According to a popular children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, you’ll unleash a chain of events that will eventually bring you right back to where you started.
If you gave a car-loving kid a Mother’s Cookie in 1955, however, you may have unleashed a chain of events that hasn’t yet reached its conclusion. That’s because Mother’s Cookies included a sports car collector card in every package, and kids likely bugged their own mothers for more of them—both the cookies and the cards. Imagine how many of those youngsters grew up to become car-collecting adults. Perhaps they now understand why their mothers warned them about too many sweets.
Much like General Foods did in 1961 by including car coins inside Jell-O packages distributed in Canada, Mother’s Cookies knew the power of the premium: Target the kids.
Mother’s Cookies has been a West Coast staple since 1914, when Noah Wheatley began selling 2000 cookies per day at his one-person bakery in Oakland, California, which took its name from President Woodrow Wilson’s 1914 decision to make Mother’s Day a national holiday.
Noting the success of companies (like Topps) that began including baseball cards with chewing gum in the early 1950s, Mother’s began offering baseball cards in packages of cookies. (The cards became extremely popular on the West Coast, and even after Mother’s stopped issuing them individually, the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics distributed team-sponsored Mother’s Cookies sets to fans in the 1980s, ’90s, and early 2000s.)
In 1955, Mother’s decided to cater to car-loving kids by producing a 42-card set featuring sports cars. Slightly larger than a credit card, with rounded corners and colorful images, the lithographs are beautifully done—miniature pieces of artwork for miniature car enthusiasts.
The cards include a wide variety of automobiles and automakers, from iconic brands like Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Ford, Chevrolet, Maserati, and Bugatti, to little-known marques like Jowett, Singer, Simca, Doretti, Lea Francis, and J.B.S.
Specs for the cars pictured are printed on the back of each card, along with a mail-in offer to receive a premium of some sort, from an I.D. bracelet or personalized beanie for 25 cents, to a very non-PC “Indian Design Belt” or ceramic antique auto ashtray—you know, for Mom and Dad—for 50 cents. Each mail-in offer required the inclusion of two Mother’s Cookies labels.
The cards are readily available today (eBay is filled with them) for varying prices, depending on condition. You can find some for $5–$10, more for around $20, and high-quality slabbed/graded cards for $50–$100. A perfect 10 Corvette card can be had for, gulp, $350.
Some seem to be more difficult to find, perhaps short printed. Thunderbirds and Studebakers, for example, are not plentiful.
Notably, the Hood Ice Cream Company piggy-backed on the Mother’s Cookies set by producing its own 42-card series with identical fronts. The backs, however, do not include any premium offers.
Two years later, in 1957, a familiar-looking 42-card set was issued by Oak Premier, although the cards were unnumbered, rectangular, and had white borders.
Mother’s Cookies filed for bankruptcy in 2008, as did another legendary cookie maker, Archway, and both were quickly acquired by the Kellogg Company. Six months later, Mother’s Cookies returned to the shelves, much to the delight of West Coast cookie lovers. These days, the closest thing you can get to a Mother’s premium collectible is a reusable canvas bag, sold on Kellogg’s website for $2.95. If you love classic cars, you’d be better off shopping on eBay for a Mother’s Chevy Corvette, Panhard Dyna, or Gordini Grand Prix.
Now, please pass the milk.
The cars and backgrounds were illustrated in vibrant colors.