1957 Cereal toys first produced by R & L

The "Inges" series or Funny Fringies, was designed by English cartoonist Harry Hargreaves

They were one of Australia’s little-known exports. From the 1950s through the 1970s, children around the world regularly upended new boxes of breakfast cereal to discover the toys buried at the bottom. Many of those cereal toys were manufactured here in Australia by the firm of Rosenhaim and Lipmann, known as R&L. The company, based in Melbourne, produced its first toy inserts in 1957.

Crater Critter

The brightly coloured cereal toys weren’t the first surprises to be included in cereal packets. In the USA, as early as 1905, boxes of Quaker Oats contained tokens, which could be collected and exchanged for china bowls. In Australia, Kellogg’s began adding premiums to Corn Flakes packs in 1955. The first was a balloon, the next was three glass marbles. These were soon replaced by toys, at first made of metal and then of plastic.

From early on, the toys were released as different series, prompting kids to collect the whole set. Early sets were fairly straightforward in their subject matter: dinosaurs, dogs, aeroplanes, cars and ships. By the early 1960s, there were walking and climbing toys with moveable parts and, later that decade, things got a little crazier with series that are highly collectable today.

Among the toy series most sought-after by collectors are Crater Critters (1969), the Inges (1970) and Tooly Birds (1970). Australian author Barry Divola has even written a book about his search for that most prized of cereal toys, Kingly Critter, complete with his crown and still sealed in the original cellophane packet. And, back in 1970, the Royal Australian Navy News was inspired to suggest that the Tooly Birds series could be adopted as new right-arm badges for technical branches of the R.A.N.

The Inges (Funny Fringes) series was designed by noted UK cartoonist Harry Hargreaves and the pieces could be worn as a necklace. Hargreaves also designed other ranges including Camel Train, Tooly Birds and the Deep Sea Band series (1969) which depicted sea creatures playing musical instruments. R & L’s cereal toys were produced in their multi-millions and exported worldwide, including to the USA, where they appeared in Cracker Jack snack food packs as well as cereals.

In 1977, the R & L company was taken over by a Mexican firm, Compañia General de Plasticos, which continued to produce cereal toys into the 1990s. However, the heyday of the premiums was really in the 1960s and ’70s. Today, kids are more likely to be asked to scan a QR code to access games on their smartphones.

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