Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Collections 11 - Yowies

This collection has recently come down from the loft.

A few years ago, Cadbury's produced a line of chocolate eggs, each containing a collectable plastic animal. They were called Yowie - the name of the Australian Yeti who, according to folklore, is a protector of the environment. This would fit, as the collectable animals - 100 in total - were all endangered species.

I can't remember how we started collecting Yowies. Quite possibly, Jane thought there wasn't much chocolate in the eggs so bought them as an occasional treat for the boys. Or perhaps my parents in law started buying them; or maybe it was me. Whatever, we soon had a dozen or so little plastic animals; a while later we had a few more, then a few more... Kid's collectables tend to start casually, then before you know it you've craze on your hands

Except there never was a craze for Yowies.

Despite Cadbury's best efforts, endangered animals were never going to be as cool as Pokemon. They were expensive too, and few retailers stocked them - of those that did, the chocolate often had that too old taste, so after a while, the boys only wanted the figures. Making matters worse, none of their friends were interested, so there wasn't an opportunity for swaps.

But the nagging continued, in the way that only small children can muster - in the sure and certain hope that the next egg would reveal a rare possum or some other endangered creature I'd have to look up.

Faced with this mismatch between supply and demand I realised there were only two options. I could buy all the stock in our neighbourhood and hope it was enough to complete the collection. Or alternatively, I could look on the internet for other collectors.

It turned out there were many. Indeed, Yowies were only a small part of a wider genre of ephemera, including Kinder Eggs, McDonald's toys and Smartie tops. There were websites devoted to these things - as well as collector's clubs, swap lists and even learned articles on their history.

At first, it struck me as odd that people could be so passionate about plastic toys. But I quickly realised that in the world of ephemera Yowies are very much at top of the food chain. There were forums for collectors of bus tickets, money-off coupons, dry cleaning vouchers, shopping lists... I suppose, why not? It's no dafter than stamp collecting, or wine collecting for that matter. You might argue that it creates a social record. But I digress.

In the event, the Yowie collectors were almost competing to help me. In less than two weeks I had a full set - though not including the Australian editions, or the first series, or the one off Christmas special... Having spent way too much on my first twenty animals I acquired the remaining eighty figures for a packet of stamps.

In one sense, it was a pointless exercise, because within weeks the boys had moved onto another craze and the animal figures lay untouched in a box. I ought to have known; it was the excitement of opening the eggs which mattered most. On the other hand, acquiring this little collection did have a more lasting and positive legacy.

Collecting Yowies was my first experience of internet forums. And despite the shock headlines of stalkers and spammers it was abundantly clear that the vast majority of people on these websites (including anorak wearing Yowie collectors) were normal, genuine people. And this experience has coloured my attitude to the internet ever since - sure there are some nutters out there, but they are rare and most times (with a little common sense) they are not truly threatening.

Our collection of Yowies was recently rediscovered by Dylan. I was pleased, because his interest in the animal kingdom to date has not been extensive. So I brought them downstairs, made a cardboard zoo, carefully arranged the various endangered animals...

'Which do you like best?' I asked.

'All of them,' he grinned... 'Because now my trains have something to bash into!'

Never mind - they were always endangered species.


  1. I think all kids (grown up ones too) should have a collection. It adds spice and focus in a trivially pleasant way to life. My spice of choice is Lego... the great thing about it is the kids are into it too and I can "inherit" their stuff when they growo out of it...!

  2. I'm trying to think if I've ever had a collection of anything.....I must have!! Erm, do books count? I used to love the books where you decided what way the story played out by selecting which page you would go to next...I had loads of them and couldn't wait for the next one to come out.

    Now? I guess it's probably art...every time Chris and I go away somewhere we buy a picture (usually from little known artists on some market stall) so when I look round our walls every picture has a story. I guess that's a collection of sorts...

    Your right about the internet and the people you meet there. I have now met a number of blog friends and every single one of them have been as lovely and warm in real life as they are in their blogs!

    C x

  3. Likewise, I can't remember collecting anything as a child, nor my sons ever having that mentality where they wanted to amass a collection of something. Not everyone has it.... there must be a special part of you that wants to collect. I collect a few things now, but none seriously.... a specific design of tableware called COTTAGE GREEN for sentimental reasons, bears, books. Does it count as a collection if it then gets used up slowly, like my stash of yarn?

  4. The last comment is such a kid thing to say! Yesterday I picked up my son from school club. He was playing with a toy stable and a dolls house - except it wasn't a toy stable, it was Buzz Lightyear's space station. Also involved in the game were a number of small doggie figures. Kids' imaginations eh? There's nothing like it and I'm sure we could learn something!

  5. I still have all my farmyard animals, especially the horses. Britains models were the best and I'd save my pocket money to buy them.I also have a small collection of lead animals, which are my particular favourites.

  6. Childhood collections are fun - and so are adult ones. I used to collect Matchbox cars but my ex took my collection - I had some good ones too - auction-bought ones.

    After my mum died and I was clearing out some of her stuff I found lots of little plastic figures she had collected from Typhoo or Tetley teabags. My, that was a poignant moment.

    Hope Dylan is having fun wrecking the Yowies with his trains

  7. What about smurfs?

    I'll leave that there!

    It's funny about internet 'trust'. We might feel more vulnerable because we can't see someone's face and read their expression but I am guessing - like you say - the vast majority of people are honest and not out to con. Like we find in the 'real world'. The internet - as a medium is ever changing...I'm still not entirely sure whether it has improved my life or not!

    If you could blog the ultimate answer Mark - I'd be grateful.

  8. There is an award over at mine for you :-)

    C x

  9. Yowies??? Where the hell was I when that one was hitting town? And Cadbury's used to be my favourite chocolate too...(switched allegiance to Green & Black's now). Wonder what Kraft will dream up for them...A collection of mini American Presidents together with a random assortment of Dictators from around the world, perhaps? Now that would get the internet forums chattering!

    All I remember collecting (beyond Green Shield Stamps) was Football Club shields which you stuck on a large piece of folding card (vile tasting glue) and then not long after that came the round metal discs with footballers faces on them. Had quite a collection of those. Should've kept them I suppose. I understood Go-gos were all the rage at the moment, but those seem to have passed me (or my kids) by too - I was told about them by some friends' children who live in Cornwall, so maybe it's something which hasn't hit the north. Well, not Chapel-en-le-Frith at least! What a sheltered life I lead...