Radio Premiums




by Charles Sexton (

Remember when you sent for your first radio premium? Perhaps it was the Shadow Blue Coal Ring, or a Tom Mix Identification Bracelet or one of Chandu's latest tricks. Whatever it was, you couldn't wait for it to arrive and the wait seemed forever. I was convinced most of my letters containing the required box top and/or dime had been lost in the mails before finally receiving my prize. Jean Shepherd's movie, A Christmas Story, beautifully recreates this frustration as it features a 10 year-old boy named Ralphie who checks his mailbox daily for the Orphan Annie Code-O-Graph he ordered "ages ago".

Many articles and books have been published over the past several years describing those fabulous giveaways associated with the many children's radio programs of the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Many of them contain glorious pictures of badges, rings and glow-in-the-dark goodies designed to reawaken our collective youth and cause us to head for the nearest flea market. If you've ever tried to find any premiums at a flea market or toy show, you know they are scarce, at best, and the prices they command are usually quite "stiff".

While reference books offer much information describing radio premiums (notably the Tomart series of price guides, Tomart Publications, 3300 Encrete Lane, Dayton, OH 45439), none identify any of the old time radio broadcasts available today which feature actual commercials for many of the premiums or which use them in the body of the show.

So, for those who yearn for a cheap nostalgic "high", OTR is the answer. There are many shows in circulation in which a premium is offered in the commercial portion of the show or is used in the body of the show, whether or not the premium itself is actually offered. Next time you place an order for shows with your favorite dealer or radio club library, pick up a couple of those listed below and experience the feeling of being 10 years old once again.

To help identify the show, the date of broadcast is given, when known; otherwise a title or description of the show is provided. Also, some premiums are mentioned in several episodes (i.e. Superman Comic Character buttons) but only one representative sample/date is used.

Charles' article is fairly detailed, and contains a number of soundbytes and images. Click on the links in the left frame to visit the pages.

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