Something given as a reward, prize, or incentive…Early 17th century (in the sense ‘reward, prize’): from Latin praemium ‘booty, reward’, from prae ‘before’ + emere ‘buy, take’. From the Oxford English Dictionary.

Pam’s Pictorama: For me one of the amazing and tantalizing pleasures of existing in the moment of time and space that I do is the relative availability of various premiums from the past. These items, only obtainable previously through either luck (think Cracker Jack) or by dint of labor (collecting cereal box tops shall we say), the products of early, crafty advertisers, are available now to us for examination and purchase more or less at will. It’s hard for me to describe how entertaining I find this to be – booty is the perfect word indeed, treasure! To a large degree, just being able to actually see them is enough, but yes of course, sometimes I find myself with a hankering to possess them as well.

I first became aware of this particular bounty while working my way through a Hake’s auction catalogue. On the festive occasion that those folks sends me one of their fat color catalogues I like nothing better than to curl up in bed and read every page, pointing out the best stuff to Kim. (If the folks from Hake’s are paying attention I would like to point out that I rarely disappoint them on the occasion of receiving their missive and have made many a purchase I may have not discovered online. I wrote a little ode to the Hake’s catalogue once which can be found here.) In the process of this, I have discovered things I never knew existed that deeply interest me. Among these are strange political buttons of elections long past and a wide variety of premiums – give aways from everything, cereal to radio program tie-ins. Most with origins I am at least passingly familiar with, although some dimly at best.

Therefore it is fair to say my fascination with these items is not linked to a particular affiliation with the origin. I can deeply enjoy perusing Lone Ranger premiums (silver bullet ring anyone?) while being only passingly familiar or interested in the lore of the Lone Ranger, his comrades and their adventures, having personally only ever been exposed to the television show as fodder for Sunday afternoons in my childhood. The rings alone – those that might decode, magnify, signal or contain a bit of mythical meteorite – tempt. Truly I would like to own them all and have only barely contained myself, limited by space, money and time.

Obviously where advertising and premiums intersect with felines I have made acquisitions (for example I opine on some splendid pin trays which sit happily on my dresser in my post Corbin Canadian Cats which can be found here), however I do wander astray occasionally however and give into something. Today’s item, this wonderful Little Orphan Annie Ovaltine mug purchased for me by Kim, is an example I am especially pleased with. It was easily obtained – I imagine the bar for acquiring it set purposely low and therefor in a sense still is – and you can all have one if you want. We paid a nominal amount for this very pristine example. I believed that it came in this cream color or a white version when I bought it. I purchased a cream colored one – but I now realize as I photograph it that the cream reads white – maybe all are cream colored? Ultimately I chose this one because of it’s utterly unworn state. It looks like it just came out of the box.

These mugs, manufactured exclusively for The Wander Co., Chicago makers of Ovaltine (as per the bottom of the mug) were evidently a tie in with the Little Orphan Annie radio broadcast, sponsored by Ovaltine from 1931-1940. I gather this was an extraordinarily effective tie in and, in the day, one rarely thought of the radio program without also thinking of Ovaltine.


I have only a passing experience with Ovaltine from my own childhood. It wasn’t a favorite by any means but wander through it did. In my mind it was a lesser cocoa additive than the Nestle or Hershey scoop-able brown powders or (best of all) syrup that was preferred. My memory is that I sort of liked that it was more granular than powder which made it more interesting to dispense. I am not sure that the concept of it being more of a malted drink than a chocolate one was entirely coherent to me although my tastebuds knew it and preferred chocolate. I gather there was a nominal component of it being nutritious?

This mug surprised me by being somewhat child-sized, not tiny, but as an adult more appropriate for expresso than your morning cup of joe, which means I will not be using it for that end. I dearly love the image of Sandy on the back. I deeply regret that I have never found a Sandy toy that seems to entirely capture his mercurial charm. I continue to search. I am very enamored of the one I wrote about in my post Sandy Finds a Home which can be read here, but cuddly he is not. I would like to find a nice mohair version, something you can imagine a child taking to bed at night.

Sandy front scan

Sandy, collection


Little Orphan Annie is enjoying a prolonged vogue in our home. Kim is reading his way through the series, via the IDW volumes for the most part, and is currently enjoying and very involved in 1935. I read one of the volumes several years ago and intend to get back to it now that they are all in the house or will be. For now he recounts highlights and occasionally points out whole strips for my delectation. Weekend mornings are his primary comic strip reading time – while I work on these posts as a matter of fact.


The siren call of premiums has started to take hold of me however and I think Pictorama readers can anticipate a trend here. The lure of these items, hard won and carefully hoarded for us future generations, is one I cannot seem to resist.




An Ode to the Toy Catalogue


Pam’s Pictorama: The seasons of childhood were punctuated by the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. The spring one passed with little notice, the fall one was where we ordered our back-to-school clothes – but oh, that Christmas catalogue! It kicked off weeks of toy daydreams. Who doesn’t treasure their memories of the Christmas catalogue? The smell of fresh ink, the cheap paper (but full color and chock full of photos) which tended to stick together on first viewing. Oh, what would the next page reveal? Stuffed animals, Barbie’s latest home, vehicle and outfits. There would be stoves that cooked (yep, had the Easy Bake, loved it like mad), bikes, cars that could be driven. You name it and it was in that catalogue, or so it seemed. Your parents didn’t necessarily buy from Sears, but it was the child’s encyclopedia to what was new and interesting in toys and we studied it like some people study the Bible.

As an adult I assumed that it was a thrill that I would never really relive. I mean, I like say, the J. Crew catalogue well enough, but to say it is a thrill would be an exaggeration to say the least. Dozens of catalogues go in the recycling weekly, some without any notes.

And then, a number of years ago, several months after bidding on an online auction where I won my Mickey Jazzers (see my post Starting Small with Mice), the first Hake’s catalogue magically appeared. It is about the same heft and dimensions as the old Sears books I worshipped in the 1960’s and the paper even similar, same inky smell. Not since those halcyon days of prepubescence had I experienced the kind of thrill that this catalogue induced.

Unlike Sears and Roebuck whose history stretches back to 1893, Hake’s can only claim fifty or so years of business, evolving out of Ted Hake’s collecting and hawking business in the New York City of the late 1960’s. Here in my mailbox, utterly unsolicited no less, was something I had not even imagined – the grown-up toy collector’s version of the Sears Christmas catalogue! Much like the Christmas books, the Hake’s catalogue is likely to feature some items in the beloved areas I follow avidly – ancient Felix and Mickey toys for example – but just as interesting, one is likely to see things undreamt of – obscure but interesting political pins, every cereal premium from everyone’s childhood ever imagined and then some. Things you have always wondered about and here they are – photographed and explained in great detail. It shows up about twice a year. Amazing!

Since the Mickeys several of my most significant toy purchases have come from Hake’s auctions – my giant Dean’s Rag Mickey Mouse display model, one of my Aesop’s Fable dolls – but the catalogue itself brings great joy to the Butler-Deitch household when it arrives unannounced in our mailbox. I occasionally seem to fall off their list and need to check out the auctions online. There’s nothing more glorious than snuggling under the covers with the new Hake’s and interrupting Kim’s book reading, sharing the highlights with until eventually he gives up and looks at the catalogue with me. Who could ask for anything more?