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Advertising Icons for Snack Foods Still Popular

Photos Provied The Little Utz Girl is portrayed by Sam Wilson of Warwood, a graphic designer at West Liberty University who enjoys advertising art.

Advertising continues to create memorable icons that collectors enjoy. Just this past week I learned that even today, young people enjoy advertising art as one of my professional colleagues educated me on the little Utz Girl.

This friend is a talented graphic designer and actually dressed as the cute little Utz Girl on Halloween. Who is the Utz Girl? Well it’s the logo of the Utz snack food and potato chip company of Pennsylvania.

I was happy to see that a 20-something enjoys advertising art just like so many antique enthusiasts do. After all I have a Little Debbie collectible doll somewhere (snack cakes).

One of advertising most enduring icons is Mr. Peanut.

According to Planters Peanut Collectibles Handbook and Price Guide by Jan Lindenberger, it all got started in 1896 when an Italian immigrant named Amedeo Obici bought a peanut roaster and went into business for himself in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

After a couple of years of selling peanuts to shopkeepers, Obici teamed up with his friend and brother-in-law, Mario Peruzzi, to expand his peanut business. The two partners choose the name Planters reportedly because it sounded “important.”

The year was 1906 and freshly roasted peanuts were still a novelty since nuts were usually sold fresh, unsalted and in the shell. Obici and Peruzzi roasted and salted the large Virginia peanuts and sold them in nickel bags. The idea caught on and the public soon loved Planters Peanuts.

In 1913, the Planters Company (planters.com) moved to Suffolk, Va., closer to the peanut growers and built its own factory for processing and packaging and more plants were built during the ’20s.

Mr. Peanut was born in 1916 after Obici, a smart businessman, wanted to develop a trademark and sponsored a contest that offered $5 to the winning design submitted for use by Planters.

According to company history, a 14-year-old boy (Antonio Gentile) won with his drawing of a little peanut man. Later enhanced by a commercial artist, his peanut man was given a top hat, monocle and cane, creating a classy image appropriate for the full-page ad that appeared in the 1918 Saturday Evening Post.

One of the most recognized advertising logos ever, Mr. Peanut has decorated virtually every Planters package, container and ad since the early 1900s. And because Planters management was an aggressive brand builder, the company used every type of media and thousands of premiums – all incorporating this famous figure.

Mr. Peanut’s looks changed very little over the years — his legs were crossed or uncrossed, his cane changed a little or his hat grew shorter or tilted differently. But today’s logo is close to the 1918 version.

Collectors find that Mr. Peanut items are fun to collect, display and enjoy. Getting started is easy, with items found in the $20 range or less. Glass jars, metal tins, charm bracelets, clocks, ashtrays, whistles and toys are just some of the typical items found at antique shops.

Some are painted true to the black and white, beige and red design of Mr. Peanut but many trinkets were done in one color, like pink banks or red yard ornaments.

Top items sought today include the original glass jars, used on store counters. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, according to Schroeder’s Antique Price Guide information and were distributed first in 1920.

These jars require some study and informed examination to determine their age and to make sure they are not reproductions since even the labels have been successfully reproduced.

Other categories in the Mr. Peanut world include store displays and figures, peanut butter jars, mugs, glassware, china, salt and peppers, jewelry, tins, paper, plastic and wood items.

Visit peanutpals.org to learn more about the official Mr. Peanut Collectors Club and to discover more about the Utz Girl, visit utzsnacks.com.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at zambitomaureen@hotmail.com or by writing in care of the Sunday News-Register, 1500 Main St., Wheeling, WV 26003.

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