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R&L Company
Melbourne Australia
1954-1977

The following article was printed in the Freakie Magnet, Issue #12.

COLLECTING CRAZY COLORED PLASTIC WEIRD-THINGS
My story of R&L
By: Mike Speth (AKA: astronit)

MY STORY

Let me introduce myself. I am Mike: also known as Astronit. I am a natural born collector. I started collecting things as far back as 1965 when I was only four years old (don't do the math, I'm 37 now). I still have many of those childhood memories with me today. One of the things I began to collect in the late 1960s was cereal premiums. As far back as 1969 I was collecting R&L, however I only learned these cereal premiums were R&L a few years ago when I met another collector (the fine editor of the Freakie Magnet magazine - Kevin) who had some. This of course stimulated me into a revitalized effort to finish some of those collections I began over two decades ago.

 R&L cereal premiums are small plastic figures between 1" and 1.5 inches. The plastic is soft not brittle and the figure is molded in one color. They are generally, sort of, well - weird alien type creatures; although some of them look like animals, fish, dogs, and birds made to look like hand tools. In other words they are very different. You can see photographs of some of my collection here.

These little plastic premiums were packaged in clear cellophane, some had "Australia" stamped across the cellophane. The individual packages were inserted into Kellogg's cereals like CoCo Puffs, AppleJacks, Puffa Puffa Rice, Corn Pops and Sugar Smacks. At least those are the cereals I used to get the premiums out of in the 1970s. One set, the Nits, was distributed in Cracker Jack about 1969 in the U.S. but in Australia they were inserted into cereal and called Astro-Nits. Kellogg's distributed many of the R&L premium sets in cereals around the world, some sets however were distributed only in foreign countries. I loved those little toys so much back then I'd dump near full boxes of cereal into the toilet so my mother would get more.

 Until 1996 my whole surviving R&L collection consisted of four Toolie Birds (I used to have close to the whole set but they got lost over time) all fifteen Funny Fringes (most broken), six Nits, eight Stretch Pets, and six Daffy Dawgs. I still have those PLUS others, but thatís getting ahead of the story.

 Twenty-five years passed; I still had those little pieces of plastic around the house and wanted to complete my sets. So armed with only a very limited knowledge and a few helpful contacts I discovered there was more to the R&L Co than I ever could have imagined. My first action to rebuild my collection was to clean out every collector's shop and junk mall of every cereal premium I could find. This helped me add much more to my collection and also allowed me to discover there were other things out there I'd never seen in cereal as a kid.

 Then I linked up with several other U.S. collectors over the phone and the Internet. I completed a few of my collections and started some new ones such as Crater Critters, Camel Trains, Zoo-Choo's and the Ecology Medallions. With new information and a burning resolve I turned my attention towards the homeland - AUSTRALIA. Today my R&L collection stands at 190 individual different pieces and they are the pride and joy of my collection. I have five display cases around my computer room just to show them off.

 I treat these R&L pieces like artwork. They are miniature sculptures of delicate craftsmanship. The people who created them were certainly imaginative. The company who produced them was R&L Co. in Melbourne Australia. The initials R&L actually stand for Rosenhain and Lipmann, the owners and founders of the plastic manufacturing plant. Someone once told me R&L Co. burned down in 1978-79. Thatís not quite correct, it was the Australian Kellogg's company that burned down. Rosenhain and Lipmann sold their plant in Australia and the new owners moved the operations to Mexico. I assume that this company also got many of the earlier R&L molds because some excellent Fringe, Tooly Bird, Totem Poles and Nit reproductions have recently emerged from Mexico. Note: the reproduction figures are easily detected by the wildly vivid colors and shiny plastic finish. The Mexican plant later went out of business.

