"It's good to be the king." - Mel Brooks
King Crater, that is... my introduction
to his regal presence was in 1971, at the tender age of seven. By
then, I had learnt through observation that you should always try
to get your mother to open the cornflakes box at the bottom. That's
where the prize usually was. And I can still remember the excitement
when my first royal critter, encased in his protective cello time
capsule, tumbled playfully into my breakfast bowl. That was it.
I was hopelessly addicted to the pursuit of Kellogg's secret cereal-marketing
weapon... Crater Critters. By age 8, things had gotten weird. I
can't erase one scary image from my childhood, no matter how hard
I try... the towering figure of the local greengrocer, powerhouse
arms folded, staring piercingly at the little guy kneeling on the
pavement. Surrounded by the wreckage of four Froot Loops boxes,
I had nowhere to go. Never fear, the cereal had been honestly acquired.
At that time, my entire weekly allowance was being blown on cereal...
cereal that I didn't eat. The greengrocer had finally caught the
kid who had been regularly leaving vandalized cereal boxes just
around the corner from his store, and boy-oh-boy, did he let me
have it. Wasting good food, leaving a mess... guilty on all counts,
your honor. Seems I was so overcome by the lure of these plastic
critters that I couldn't wait til I got home to open 'em. As I said,
Made by Australian company R&L (Rosenhaim
and Lippmann), the Crater Critters were successfully distributed
worldwide inside Kellogg's cereal boxes in the late 1960s and early
1970s. R&L made plastic cereal premiums both before and after them,
but the critters were without a doubt the most-loved and fondly
remembered. There were eight in a full set (ten if you count the
legendary Japanese critters... but then that's a story for another
time), and were typical of R&L's inspired-lunatic artistry.
Fabulous in color and texture (soft lime greens,
soothing lilacs and striking oranges, all set in a malleable waxy
plastic), they could not fail to appeal to their target audience...
kids like me. And kids like me everywhere were not happy until we
had completed the set. The hardest to find even way back then was
King Crater. This original scarcity, combined with his fragility
factors (No. 1 being the impossibly delicate and begging-to-be-removed
crown structure), has resulted in his being an even more highly-prized
collectable 'prize' today. Mint specimens with perfect crowns currently
fetch 150 and up, with price dependent on colour variations. So
take a hike, Tooly Birds! Quieten down, Quisp! Flake off Freakies!
Hail to the King! Long may he reign over all cereal premiums.