Today’s the day in 1955 that began a promotional campaign for the ages: where you could buy a box of cereal and find a deed to some land inside each specially marked box.
This isn’t as random as it might sound: Quaker Oats was the sponsor of a radio show called “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon,” and one of their advertising companies came up with an out of the box idea of promoting cereal and the show.
They proposed the company buy some land in the actual Yukon, divide it into square inches, and give away deeds to people who bought their cereals.
After checking with the lawyers (not all of whom thought this was workable), the company bought a little over 19 acres of government-owned land in Yukon for $1,000, and printed 21 million deeds through which The Klondike Big Inch Land Co., Inc, gave people the right to a tiny bit of land and the right to pass through other people’s tiny bits of land to visit theirs.
The campaign was a hit.
People bought box after box of cereal, figuring that multiple deeds were better than just one.
There were complications, though.
Some “landowners” wrote in to ask about mining for gold, even though the deeds excluded mineral rights.
Two men tried to declare independence for their square inches.
And one kid sent in toothpicks and string and asked that his land be fenced in.
Officially the whole project ended in 1965, when the land reverted to the Canadian government because the landowners didn’t pay their property tax bill of $37.20.
But there’s still money to be made around those square inches of land.
The old deeds sometimes sell on eBay for like seven bucks each.
That’s more than a box of puffed rice goes for even today.
Here’s a story about someone who actually did find something valuable on some land, by accident.
Last fall a man in the UK was out birdwatching when he saw something shiny on the ground.
After fetching his metal detector he realized what he’d stumbled upon: 1,300 handmade gold coins dating back 2,000 years.
Always good to keep an eye out, right?
The Yukon Square Inch Land Rush of 1955 (Amusing Planet)
Yukon photo by Maja Milosevic via Flickr/Creative Commons