Quaker Oats Premiums Through the Years

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Remember those premiums that came in oatmeal boxes? Here's a little history behind them.

Not long before the turn of the 20th century, several companies merged and finally became incorporated as the Quaker Oat Company in 1901. The trademark was registered in 1877, so there is some confusion as to whether some things were actually accomplished by Quaker Oats or another company which became part of Quaker Oats.

Regardless, this became a company of firsts on the American marketing scene. At the time, grains and cereals were only sold in bulk. If you wanted oats, the seller would measure them out by the pound, put them in a paper sack and then you took them home and found a container for them.

In 1885, Quaker Oats, or the company that held that trademark, began to sell their product pre-weighed and prepackaged in two pound paperboard boxes and in 1889, they introduced the trial size, which was a half ounce of rolled oats in a paperboard box. These were distributed to every household in Portland, Oregon by boys and young men on bicycles at the beginning, then the promotion was extended to several other cities.

In 1915, the now familiar round box was introduced and later that same year, Quaker offered its first premium. If the thrifty housewife cut out the picture of the Quaker man and sent it along with one dollar, she would receive a double boiler to cook her family's oatmeal.

This round box became the receptacle of many premiums, from puzzles to pins and from cups to trading cards. China and depression glass came snuggled safely deep in the boxes of roll oats and children's rings, buttons sporting movie star pictures, Babe Ruth pictures and more, were offered through the years.

Some of the more memorable premiums either included or available for a little money and "proof of purchase" were:

  • 1900s: Sports trading cards and puzzles
  • 1920s: Crystal radio
  • 1920s to 1960s: Breakfast set pieces made by Royal China, Taylor Smith & Taylor, and Homer Laughlin.
  • 1930s to early 1950s: Carnival dinnerware
  • 1935: Babe ruth pocket knife. The handle is shaped like a baseball bat.
  • 1948: Pin on buttons feature stars like Alan Ladd, Elizabeth Scott and Joan Crawford
  • 1950s: Sergeant Preston of the Yukon free deeds of one square inch of the Yukon Territory.
  • 1997: Cookie jars that looked like the Quaker oatmeal box

There are many collectors of all things Quaker, and of only the dinnerware or of only the trading cards or other special categories of these premiums. If you happen to have any of these collectibles and want to sell them, many of them command... well, premium prices.

I suggest that you check the going price by looking at eBay and other auction or collectors' sites before selling or buying.


Pat Veretto
Posted on Oct 17, 2011
M 5446
Posted on Oct 17, 2011
Posted on Feb 24, 2011