A few years back, my girlfriend’s dad found a little gem hiding in his garage that he thought I might like. My response was initially ambivalent. Unlike most nostalgia addicts, I’m not much of a hoarder. My OCD forces a vague sense of minimalism in my life and I often throw away things that I’m not actually using. I dislike the clutter.
The truth is, though, I’ll always make an exception for anything plastered with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles logo. That little, instantly recognizable red, white, and green logo can make even the most worthless piece of garbage transform instantly into a treasured friend.
The Ninja Turtles cookie jar coin bank was made in 1990 by a company called simply “Delicious.” I don’t know what marketing genius came up with that company name, but it’s so humble and seems so trustworthy. The front shell of the turtle proclaims that these long-forgotten cookies are “Artificially Flavored Chocolate Chip” and they contain no tropical oils. I don’t know about you, but I happen to like tropical oils and I’d be pretty skeptical about any chocolate chip cookie that’s labeled as “artificially flavored.” Did they use chocolate chips created in a lab or something?
Anyway, the front of the package also reassures its purchaser that not only is the big plastic reptile a receptacle for cookies, but he’s also a coin bank. I won’t talk too much about the cookies because I’ve never actually eaten them. According to the images I found on Google, the cookies look much like Teddy Grahams, but with little specks of chocolate strewn throughout. The cookies are nothing special and I can’t relate them to personal experience, so let’s instead talk about the real reason this thing is so mesmerizing and beautiful.
Any product that let kids turn its packaging into something they can actively use is always appreciated. There are cereal boxes with cut-outs for masks, action figure blister packs that doubled as city skyline play sets, and foam dart guns whose backing could be used for target practice. The Ninja Turtles cookie jar coin bank went a step further by exploiting the innate need of children to collect things.
While I would’ve preferred my favorite ninja turtle, Raphael, the overall aesthetic of the jar is pretty friendly. Leonardo’s body is a bit oddly-proportioned though. With his broad shoulders and stumpy elephantine legs, he looks kind of like the Incredible Hulk. His fingers are the creepiest part of the packaging, resembling segmented green slugs. The eyes are a bit unsettling too. They’re the kind of eyes that follow you around the room in a haunted house and peer deep into your soul. Also, If I’m nitpicking, it’s kind of bothersome that his forearm and leg wraps aren’t colored in.
On the back, there is a small slot right between Leonardo’s shoulder blades reserved for puncturing. With a few stabs of some left-handed safety scissors, a coin slot emerges. I don’t understand why they didn’t just put the slot at the top of the turtle’s head, as it’s kind of difficult to have to turn the thing around and lay it on its stomach every time you want to drop in a few quarters. I guess the design team at Delicious didn’t think this one through too well.
At least the entire head, upper chest, and shoulders are one removable piece allowing access to its inner workings. Currently, I’m using him to hold the loose change I find in my wallet every day, affectionately referred to as “turtle food.”
Also on the back, there is an awesome advertisement for a Ninja Turtle night light. I’ve always loved promotions like this where a kid could snip off a piece of a product they bought, drop it in the mail with some money for shipping and handling, and get something cool in return. The actual product is never as cool as advertised, but it was the joy of waiting for something in the mail that made it all worthwhile.
As is usually the case with these promotions, there’s no actual picture of the product. There’s just a crudely drawn outline that gives no indication of the size or quality of what you’re buying. Little kid me still would have upturned every couch cushion in the house to find enough loose change to pay for it, though.
All you had to do was shove four dollars in an envelope and send it to:
Street Kids Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Nite Lites
P.O. Box 67767
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Delivery time is listed as taking 6 to 8 weeks. Really? Shipping a tiny night light domestically shouldn’t take nearly 2 months. They must be one hell of a lazy warehouse crew. I wonder if that P.O. box is even still active. I’m too indifferent to try, but if you’re so inclined you can drop me a line with your results.
Despite its flaws, however, the good outweighs the bad. A great example of 90s packaging as well as a glorified piggy bank, the Ninja Turtles cookie jar coin bank is now a permanent resident of my book case. It’s a happy, colorful and wonderfully retro representation of the era when every product imaginable was badged with the Ninja Turtles logo.