Sweet nostalgia: Popular Halloween candy throughout the decades

If you've been in the grocery store lately and are reeling at the high price of Halloween candy and thinking that it couldn't have always been this way, you're correct. Of course, everything used to be cheaper in the old days, but that's not the point of this exercise.

Given the season, we thought it would be fun to wander down Memory Lane and see what the prices of some popular Halloween candy were way back when -- and compare them to what they are now. Ready for a blast from the past?


1896: Tootsie Roll. 114-years-ago, Tootsie Rolls sold for one penny each. If you want the entire, complicated story about the origins of the Tootsie Roll and exactly who should get credit for creating this chewy delight, check out Candy Professor, a terrific blog about candy history.

Price today: A 2.25-ounce package of them can be had for just $0.99.


1898: Candy corn. Technically, this candy's been around since the 1880s, when George Renninger, an employee at Wunderlee Candy Company, invented them, but it was in 1898 that the tri-color corn was mass-produced for the first time. To produce the layers of white, orange and yellow, the candy was poured into buckets, then the hot liquid was poured into trays -- three different times -- to get the layers just right. Then the candy was packaged in wooden boxes and tubs, and wagons carted them away to stores. By the 1920s, this popular treat was selling for 16 cents a pound; during the Depression, it was selling for half that, at eight cents per pound. By the 1950s, a two-pound bag of candy corn would have run you 55 cents. Interesting fact: Candy corn has grown so widely successful that this year, it's expected that manufacturers will produce thirty-five million pounds of the sweet stuff.

Price today:
You can find candy corn for as little as $0.99 for a four-ounce bag, which contains about 70 pieces of candy corn. Or if you're a candy corn addict, you could purchase a 30-pound bag of this classic Halloween treat for $82.99 at ACandyStore.com.

1900: Hershey's chocolate bars. These sweet rectangles of chocolate were originally sold for five cents, and you could still buy a Hershey's chocolate bar for just a nickel until 1969! That's when the company doubled the price to a dime. Quite a few newspapers ran stories that year lamenting the end of the nickel candy bar. But with inflation on the rise, the company announced in 1973 that while Hershey's chocolate bars would remain priced at 10-cents the actual bar would be shrinking 8.35%, going from 1.375 ounces to 1.26 ounces. By 1978, less than a decade after finding them in stores for a nickel, they were being sold for a quarter, and the chocolate bars shrunk by another 1.2 ounces. The party of low prices was clearly over.

Price today:
The price varies, depending on the size of the candy bar and whether a store is discounting them, but on the higher side, you can get a 7-ounce Hershey's Giant Chocolate Bar at Walgreen's for $2.29.

1921: Baby Ruth. The company claims they named this five-cent chocolate-peanut-caramel confection after President Grover Cleveland's first daughter, Ruth. But since Cleveland hadn't been president since 1897 and his daughter Ruth had died in 1907, Snopes.com offers some solid evidence why it's more likely that the Curtiss Candy Company was capitalizing on the fame of baseball great Babe Ruth. By 1921, the slugger was pretty famous, but by spreading a rumor about naming the candy after a president's daughter, the candy company deftly avoided paying the Babe any royalties from the candy bar.

Price today:
The king-size version, sold at Kmart, goes for 99 cents.

1923: Milky Way. Created by confectioner Frank Mars and made in Minneapolis, these chocolate malt nougat-coated bars were priced at just five cents when they were first sold. Oddly enough, they weren't named for the galaxy our solar system is in. Instead, the name was a play on a popular-at-the-time malted milk shake called the Milky Way; the candy bar flavor was comparable to the taste of a malted milk shake.

Price today:
Kmart sells them for 67 cents.


1928: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. This popular chocolate-peanut butter treat was created by Harry Burnett Reese, a dairy farmer and a Hershey's shipping foreman. Inspired by his boss, Milton S. Hershey, Reese started his own candy business, mixing peanut butter with Hershey's chocolate to create a chocolate cup of peanut butter. Originally, depending on the packaging, you could buy Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for a penny each, two cents each or five cents each. Interestingly enough, after Reese's death, his company was sold to the Hershey Company, which is still making the treats today.

Price today:
A Reese's Peanut Butter Cup goes for just about 89 cents at the grocery store.

