Ephemera • Premium
Prize • Souvenir
Prizes are promotional items—small toys, games, trading cards, collectables, and other small items of nominal value—found in packages of brand-name retail products (or available from the retailer at the time of purchase) that are included in the price of the product (at no extra cost) with the intent to boost sales. Collectable prizes produced (and sometimes numbered) in series are used extensively, as a loyalty marketing program, in food, drink, and other retail products to increase sales through repeat purchases from collectors. Prizes have been distributed through bread, candy, cereal, chips, crackers, laundry detergent, popcorn, and soft drinks. The types of prizes have included comics, fortunes, jokes, key rings, magic tricks, models (made of paper or plastic), pin-back buttons, plastic mini-spoons, puzzles, riddles, stickers, temporary tattoos, tazos, trade cards, trading cards, and small toys (made from injection molded plastic, paper, cardboard, tin litho, ceramics, or pot metal). Prizes are sometimes referred to as premiums, although historically the word "premium" has been used to denote (as opposed to a prize) an item that is not packaged with the product and requires a proof of purchase and/or a small additional payment to cover shipping and/or handling charges.
Some of the earliest prizes were cigarette cards — trade cards advertising the product (not to be confused with trading cards) that were inserted into paper packs of cigarettes as stiffeners to protect the contents. Allen and Ginter in the U.S. in 1886, and British company W.D. & H.O. Wills in 1888, were the first tobacco companies to print advertisements and, a couple years later, lithograph pictures on the cards with an encyclopedic variety of topics from nature to war to sports — subjects that appealed to men who smoked. By 1900, there were thousands of tobacco card sets manufactured by 300 different companies. Children would stand outside of stores to ask customers who bought cigarettes if they could have their card. Following the success of cigarette cards, trade cards were produced by manufacturers of other products and included in the product or handed to the customer by the store clerk at the time of purchase. Other inserts in tobacco included tin litho prizes, called tobacco tags (in plug tobacco), and tobacco silks (popular from 1910 to 1916) that could be collected to put in quilts were inserted in or attached to tobacco tins and sometimes catalogued as cigarette cards. World War II put an end to cigarette card production due to limited paper resources, and after the war cigarette cards never really made a comeback. After that collectors of prizes from retail products took to collecting tea cards in the UK and bubble gum cards in the US.
The first baseball cards were trade cards featuring the Brooklyn Atlantics produced in 1868 by Peck and Snyder, a sporting goods company that manufactured baseball equipment. In 1869, Peck and Snyder trade cards featured the first professional team, the Red Stockings. Most of the baseball cards around the beginning of the 20th century came in candy and tobacco products produced by such companies as Breisch-Williams confectionary company of Oxford, Pennsylvania, American Caramel Company, the Imperial Tobacco Company of Canada, and Cabañas, a Cuban cigar manufacturer. In fact it is a baseball set, known as the T-206 tobacco card set, distributed by the American Tobacco Company in 1909 that is considered by collectors to be the most popular set of cigarette cards. In 1933, Goudey Gum Company of Boston issued baseball cards with players biographies on the backs and was the first to put baseball cards in bubble gum. Bowman Gum of Philadelphia issued its first baseball cards in 1948 and became the biggest issuer of baseball cards from 1948 to 1952.