There’s no better time to talk about superheroes and cereal than a Saturday morning so it was extremely fitting for the “75 Years of Superhero Cereal Boxes” panel to take place then at San Diego Comic-Con. Panelists Mikal Vollmer and Duane Dimock took a fairly crowded room on a journey through the intriguing history of superhero cereal boxes, not only with images but with some rather amusing old commercials as well.
The panel began with a brief look at the first historic cereal boxes before moving into popular character territory. Mickey Mouse apparently has the honor of being the first character on a box, appearing in 1934 on a Post Toasties product. Then Superman flew into the scene in 1941. Superman was the most fascinating character explored during the panel. Not only has he been on boxes and inspired toys inside them, but he was also the focus of commercials. Some Kellogg’s commercials were especially intriguing to watch as they showed Clark Kent speaking with kids about how great the cereal of choice was or Kent trying to grab breakfast with Jimmy Olsen before work only to discover they were out of Corn Flakes. Luckily, Kent has a superfast solution to getting more cereal before they have to be in the office!
Vollmer told SYFY WIRE after the panel that for him, cereal boxes had all the criteria he was looking for in collecting. His collecting began with comic books when he was 12.
“I understood that the mint in box toy needed the box to be mint in box and these cereal boxes were the toy for the comic that I was collecting,” he said. “From there, some of these boxes that were coming out in the ‘80s were the toy itself. For those kind of things, they were like ready-made collectibles. I didn’t need another item. I could just save the box itself.”
For Vollmer, each box is colorful with all the superhero graphics and pop culture references that makes it like a time capsule of that moment. That was part of the appeal since they are of their time and have an ephemeral element.
“When people were done eating it, they were throwing it away so it was an automatic rare item with great characters on it and of its time. That’s all the characteristics of any collectible and it was practically free,” Vollmer explained. “I literally got to eat the cereal, save the thing, and I got a free collectible. It was immediate to the point that these things are only on the shelf for six months so there’s an immediate demand. If you missed it six months ago it’s gone. Back before the internet, gone was gone.”
As some might expect, the boxes show a variety of characters over the years. Everyone from Batman to Wonder Woman to the Hulk and many more have appeared on cereal boxes. Sometimes the cereal characters themselves get into the mix by cosplaying as characters, such as the time General Mills had a campaign where their characters dressed as DC heroes.
The variety of cereal boxes surprisingly goes beyond just the characters though. There are different boxes that can be found around the world and the panel showed examples from Mexico, Canada, Japan, and England. What you can find inside also varies. Comics are often available as well as toys. Collectors might buy numerous boxes of one type of cereal to get all the types of a toy or comic that a cereal is offering. The ways boxes display the characters also vary with shiny foil and other materials adding to the appeal of keeping hold of a box.
The audience was clearly filled with people interested in collecting. Questions from the audience included how the panelists display their items. Vollmer also had additional advice when speaking with SYFY WIRE. For anyone interested in starting their own superhero cereal box collection, he advises not being too broad in what you collect. It was a problem he had at first as he tried to collect a little of everything and it started to add up. Know what you like and focus on that when collecting. Moderation is key as boxes can quickly fill up a closet then room then garage. Vollmer also recommends knowing if it’s for personal use or to resell when you pick up an item. If it’s to resell, leave the cereal inside. If you’re keeping it for yourself, then enjoy the cereal!
Cereal boxes may not immediately come to mind when you think about starting a geeky collection, but it’s worth considering. The superhero genre is certainly not going anywhere so there’s sure to be another 75 years of colorful and unique cereal boxes you can add to your collection!
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