Little Orphan Annie decoder ring
A Little Orphan Annie decoder ring is a free gift or ‘premium’ offered to listeners of the 1930s radio serial Little Orphan Annie.
Little Orphan Annie was a popular U.S comic strip created by Harold Gray, which ran from 1924 until 2010. It featured the adventures of the redheaded orphan Annie, along with her dog Sandy and her benefactor Daddy Warbucks.
The story was turned into a highly popular 15-minute radio serial which ran from 1931 until 1942. Until 1940 the show was sponsored by Ovaltine, who used it to strongly promote their products, and from 1940 until 1942 it was produced by Quaker Puffed Wheat Sparkies who introduced a pilot character named Captain Sparks that eventually became the focus of the program.
During Ovaltine’s sponsorship of the show fans could send away Ovaltine labels and packets to claim free gifts such as secret decoders in the form of badges or rings. These would allow them to decode hidden messages broadcast during some of the shows.
Little Orphan Annie decoder rings
The first decoders took the form of badges and pins, of which seven different types were produced. In 1940 the company issued a decoder ring, which would allow members of the fan club (or Secret Society) to understand messages about the following week’s episode.
How much is a Little Orphan Annie decoder ring worth?
Decoder rings and pins can often be found on auction sites such as eBay, and their price depends heavily on their condition. Examples in good condition can sell for between $15 - $40, but the 1940 edition decoder badge can sell for up to $100 due to its relative rarity.
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