Who Wants to Curate a Cereal Box Museum?
After three decades of archiving fun cereal memorabilia, a lifelong collector decides to pass on the breakfast torch
The year 2023 has marked two major milestones in breakfast cereal history. First, it’s the 60th birthday of Cap’n Crunch, the cheery sea captain who hasn’t aged since 1963.
Perhaps even more significant is that this Halloween, a green-skinned zombie DJ named “Carmella Creeper” will break through the cardboard ceiling. The first female monster at General Mills will serve caramel apple-flavored cereal, joining Count Chocula, Franken Berry, Yummy Mummy, Boo Berry and Frute Brute.
I knew about these developments before the average consumer through my cereal-saturated Instagram feed. But I chose not to act on the early intelligence.
In previous years, when I’d learn about a new cereal promotion, I’d rush down to Market Basket to find a pristine box to flatten and archive for my collection. I started this habit when I was a student at the University of Massachusetts in the late 1980s. One of my college buddies had created a “cereal museum” in his dorm, and I was inspired to build my own.
But decades later, I’ve given up the dream. For more than 30 years, my museum has remained hidden inside plastic Rubbermaid containers. I kept adding to the collection — how could I resist the rebirth of Quaker’s Quisp, the propeller-beanied alien created by Bullwinkle cartoonist Jay Ward — but every new acquisition just disappeared into storage.
Now it’s time to pass the breakfast torch. There’s a subculture of cereal box collectors on eBay. But instead of auctioning them off, I’d love to see a local restaurant or diner with some extra wall space carry on my legacy. In return for a generous donation to the New Hampshire Food Bank, I will happily deliver my archive of 125+ boxes to the right home. (Please visit my online photo gallery of all the boxes at https://bit.ly/cerealboxmuseum.)
In the 1990s, my friend and I went on a 2,000-mile road trip to Chicago and back, including Battle Creek, Michigan, as one of our landmark stops. Battle Creek, home to Kellogg’s world headquarters, was etched in my brain as the address you mailed boxtops to when sending away for prizes.
When we walked into the lobby, I was expecting to see the original Tony the Tiger and Toucan Sam concept sketches. Instead, we were handed a mini-box of cereal and asked to leave.
My poorly timed visit came during a stale time in Kellogg’s public relations. The company had given factory tours for 74 years, from 1912 to 1986, closing out of fear of corporate espionage (Post Cereal is also in Battle Creek).
And then from 1998 to 2007, they ran “Kellogg’s Cereal City USA,” a downtown museum that included an automated replica of the production line.
A cynical review on RoadsideAmerica.com had this to say about the museum’s quick demise: “Cereal City USA is a faint echo of a lost time, an attraction geared to getting Americans used to the idea of NOT seeing things being made. Now that the factories have been outsourced to Mexico and China, we’re being taught to redirect our consumer love toward the marketing, not the manufacturing.”
Without even a spoonful of shame, I do love the marketing and always will. Maybe seeing a scaled-down New Hampshire “Cereal Box Wall” or “Cereal Box Room” will finally erase the lingering disappointment from that ill-fated Battle Creek pilgrimage.
So what do you say, diner owners? Any bites out there? Contact Darren at email@example.com
This profile appeared as part of a larger article in the September 2023 issue of New Hampshire Magazine highlighting some of the fascinating collectors and passionate collectors in the state.
To learn more about the other Granite State Super Collectors, click here.