Free gifts in comics, when did it start, how has it evolved?

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Free gifts in comics, when did it start, how has it evolved?

Post by Hourglass on Sat Mar 20, 2010 3:40 pm

When I was a lad I recall the first free gift I ever got from a magazine was a Drumstick lolly. I think it was from the beano or something. Anyway as time went buy they started giving away more and more. Sometimes cheap and takey and other times quite cool stuff.
One thing I was impressed with was the radio given away in DWA. I've also enjoyed many of the BF CDs from DWM.
Anyway this has got me thinking, when did this idea of giving away free items with magazines and comics start? How has it changed over the years? Do you have any particular favorite freeby?

Hourglass

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Join date : 2009-12-28

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Re: Free gifts in comics, when did it start, how has it evolved?

Post by felneymike on Sun Mar 21, 2010 2:48 pm

Before the comics and 'high-minded' story-papers came the Penny Dreadfuls, they were sold in parts with a serialised story (often not serialised very well, there'd be no cliffhangers, one issue would just end mid-sentence and then the next would carry on, also illustrations in one issue might refer to something that would happen elsewhere in the story... or even be totally unrelated!) with a beginning and end. Often when a new story was launched part 2 would be given away free with part 1.

A bit later on coloured 'plate' illustrations on card would be given away with papers / instalments. Also cardboard "stages" and "characters" with which readers could make thier own mini-theatre to enact stories would be 'given away', though often you'd have to pay more for coloured ones ("penny plain, twopence coloured" went the ads). Coloured plates also came with Chatterbox, which was a more high-minded story paper that launched even before The Boys' Own!, though usually an issue with a plate would cost more, or you could pay the usual price for the same issue without it. Later yearly volumes were sold for three shillings which didn't include all of the plates in them, only some. Though people could bind a year's worth of weekly papers themselves with all the plates. I have examples of both - a 1908 volume with few plates in the 'official' covers and an 1895 volume with quite a large number of regularly-spaced plates in plain covers.

Some very old comics such as Ally Sloper's Half-holiday gave away free insurance policies, the idea being that if a reader was somehow injured and they owned that weeks copy they'd recieve a payout! Of course those 'comics' were aimed initially at adults with political satire and the like.

Older free gifts from the early-mid 20th century would often be advertised as useful things such as razor blades, "a handy wallet" etc etc. Though i have a volume of the Nelson Lee library from 1930 which advertises a catapault, kazoo and 'boomerang launcher' novelty being given away.

DCT story papers seeme to give away either smaller books with complete stories in, or books with information in, such as details of cars or countries in the empire. These gifts tend to show up on ebay more often than the papers they came with! Especially from the pre-war period.

felneymike

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