When my older brother was a small child he once begged my mother to buy him a little windup toy dog which was being hawked by a street vendor on a corner in downtown St. Louis. My mother asked him if he wanted it because it made such a cute little noise. He did. My mother, who was wise to the ways of the world, pointed out that the vendor actually had a small device secreted in his mouth with which he was making the noise.
How many children and parents did that guy disappoint? My brother never forgot that experience. He said he thought of it as his introduction to a harsh reality of life: namely, that there are a lot of assholes out there, and a lot of petty evil in the world.
As a kid I was pretty well addicted to comics, but, being the cynical product of a cynical age, I was always very suspicious of the ads. I remember wondering if there was a class of people in the world who just naturally got satisfaction from ripping off kids; it would seem there were cleaner ways of making a dirty living than selling x-ray specs. I wonder still.
I had a classmate in the fourth grade (this would have been 1965-66) who had no sales resistance at all. He sent away for a miniature camera. It looked cute but, IIRC, it came with only one roll of film he could never find film to fit it.
I remember trying to dissuade him from sending away for an “adorable pet monkey” one day as we were reading over comics as we waited for haircuts at the neighborhood barbershop. He seemed both heart broken and outraged when I suggested that the monkey would very probably bite. Like a lot of kids my age back then, his ideas of nature seemed to come largely from Walt Disney. And yeah, even at age ten, I think, it struck me as inhumane and grotesque to be shipping monkeys through the mail to unqualified, unprepared owners this way. The ad I remembered resembled the second one shown above, where the monkey (with free toy) sat in a hand. I expect his parents vetoed his idea.
It wasn’t until high school that I actually met someone who had an aquarium full of sea monkeys. I was amazed to learn that they were brine shrimp, and to see what those tiny, tiny buggers actually look like.
The only comic book ad I could ever vouch for was for a set of plastic space men and rockets which used to run in D.C. Comics. My older brother sent away for those sometime around 1960. He got a set of ordinary-looking, ordinary size plastic toys in various colors. That was all he had expected, and they were, as I recall, reasonably priced.
And I still remember the day I actually saw a copy of Grit. Remember Grit? One could supposedly win all sorts of prizes from selling it door-to-door. When attending graduate school in a college town in Texas in the late 70s I finally saw a copy at a newstand. It looked like a supermarket tabloid, but read sort of like one of the older, conservative women’s magazines such as Woman’s Day.