1930: Snickers. The candy bar, which to this day is the best-selling chocolate bar on the planet, was created in 1930 and named after a horse owned by the Mars family. It originally sold for 20 cents. Candy historians, of course, will look back fondly at the 2010 Snickers Super Bowl commercial that added some pizazz to the career of Betty White, who was actually doing just fine without them.

Price today:
The average price of this chewy confection is 75 cents.


1932: 3 Musketeers. When this candy bar was first produced by Mars Inc., it was actually three little candy bars in one package -- milk chocolate covering vanilla-flavored nougat, strawberry-flavored nougat and chocolate-flavored nougat. According to Andrew F. Smith's Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, when the price of strawberries went up, the makers of 3 Musketeers decided to come up with a new concoction for their candy bar: a fluffy chocolate marshmallow and whipped chocolate confection which, according to Wikipedia, is often -- but wrongly -- called nougat. The candy bar, like many at the time, sold for just five cents.

Price today:
While prices vary, the going price seems to be 89 cents at the grocery store.

1941: M&M's. Talk about an all-American candy. The first customers? The U.S. Army. The "greatest generation" of soldiers received the candies, which came packaged in a tube instead of a little bag, as a treat for their hard work. The bag and presumably the tube sold for the usual five cents. Since then, M&M's have become an integral -- and interesting -- part of American culture. For instance, in the 1970s, for reasons unknown, eating green M&M's was considered a valid way to increase your sex drive.

Price today:
The bag's average these days is a sweet 69-cents.


1963: SweeTARTS (even though everyone says or spells them Sweet Tarts). The colorful sweet-and-sour little candies, about the size and shape of a penny, were invented by the Sunline Company, using the same basic recipe as Pixy Stix and Lik-M-Aid (now called Fun Dip). They were inspired to create SweeTARTS because of the many complaints they'd received from parents who complained that Pixy Stix and Lik-M-Aid were too messy; SweeTARTS solved that problem. And the candy sold for, wait for it, five cents a package.

Price today: You can expect to pay about 89-cents per package.


1976: Jelly Belly jelly beans. While jelly beans have been around for nearly 200 years (nobody actually knows who made the first ones), in 1976, the Jelly Belly Company made jelly bean history. The company (which under another name was also the first to mass produce candy corn) introduced to the world jelly beans with natural flavors, which were much sweeter than the original jelly beans. And as Baby Boomers and Generation X'ers will likely remember, President Ronald Reagan made a big deal about how much he enjoyed these sweet chewy treats. In fact, according to the Jelly Belly website, they were served on Air Force One, and Reagan sent them on a Challenger space shuttle flight in 1983. Their gourmet status put their initial price at $2 a pound.

Price today:
You can buy a 1.6 ounce box of the company's assorted 20 flavors for $1.25 at the Jelly Belly website.

1981: Skittles. These colorful, sweet and juicy candies that look a little like M & M's (but taste nothing like them) had been sold in Europe since 1974, but they didn't debut in America until 1981. At that time, they sold for 88 cents per bag. A few fun facts: Skittles are now sold in 65 countries around the world, more than 200 million individual Skittles are made every day, and the process of making a bag of Skittles takes about eight hours.

Price today:
Oddly enough, most small bags still go for around 88 cents.


1992: Dove chocolate. If Dove bars seem like they've been around longer than 1992, that may be because the name's been around since the 1950s. The chocolate bar's name was inspired by Dove Candies & Ice Cream, two Chicago-area sweet shops owned by Leo Stefanos. Back in 1956, Stefanos created the Dove brand of ice cream bars, which went national in 1985. In 1986, Stefanos' company was purchased by Mars, which started unrolling Dove chocolates in a limited number of in 1991 before going national the next year. Back then, you could buy an 11-ounce package of milk or dark Dove chocolate candies for $3.29.

Price today:
You'll pay about $4.79 -- at Walgreen's, anyway -- for a 9.5 ounce package of Dove Smooth Milk Chocolate candies.

2010: The most popular Halloween candy. It's expected to be the Tootsie Roll, according to the folks at the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University. Close behind is Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars and Nestle Crunch bars. Tootsie Rolls, as we mentioned, debuted way back in 1896, and Hershey's in 1900. Nestle Crunch bars showed up on the candy scene in 1937. There's a lesson here to be learned about how we treat the classics: If something is good, it doesn't have to go out of style.

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop and is the co-author of Living With Bad Credit. No candy was harmed, although much was consumed, in the writing of this article.

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