simply enjoyable ways to expand one's collection, as shown in the Cheerios example, some can unveil unexpected surprises. The promotions, often aimed at children, are also ways of sparking a numismatic interest in younger generations.