Editor’s note: Happy 30th anniversary to Mary Jane and “The Ad World” column!! Congratulations from everyone here at Collectors Journal and Barr’s Post Card News and Ephemera!
Twenty years ago the R.J, Reynolds Tobacco Company, makers of Camel cigarettes, employed a new means of advertising their product by offering free premiums. Joe Camel began appearing in advertising with the special premium and the “Camel Cash” in hand. The ad said: “King of the Roadies,
Only Camel Cash in hand. You don’t have to eat road dust to get this slick, Hard Pack Tour Jacket, or set of authentic Hard Pack Tumblers. Just use Camel Cash. It’s good for lots of smooth stuff. So start saving it up now. There is one C-Note with all the details on every pack of filtered cigarettes.”
Perhaps the most unique collectibles offered were the brass cigarette lighters. The 1991 Zippo brass lighters come in two styles, engraved with either the original Camel logo or the Tuxedo Joe Camel. Each lighter required 33-C-Notes. Camel’s catalogs offered a variety of lighters and other collectibles. The Camel’s wrist watches, “It’s always time for a Camel,” were available for 25 C-Notes and so were Joe Camel neckties. A Camel’s Lean Jacket required 150-C Notes and a leather bomber jacket cost 600 C-Notes. The C-Note premiums are highly collectible today and have hefty prices.
By 1992 Associated Press was in the picture. They reported the American Heart association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association had petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to immediately ban the Joe Camel ads on the ground that they were misleading and deceptive. The unmistakable message was that Joe Camel was influencing youngsters and teens and that Smokin’ Joe Camel IS NOT a smooth character.
Unfortunately the ban on Joe Camel in advertising did not happen immediately. In fact it took years for Joe Camel to die. Finally the Federal Trade Commission hammered the last nails in Joe Camel’s coffin July of 1997.
Consequently Smokin’ Joe Camel advertising items are in demand. The internet auctions today revealed a variety of small; posters magazine ads, playing cards, cigarette lighters, and ash trays, vinyl can holders, leather jackets, mugs and drinking glasses. Prices vary greatly. The Smokin’ Joe Cooler Koosie drink holder is going for $10 to $20. Match book tin average $25. The Mardi Gras Trumpet men’s ties $15-$20, full page colored ads run about $10. There was a handmade clown doll made with the Joe Camel mug as the head. The asking price was $25.
I began writing this column in 1991 and was always searching for zany characters in the Ad World. I have a few Camel’s ads plus the Smokin’ Joe Camel can holder in my collection.