When your humble Midlife Crisis Crossover narrator was a kid, Hickory Farms ruled the gift-set market with their carefully arranged and packaged snack assortments that were perfect for holidays, birthdays, and weddings for couples who forgot to register anywhere. The big HF put presents inside their presents so you could gift while you gift. They’re still in business today, but their marketing is more selective than it used to be in those halcyon shopping days when we could drive to the nearest mall and stock up on summer sausage anytime we felt like it.
In recent years the burgeoning geek-demographic market has taken the idea in a different direction. For those who’d rather buy hodgepodges for themselves and keep them rolling in like clockwork, Loot Crate offers a monthly subscription service that fills fans’ mailboxes with bobbleheads, remaindered toys, unpopular overstock, weird reading matter, and more bobbleheads. Sensing a possible fad in the offing, Wizard World launched its own copycat club called ComicConBox, which does much the same for more than twice the price. If you want your house filled with random knickknacks and characters you’ve never heard of, either service is a fine way to accumulate future Goodwill donations.
I recently exchanged words with a rep at a company called Man Crates, which returns the gift-set idea to its roots as a single-package special event, but expands the paradigm beyond the old meats-and-cheeses domain. Mind you, those are still on the table, in sets with names like “Cow-pocalypse”, “Pit-Master”, and one that sells itself with the one-word name “Bacon” (kinda like “Madonna” or “Thunderlips”). As befitting the name, several Man Crate options focus on other manly-man pursuits such as golfing, grilling, tools, shaving, large dogs, hot sauce, and zombie defense (because YOU NEVER KNOW).
For other not-manly-man folks like me, they have gift sets for gaming, coffee, baby care, and Asian snacks (my son would love this). When thinking of me, the Man Crate rep thought of their nostalgia-riffic “Old School” crate, which teams up classic playthings like Rubik’s Cubes and Pez dispensers with an array of candies as seen in the drive-ins, drugstores, and corner convenience stores of my youth. If you or your loved ones have the means to open an actual wooden crate, they have a Man Crate in mind.
The rep posed a question to me: what would I pack in an “Old School” crate?
That brings us to a little spinoff invention I’d have to call…the MCC Swag Box!