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Oct 03

Lone Ranger Frontier Town circa 1948

 In my day of eating lots of cereal, Lucky Charms was my personal favorite, I would get excited about toys found inside the box. I also loved it when the box itself could transform into a mask or some other cardboard cut out toy. But I never had a long-term relationship with my cereal box toys. Now I wish I had. Long before my childhood, advertisers centered these toys around loveable characters from daily radio programs and it made for a powerful interactive experience, long before the internet.
When radio was the primary medium of home entertainment, advertisers would offer radio premiums for listeners as souvenirs of their favorite shows. What started with cast photos evolved into interactive tools that listeners could use as while they listened to the show.  By the 1930s, premiums ranged from rings and pocket novelties to “decoder pins,” most of which were obtained by sending in a sponsor’s proof of purchase, such as a cereal boxtop, and frequently a small amount of cash, such as a dime.

During World War II, material restrictions, notably copper and brass, resulted in almost all radio premiums being made of “noncritical” materials, such as wood, paper or cloth. Many sponsors turned to their packaging to help facilitate the collecting of radio premiums.

In 1948 the Lone Ranger Frontier Town was released as a Cheerios Cereal premium.  As you listened in 1948 to The Lone Ranger radio program the announcer, Fred Foy, said, “In celebration of the 15th year of this program you can get your very own model of the Lone Ranger Frontier Town. With this offer you can follow the adventures of The Lone Ranger and Tonto.” 

There were nine (9) different cereal boxes and on the backs were the cut-out buildings.  Four more sections, each with a map and additional buildings (71 pieces in all), had to be sent for separately with a dime and a Cheerios box top. When assembled the four base maps cover nearly 15 square feet of floor space. Each map had numbered spaces where the buildings went and the buildings had corresponding numbers to make it easy to assemble the complete set.  Then you were ready to follow the Lone Ranger adventures as they happened on the radio program.

This rare collectible toy appeals to both the radio premium and cereal collector. Values of radio premiums range from tens of dollars to several thousands, depending on rarity and condition. The last known sale for a similar Lone Ranger Frontier Town set, but in much lesser condition, was at auction December 2011 for the winning bid of just under $500. The set we found here at Canton Trade Days is only missing 3 pieces and is in excellent condition. This is the most complete set I’ve seen in my travels and research. So, next time you see old cereal boxes at a yard sale or flea market, look carefully. You may have something worth much more than the box itself. 

1 comment

  1. tigercub

    I have a complete Lone Ranger Frontier town . . . missing only a couple of pieces. Want to sell
    newellnelsen@charter.net

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