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The Mailbox: Sweepstakes

When I was younger, I truly believed the mailbox was magic. Mark the Mailman was a blue-collar Santa, and my mailbox was Santa’s bag. Though kids didn’t have to worry about bills, and even junk mail had its appeal, the real treat was sending away for free goodies. Cereal box tops, Kool-Aid points, and postcard sweepstakes were the order of the day. Pen pals and music clubs rounded out the choices, but really, the possibilities were endless, and I was keen on exploring every surprise my mailbox had to offer.



While I seized every opportunity to receive mail of any kind, one of my favorite activities was also the least likely to pay out: Sweepstakes. As a kid, there were ample opportunities to gain free entry into any number of giveaways. Most kid’s magazines like Disney Adventures and Nintendo Power regularly had giveaways, but they could also be found on television, cereal boxes, and even toy packages. I rarely let an opportunity to enter a free sweepstakes pass me by, and I even won a few![1]



Whenever I heard those magic words, “Send a postcard with your name and address to…” I was at my dad’s feet begging for stamps. The first giveaway I remember winning was similar to the one in the video above, but not the exact giveaway. I know this because I won two X-Men figures, which aren’t advertised in the attached commercial.



Another sweepstakes I won was for a video game called Xardion that had been advertised in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Magazine. Xardion was a Super Nintendo game that came out in 1992, so this giveaway was likely part of the promotion leading up to release. I, of course, had opted for the Sega Genesis, and so missed out on many SNES games, including this one. But I did have this nifty shirt from my big win!



My most memorable win, and certainly the biggest prize pack I’d ever scored as a kid, was from the Nickelodeon Stocking Stuffer Giveaway. It was another one of those “send in the postcard” types of sweepstakes, and though I can’t remember where I heard about this one (probably on TV), I do vividly remember entering.



By that point in my young life, I’d entered plenty of those postcard contests. Now, I can’t remember if this was part of the submission process or just something I decided to do in order to make my postcard more visible, but I remember drawing all over it. My memory is specifically of sitting in my Junior High lunchroom and sketching Ren and Stimpy onto the inside portion. I seem to remember using colored pencils to color them in as well. My one regret in all this is that I don’t have that darn postcard.



I sent my probably horrible artwork off into the mail, and later received a letter informing me that I had won one of the thousand grand prizes! My excitement exploded from me like shaken soda. A grand prize! Never mind that there were a thousand winners. I had won! And yes, I still have all of the winnings, even the Beethoven VHS tape, though I didn’t dig it out for this picture.



The Mix ‘N Spin box is worse for wear. Though I was known to keep certain toys sealed and unused for posterity, I absolutely had to bust open the Mix ‘N Spin, and even have some of the old artwork I made with it. Stimpy on the other hand is still attached to his original packaging, though his “rude surprise” fart sound doesn’t work anymore.


I never did get over the sweepstakes bug and still enter giveaways whenever the mood strikes. In fact, I recently won a Twitter giveaway from a great site called Horror Decor, which was the impetus for my writing this article. Although the majority of my ‘80s and ‘90s sweepstakes dreams were ultimately crushed, the few times I managed to win something made up for all the disappointments, and they were but one of the many magical things I’d look forward to arriving in…the mailbox.


Did you ever win a sweepstakes as a kid?


 
[1] Apologies in advance that apparently all of the contests I won happened in the early ‘90s and not the ‘80s.
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Donna Ralph
Donna Ralph
Dec 20, 2023

I found your article while searching for Sweepstakes! As an 80's girl and sweepstakes fan myself I really enjoyed reading it and hearing about your wins! I also wanted to make sure you know about www.sweepingamerica.com who puts out a weekly sweepstakes newsletter full of sweepstakes with a mail-in entry option!

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80sNickFan
80sNickFan
Mar 07, 2023

I actually won the grand prize to the stocking stuffer sweepstakes in 1992! Although after seeing your prize pack, maybe it was 1993? Were there multiple Grand Prize Winners? My prize was very similar however, I recall getting both the Ren And Stimpy Rude Toot dolls, the mix n spin, EZ squeeze paintbrushes, a bunch of Gak, a nerf football, and maybe a few more things. I do not recall Beethoven VHS but it’s possible…

I also vividly remember filling out my post cards. It was a 10 pack of them , and the artwork featured a Santa stuffing a stocking so I thought it was for sure to get picked, and it did!

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Replying to

That's awesome! So glad you found the article. The video I posted was from the '89 contest, and in it they mention 1,000 grand prize winners, so yes, they ran this contest multiple years and had multiple winners. Though if I had to guess, I'd assume you won the same year as me and just got a bigger prize pack, because something tells me they wouldn't be giving away the same prizes year after year, though I could be wrong. Cheers!

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OldSchool80s
OldSchool80s
Jun 23, 2022

It is amazing thinking back on how exciting it was to just receive any mail addressed to you when you were a kid. I don't recall ever winning any sweepstakes as a kid, but I did take advantage of sending in proof of purchase labels in to claim items only available in that manner or sending pictures of my TV screen showing a certain score on an Activision game in order to receive a special patch. So I did have some things come to me in the mail that built that anticipation of finally receiving them.

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Replying to

Oh nice! That Activision one especially sounds amazing. I used to do the proof of purchase stuff a lot too. Fodder for future articles :-)

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