Cracker Jack first sweetened American palates at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. But the popular prizes weren't added until a few years later. Early boxes had coupons on them: Collect enough coupons, and you could exchange them for merchandise - everything from sterling-silver tea sets to baseball gloves. A free booklet listed what was available.
"It was almost like a Sears catalog," says Larry White, author of "Cracker Jack Toys" (Schiffer, 1997).
When prizes were introduced, they still weren't in the box. Grocers who sold Cracker Jack handed them out. Finally, the prizes went in the boxes.
Early prizes included baseball cards and cards with riddles on them. "Clickers," made of metal in the shape of small animals, were included. Similar clickers were used by US paratroops as recognition signals in World War II.
In the late 1950s, plastic stand-up figures (cowboys, Indians, and others) were popular. Elaborate, tiny snap-together toys arrived in the 1960s. They included miniature train sets and circus wagons.
Safety regulations and packaging efficiency doomed the small toys. Only paper prizes have been awarded since the early 1980s.