This four-inch by one-inch piece of cardboard had been cut off a box of Kix cereal decades ago and then tucked away and forgotten inside a book.1
Here's a page from the MrBreakfast.com website, with another image of the Kix Rocket Trooper campaign. Indeed, one box top and 25 cents got you one of these toys.
I'm no cereal historian, so I was surprised to learn that Kix has been around since 1937. I would not have thought it was that old.
This was my favorite tidbit from the Wikipedia page on Kix: "Just months after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Kix offered an atomic bomb ring in exchange for a box top and 15 cents. The ring was purported to detect radiation."
Oh boy, did that little piece of information ever send me off on a heck of a tangent.
The Kix atomic rings were a MAJOR DEAL. Way bigger than the propeller-headed plaster troops that came years later.
According to the blog Tracy's Toys:
"The 1947 Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring, a Kix cereal promotion, was the best-selling premium ring of all time. ...The ring cleverly combined the Lone Ranger's silver bullet iconography with that of the new atomic sciences. And it did indeed work: the "bullet" or "bomb" was actually a device called a spinthariscope, which enables the viewer to see nuclear disintegrations caused by the interaction of radioisotopes. As polonium alpha particles struck a zinc sulfide screen, brilliant flashes of light resulted which could be seen by removing the red end cap."
There's a full-color advertisement for this ring on the Tracy's Toys site that you can to check out. This was THE THING for a generation of kids. (Not quite my generation. I grew up with Sea Monkeys and "100 pc Toy Soldier Set" screaming at me from my 1970s comic books.)
The radioactive ring cost you 15 cents and one Kix boxtop back in the late 1940s. How much would it set you back to snag one today? I found a couple of old auctions on archived on the Hake's Americana & Collectibles (located right here in York). In December 2005, an atomic ring still in the box sold for $246.40. And in June 2008, another one sold for $253.
1. Seriously, though, I find the coolest things inside old books. I sort through and assess hundreds of books, and the percentage of books with cool things tucked away inside is almost as high as the percentage books with good resale value. Of course, it helps that everything interests me: newspaper clippings, advertisements, coupons, bookmarks, pamphlets, old scrawled notes, receipts, etc. What's the coolest thing you ever found tucked away inside a used book that you acquired?