THE PLASTIC

Each cereal had one premium "Free Inside" from some series or theme. The series I collect are as followed:

Toolie Birds, a sort of bird like figure but resembling a hand tool such as a drill or screwdriver, there are 16 different Toolie birds in the series. A new series of Tooly Birds was distributed by Moose Enterprises last year in Australian cereal. This set consists of 12 figures, three of which are exact copies of the first series made by R&L. The new series differ from the original R&L in size and texture. They are made of a rubbery plastic and not as well crafted.

Crater Critters, friendly alien monsters, eight Craters in the series. On the back cover of FM #6 there is a picture of a Japanese cereal box back showing two figures from this series that have never been seen. It is unlikely that these were ever produced or distributed. If anyone knows different please let me know. Well now I have some new information about that cereal box back and the two or more different Japanese Crater Critters. Read about them and see them by visiting the Crater Critter web page.

Funny Fringes, another set of friendly alien monsters, more detailed and delicate than the Crater Critters, there are 15 in the series. These are my personal favorites.

Neptune's, a band of sea animals playing musical instruments, 15 in this series. Only distributed overseas. A must have set.

Daffy Dawgs, a set of dog figures where the dogs have clothing and some professional appearance such as policeman, jockey or boxer, eight in the series.

Stretch Pets or Accordion Animals, several pieces that make an animal which uses a scissors type motion to stretch out longer and shorter, 8 in the series.

Nits, more alien monsters, a set distributed by Cracker Jack in the US, 20 different ones, they are marked on the bottom with some name then NIT, i.e. Rock-Nit or Spy-Nit, they also have "Australia" stamped on the bottom. Learn some more about Cracker Jack and Nits from Cracker Jack Collector Jim Davis on his site.

Loony Tunes, a set of Buggs Bunny and pals, eight in the set. Not a cereal premium, these were distributed as premiums hanging from an Australian soft drink called "Cottees."

Swinging Pets, Eight animals fashioned after Barrel 'O Monkeys.

Totem Poles, totem mugs that fit on top of one and other, eight in the set.

Animads, you assemble parts of different animals, four in the set. . Only distributed overseas.

Crazy Pirates, funny looking pirate people, eight in the set. Only distributed overseas.

Society Zoo, animals doing some human like behavior, 20 in the series. Only distributed overseas.

Metric Monsters, weird monsters on pegs to fit on a pencil, six in the set. Only distributed overseas.

Veggie Sports, vegetables doing some sort of sport activity, eight in the series. Only distributed overseas.

UFO's, are an odd group of eight space ships and robot forms. The ones I have are especially unique because they are made with a Glow-in-the-dark plastic.

There are several flat plastic sets. They are the same soft plastic but two-dimensional. One set is called "Ecology Medals" which feature the Kellogg's characters saying some earth friendly cliche. These ECO Medals are especially dear to me because I work in an environmental career. There are six Ecology Medallions, they are;

62-1, Toucan Sam "Save Our Birds"

62-2, Tony Tiger "Save Our Wildlife"

62-3, Sonny Sun "Clean Air Smells Good"

62-4, Snap, Crackle & Pop "Stomp Out Pollution"

62-5, Tusk-Tusks the Elephant "Be Fit and Healthy"

62-6, Dig-Em Frog "Keep My Pond Clean"

There is another set called Mobiles, where the flat piece has a charm loop on some fish or sea creature, plane, sailing ship and even an owl. I do not know how many are in this series. The Mobiles have the production #'s 54-00 through 54-18 or higher.

And there is a third flat premium that was issued in cereal and pop-tart packages. They are Stencils which had the image hidden in two halves of the plastic premium. To find out what the image was you had to trace one side then turn the plastic around and trace the other. When you lifted the premium off the page the image was visible as an animal or one of the many Kellogg's cereal mascots. When you also traced the edge of the stencil it made a boarder for the picture. There were two sets issued. Each stencil was marked with a series production number. For the Kellogg's Mascot series they were 57-1 to 57-11, and the "Secret Stencil" set were #'s 1-10.

