Millions of tiny zinc bunnies, scottie dogs, Buster Browns, shovels, candlesticks, flatirons and storks have vanished over the years into the cracks and crannies of American homes. They were the prizes that came in candy boxes, like Cracker Jacks, or were used as markers in Monopoly and Clue.
Since World War II these little objects have been made of plastic and paper. Now the original zinc is back as the newest thing in costume jewelry.
The vogue was launched last summer by two Chicago jewelry makers, Peggy Shure, 44, and Lynn Foster, 42, whose company, SS/F, had been turning out ivory necklaces and bracelets. “We felt we needed a new product and we knew people were into nostalgia,” says Lynn. Then one evening Peggy’s husband mentioned that his company, which makes Tootsietoys, had found barrels of old zinc figurines in a warehouse.
Peggy and Lynn dashed over and rescued 188,000 of them. Painted bright crayon colors and hung on a black twill cord, Cracker Jills (a neighbor thought up the name) are now selling at $10 to $40 in department stores across the country. On the opening night of the Broadway hit Annie, one of the producers gave Cracker Jill necklaces, featuring old black orphanage shoes, to the girls in the cast.
“Toy box jewelry is a whole new trend,” says Bloomingdale’s buyer Barbara Cirkva, and Peggy and Lynn are prepared for it to continue. They luckily discovered some original molds, so when their present toys run out they can cast a new supply.
What is fueling the fad, they believe, is the same childlike thrill they experienced when they first spied their cache. “I carefully saved Monopoly markers during the war,” Peggy recalls. “Imagine how I felt when I found barrels of them in the warehouse.”