Wednesday, May 5, 2010

1947 Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring Premium

Many parents today worry about lead and other toxic chemicals in children's toys, particularly after the "contaminated Chinese products" scare of last summer. Well, this little item makes those concerns seem trivial: it actually contains radioactive isotopes. 


The 1947 Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring, a Kix cereal promotion, was the best-selling premium ring of all time. And no wonder --  who could resist advertising like this:


 "SEE GENUINE ATOMS SPLIT TO SMITHEREENS! 
INSIDE THIS Kix ATOMIC 'BOMB' RING!"

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.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view and comfort level with radioactive substances) the materials had a very short half-life, and the rings no longer function today. And even though the ad says the rings are "perfectly safe -- we guarantee you can wear the Kix Atomic 'Bomb' ring with complete safety. The atomic materials inside the ring are harmless," I still feel a bit nervous every time I pick mine up.
                                                                                

15 comments:

  1. I have this. I inherited my ring from my father who called it his "Flash Gordon Atom Bomb Ring". He gave it to me after a half hour lecture on the social significance of Flash Gordon. Are you sure it's really called a Lone Ranger Ring? My father even told that it took him a long time to save enough cereal premiums to get the ring. He also had a second ring that had a little airplane that flew off the top when you released a catch -- my sister got that one and it was lost long ago.

    Pam V.

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  2. Hi Pam,

    That's a great story about your dad and the Flash Gordon lecture! Thanks!

    But yes, it's definitely a Lone Ranger premium that was available through Kix (Hake's Americana offers the definitive ID of it; here's a link to one of their auctions, where they so call it: http://www.hakes.com/item.asp?Auction=186&ItemNo=36626)
    If you google "Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring" you'll turn up lots of info, too, while, alternatively, "Flash Gordon Atomic Bomb Ring" won't.

    I agree it seems a strange Lone Ranger item, but I've read that, besides being advertised on the LR show, it was actually incorporated into a LR storyline, where the Ranger and Tonto had to keep a lookout for a government agent they were supposed to meet, who would be indentifiable by this ring which he wore. The story had something to do with a government nuclear test site or something, I can't remember all the details.

    I would guess that a lot of little boys thought of it as a Flash Gordon ring once they got it, though, as it definitely has that look to it. If that's how your father referred to it, then that's what it was for him, and I think you're perfectly within your rights to think of it that way! :)

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  3. I got one of these rings in the mail in 1947 and it was absolutely terrific. Yes, it definitely was a LONE RANGER ring, as ridiculous as that now sounds, especially since Silver, Tonto and the atomic bomb (on the surface at least) don't have much in common. However in those days atomic power was seen not just as a destroyer, but -- because it ended the war and then promised unlimited peacetime potential-- it was also viewed as the potential savior of the whole world. Just like the Lone Ranger.

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  4. Mike, thanks so much for your comment! Yes, it seems very strange to we children of the 60s and 70s (I can remember seeing "No Nukes" signs everywhere as I was growing up) to think of atomic power in the way you describe, but your analysis is spot on. (And I'm glad you, the owner of a fully functional Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring, did not suffer any ill effects from all that radiation...)

    -Tracy ;0)

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  5. hi tracy

    im just wondering if you know in what newspapers and when the advertisement is produced?

    i am carrying out research on nuclear culture, but cant use this advertisement unless i know where it has come from!

    also, you wouldnt happen to know in what episode of the lone ranger the ring was used in?

    its alo to ask i know, but if you do know that would be great

    thanks

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  6. hi jonathan,

    i'm so sorry, i don't know: i wish i could help you! i've heard people say they saw the ad in comic books, but this version's layout definitely looks like a newspaper. i also don't know the episode in which it was mentioned. i read about it in a book on toy premium rings. a good source to contact might be Ted Hakes of Hakes' Americana auctions. he's the leading authority on these types of items. good luck!

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  7. This is a fantastic post. I mention it prominently and link to it in my modest post today about Kix cereal giveaways: http://papergreat.blogspot.com/2011/02/get-your-kix-rocket-troopers.html .... Looking forward to learning more about this topic. This is a great web site, too.

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  8. Thank you! I took a look at your site, and enjoyed reading about your Kix cereal giveaway find. And it was very flattering seeing my little post mentioned!

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  9. The Atomic Bomb Ring was advertized in 1947 in conjunction with a storyline on the LR program that foretold of atomic power. The Six Gun ring that shot off sparks from a flint also came out in 1947. Both are listed in Tom Tumbusch's book on radio premiums.

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  10. Yes, that's a great book, and I recommend it highly!

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  11. As a kid in the 1940's I sent away for many radio items with mostly cereal box tops. Among them was the atom bomb ring. What are they selling for today? I also bought every gadget and collectible that was offered for Captain Marvel, Superman, Captain Midnight, Batman and numerous others. Sorry I never saved them along with a very large baseball card collection that would have made my retirement very comfortable.

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  12. Hi! They seem to be selling in the $100-$150 range right now. Some scarcer rings I've seen in the $300-$550 range.

    I've heard many, many people say they wished they had saved the same things you mention, including my sweetie. We figure we could have bought a house with his shoebox full of such premiums, but he gave it away when he was a teenager to a younger boy in his building. We curse that boy today...

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  13. See this add in Ebay
    Regards
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1946-LONE-RANGER-ATOMIC-BOMB-KIX-PREMIUM-RING-/140726740779?pt=Fast_Food_Cereal_Premiums&hash=item20c3f7a72b#ht_3735wt_952

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  14. When I was a kid I cut out and saved up parts of cereal box parts and sent off my "life" savings to own one.
    Mine was NOT a Lone ranger version and to date mine: 1958 Chevrolet Impalas was eye candy on the road.
    So they made the radio active toy for several years.

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  15. I believe, for you completists, that the first Lone Ranger radio show that advertised this Atom Bomb ring was on January 15th, 1947, entitled "From Outer Space" about a meteor that falls out west. There were several shows thereafter concerning this premium (every 2-3 days), but I'm not sure how many shows were involved. Perhaps these shows are available online somewhere?

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