Confused?! Let me start over. Basically at the carnival or fair that came to town, you could play a game of Pop-A-Balloon and win a prize. The game allowed you to bust two balloons to win a toy ring. I used to sell the toy rings for $10 to $30 over ten years ago to collectors. The prize was designed for a boy to give something to a special lady friend. You got three darts for one price. Bust 2 out of 3 to win. Fail to pop two and you lost.
Here is where it got really interesting. There were prize levels.
You could either buy 3-darts for 3 cents or you could save time and money and give money to try to win the top prizes all in a row. If you bought three darts and you popped two balloons in a row, then you had wasted your 3rd penny and dart. If you tried to win all at once, then you saved money. If you popped eight in a row and then you failed to pop a balloon, then you had to start over. No prize won. Money lost. Thus the first scam of the time for the game.
The guy kept count on a chalk board. If you were dumb enough to lose tons of cash, then the prize man would pat you on the back as you walked away and wish you good luck next time.
That chalk dust would then be on your back as a sign to ALL other carnival games that you were a "mark". Now everyone knew they could twist your arm.
See my chart to see how the prize levels worked.
2 Balloons popped= 1 small ring (get your 2-cents worth OR not worth two-cents).
2 small rings = 1 medium ring
2 medium rings = 1 large very nice ring
2 large rings = 1 plastic McCoy Pottery toy vase (that's 16 popped-balloons).
That made one vase worth 16 cents. 48 cents to get all three. Provided you popped 16 in a row. Almost impossible. That was the scam. If you did it over time, then you spent more Pay. 48 cents for one vase. Almost no-one had all three vases. These were offered in 1947, 1948, 1949.
Here is the funny thing too. When you turned in the rings, the carnival guy would give yours back out as a prize to someone else.
Here is the good catch. The same game and prizes were there each year to allow you to upgrade the prizes each year. Provided you kept your rings, etc.
You are buying ONE of these VERY RARE toy vases.
Random color but you win the design as indicated. About 2.5 inches tall. About 1.5 inch wide.
Here are the designs (use the photo as a guide):
1. Tall Design (green)
2. Dog Design (pink)
3. Pticher Design (light blue)
BACKSTORY ON MY SOURCE:
I learned of these vases in the 1980s from Mr. Matthews. He was an old Carnival game guy (80+) who retired with a case of vases. He and his wife were kinda like the neighborhood grandparents to tons of kids. I spent hours with them. He laughed about the small case of vases and told me the story behind them and then told me hours of other similar stories of the period. Tons of G.I.s came home and even with pockets of cash, they would play this game and would win a ring. Then they would drop to a knee and propose right there in front of his game. He said he was amazed at the number of young men who did this and those young girls who shrilled and said "yes!". He often wandered if somewhere some woman is still wearing an Imperial Brand Novelty ring as her engagement ring. This older man passed away years after telling me this and I went to his wife's garage sale in 1989. There sitting in the corner of the garage was an old cardboard/paper box. I bought that case for much more than she thought they were worth. She begged me to just take them. I have never sold any of these until now.
They are a great piece of Americana. The proof of ingenuity and of the craftiness of these guys to get a piece of that load of cash that fueled the boom of the next decade of the 1950's.
Ask any questions prior to buying.