 Okay, enough? Sorry there is yet another type of R&L premium. These are the more brittle type of plastic and were molded in model fashion. You had to break the pieces off of a plastic tree and assemble them like a car model. The ones I collect are;

Camel Trains, plastic camels and monkeys which when lined up make a caravan, eight in this series).

Zoo-Choo's, animal figures on rail cars like a train, little tiny wheels and very detailed and cool, eight in the series.

Crazy Cars, four interchangeable car models that are fanciful to display and fun to play with.

Crazy Animals, interlocking pieces that make an animal, you can mix up half the body to create crazy mixed up animals.

Crazy Insects, very hard to describe - extra weird creatures, there are six in this set. Only distributed overseas.

Living Zoo, Bobbing Head Animals, animals who have separate heads and tails suspended so that they bob up, down and side to side, eight in this set.

Wacky Walkers, Eight ramp-walker type toys but with a string and weight that would pull the toy along a tabletop when the weight was dangled from the edge. Each Walker is a Character person conducting some action that the figure would be moving along. These were not a U.S. premium.

and there are still other R&L plastic weirdness made and distributed around the world. If I left out your favorite series' or you want more information there is a new book out called " A GUIDE TO AUSTRALIAN BREAKFAST CEREAL PREMIUMS" by Craig Hall.

 COLOR CRAZY

I am very big into the colors of the plastic in my collection. I try to get the most numbers of plastic colors displayed in the series that I have. Maximum number of colors with minimum number duplicated. For instance my Funny Fringe collection has 11 colors of plastic out of the 15 figures in the set, no color is duplicated more than twice. This is important to me as it lends better personality to each individual figure. It also means that once I have completed collecting one of each figure in the series I am not finished until I have the perfect color coordination among the figures in the set I am displaying. So to me color is almost as important as the figures I collect. I don't have all the colors yet but here is what I do have just in my own collection. Link to a listing of all the colors of plastic in each of the R&L sold sets.

 INFORMATION SHARING

As I said at the beginning, I am a collector. I am not a toy dealer or market speculator. I like to trade my extras to other collectors who appreciate them. I freely share any and all information with people who are interested in listening me go on and on about my obsessions. If I haven't already lost your interest or blown you away with my R&L life story I'd sure like to hear from you. You can write me e-mail at: astronit@ecentral.com.

Also if you are a collector who would like to share information with others or just want to show off your prize possessions you can send me a note for posting or a photograph and I will add it to my Show & Tell page of other collector's views.

THE HORDE:
I've recently been introduced to several fanatical R&L collectors. These guy's (and I mean that because I've yet to find a fanatical female R&L collector) are really into this hobby. All of them are located in Australia and have been collecting R&L as long or longer than myself. Being in the "homeland" of R&L they have access to things and information that I never dreamed of. Some of them have sent me photographs of their cherished possessions and they will allow me to share them with you via this web site. Right now I just need the time to create those pages. I want to thank them all for their willingness to share valuable R&L trivia. Right now though I can direct you to a complementary R&L site by fellow collector
michealgraham. No that's not a misprint, he really signs his name michealgraham. And he has a similar collectors web site of R&L premiums. His site is dedicated to "ALL THINGS CRITT" which is a reference to the various and crazy creatures created by the R&L Co. Go and sign his guest book, read about the hoard, enjoy the magical way he displays the figures on his web site - and then send him an e-mail. Be sure to mention that AstroNit says he desires to be a worthy "APPRIZER" and holds all things CRITT sacre'.

  Jump directly to a quick picture of all the R&L Co sets I collect on my referring page.

  Here is an excellent reference book Guide to Australian Breakfast Cereal Toy Premiums

  Here is something cool: Other collector's sharing their own visions of R&L in Artwork

   My Want List now has links to pictures or see a whole page of my R&L Want Pictures

And just as an added treat I'm putting up other Ecology premiums I've been collecting (including a rare R&L)

Cereal Premiums | My want list | Get a virtual toy collection | AstroLinks