Dallas Poague is a Minneapolis-based graphic designer and owner of MonkeyInADryer, a silk screening company. Dallas has a fun collection of cereal boxes that we discussed recently.
ephemera: When did your passion for cereal boxes begin?
Poague: My mom used to send away for all sorts of premiums when I was little, so I guess she gave me the collecting bug. I started collecting stuff like lunch boxes and other kid stuff and whatnot back when I was in junior high school--20 years ago. The things I found were from garage sales and thrift stores. There was not a network of collectors or the Internet like there is now, so obtaining actual cereal boxes was pretty much out of the question then. There simply was no one selling them. Instead, I had to satisfy my love of cereal characters with premiums--as these were a bit easier for me to find.
Poague: Originally, the challenge was simply to find the stuff. As time went on, I met more people who also had a passion for cereal collecting, and I was able to find what I wanted. I've had many boxes over the years, but it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I really decided to focus more energy on finding the boxes that I always wanted and putting together a worthy collection. Before eBay the Internet--when I told people I collected cereal boxes--they just looked at me with confusion, or they assumed I was looking for Wheaties boxes with sports players on them. Hardly anyone collected cereal boxes then. Now with eBay--my biggest challenge is other collectors with deeper pockets. I overcome it by spending more than I probably should.
Another challenge I have is that I feel that my collection should always be displayed. Since I only have display space for 72 boxes--whenever I get a new box, a lessor box must be removed. Lately it's becoming a challenge on what boxes to get rid of. I guess it's time for more space.
ephemera: Good problem to have, I guess. What are your favorite items? How do they inspire your graphic design work?
Poague: That's like asking to pick my favorite child. Okay fine, it's my Quisp, Quake, & Quangaroo boxes. I don't know why, but I really like the fact that these three boxes don't even show the cereal on them, and the characters are just so great.
All the boxes are inspirational to me in my design work. I love the simple clean and bold lines of the 60s-70s box art. Things were so much simpler back then. There was no pretense that this stuff was good for you or that it was anything more than fun cereal for kids. Today's box front are filled up with all sorts of health claims like "whole grain" or "great source for iron, fiber, vitamins, etc." Who are they kidding? It's still sugary kid's cereal.
ephemera: You mean Count Chocula isn't health food? On more serious note, what advice do you have for aspiring cereal box collectors?
Poague: Buy what you like --not what you think will be worth the most in the future. And display them proudly. What fun is it to have everything packed away for investments? If that were the case, just buy stocks and bonds or something. I have a lot of people come over to the house for my business and they really get a kick out of seeing boxes that they remembered but had forgotten about.
ephemera: What resources and tools do you recommend?
Poague: Of course, now-a-days, the Number 1 place to get cereal boxes is eBay--but there are still a few of us who do stuff off eBay. My friend runs a fine magazine called Planet-Q, and I run a message forum called cerealbits.
For my boxes, I prefer to put two pieces of cardboard in them, one for the front, one for the back with a third thinner piece--bent like a 'V' and going sideways to hold the two pieces in place, like an I-beam. I then shrink wrap the box in an acid-free plastic. Some people will stuff their boxes with packing peanuts or tissue, but I found that this either puts small bumps on box's surface or doesn't hold it's shape as well.
ephemera: Those are great storage tips. Thanks for sharing your expertise. Sounds like cereal box collecting is a lot of fun.