Why Saving Unopened Candy Can Be a Very Bad Idea. Presented in Pictures!

CC_Unopened candy TITLE PLATE

As a candy collector, I’m often asked whether I save actual edible candy or just the packaging.  My answer usually goes that I’m technically a candy packaging collector, so I always try to separate a wrapper or box from the confection it contains.  Excepting in rare cases, I almost never save the contents.

I think the only way to be sure of preservation is to operate with a never-save-the-candy rule.  I’ve even cracked open seemingly-stable, decades-old candy packages that other folks have lovingly saved unopened.   That has led to laments by some at my unsealing what you might call a “mint in package” candy bar or pack of bubblegum.  And while I do understand the sadness at seeing something whole made less-so, my goal is always long-term preservation.

With today’s post, I hope to make a compelling (and pretty gross) case as to why saving unopened candy can be a very bad idea.

Fellow collector Darlene Lacey from the The Candy Wrapper Museum has this to say about aging candy:

“One thing I learned the hard way is that no matter how chemically inert or unresembling food a candy product might be, it will eventually become molecularly unstable and turn into a hideous, sticky goo.”

I have to agree with Darlene’s statement as I have seen it come to disgusting fruition numerous times.  But rather than take my word for it, today I’m going to show you a series of photos of old candy that probably should have been emptied before it was stored away.  [Note:  Early last year I did an extensive piece dedicated to a group of 30-year old chocolate bars that I carefully opened – definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in this topic.]

Before I get to the gross stuff (and give you one more chance to back down from reading further) I figured I’d show you an example of a pretty well-preserved piece of unopened candy.  This is a box of Ferrara Pan Jaw Breakers from the 1960’s.  And other than some fading and maybe flaking of the candy, it looks pretty solid:

Ferrara Pan Jaw Breakers unopened box - 1960's

Ferrara Pan Jaw Breakers unopened box – 1960’s

That Jawbreakers box is the one pretty picture today, and from here it’s going to get a little gross.

Last chance to turn back.  No?  Did I say a little gross.  Scratch that… it’s going to get very gross.

One category of vintage confection which seems to suffer greatly from turning bad is soft-chunk bubble gum like Bubble Yum, Bubblicious and Hubba Bubba.  I’ve tried to figure out if temperature or humidity is the determining factor in what turns a nice looking pack of gum into a soft sludgy mess, but after quite a few amateur experiments I’m still unsure.  All I know is that sometimes they turn quick and sometimes it takes a very long time.  But they almost always start transforming into a syrup.

The other aspect of this is that when a piece goes bad and starts seeping a syrupy substance it runs the risk of not only damaging its own wrapper but any other pieces stored or displayed nearby.  It always reminds me of a quote from the 1987 film The Lost Boys by the character Edgar Frog (played by Corey Feldman):

“I think I should warn you all, when a vampire bites it, it’s never a pretty sight. No two blood suckers go out the same way. Some yell and scream, some go quietly, some explode, some implode. But, all will try and take you with them.”

Just like the evil creatures in that classic flick, some vintage candy will implode and some will explode, but it will all try to take out as much as possible around it.

This presents a difficult issue with collecting the Bubble Yum/Bubblicious/Hubba Bubba brands I mentioned earlier, as soft chunk gum looks so darned good when it is unopened in its original block form.  I really do have internal debates about opening the stuff, and I continue to, but the following images give me reason to go with opening them all.  [Note: I still have a significant collection of as-yet-unopened soft-chunk gum packs.]

Bubblicious packs damaged from the inside out - 1990's

Bubblicious packs damaged from the inside out – 1990’s

You can see the staining that has occurred from within the packs in that image. The liquid-ized gum from inside penetrates and ruins wrappers.  Here’s a series of photos of my attempt at rescuing a wrapper which had contents that went syrupy.

Bubblicious Paradise Punch pack - leaking gum syrup - 1990's

Bubblicious Paradise Punch pack – leaking gum syrup – 1990’s

Bubblicious Paradise Punch pack - leaking gum syrup - 1990's_3

Bubblicious Paradise Punch pack – leaking gum syrup – 1990’s

Bubblicious Paradise Punch pack - leaking gum syrup - 1990's

Bubblicious Paradise Punch pack – leaking gum syrup – 1990’s

Bubblicious pack opened up - syrup

Bubblicious pack opened up – syrup

With foil-backed packs like that, a recovery can be made of the wrapper itself but it isn’t easy and there is always some permanent damage and staining.  Still, it’s better than losing a wrapper all together, especially if it’s the only one you’ve got.

Even when candy doesn’t go full-on juicy like that Bubblicious pack, damage and problems can still occur.

Next up is a series of three photos of a Sour Dots box from the 1960’s (sadly no shots of the outside of the package) and you can see how the degraded candy bonded with the inside of the box:

Dots Sour Lemon unopened box from the 1960's_1

Dots Sour Lemon unopened box from the 1960’s

Dots Sour Lemon unopened box from the 1960's

Dots Sour Lemon unopened box from the 1960’s

Dots Sour Lemon unopened box from the 1960's

Dots Sour Lemon unopened box from the 1960’s

I was never able to get all of those bits removed from the cardboard.

It’s always sad when you find an unopened piece of vintage candy and the fact that it was saved unopened has ruined it.  Such was the case with this Kit Kat bar from Southeast Asia.  Not only did the bar degrade, but the oils in the chocolate permeated the wrapper and the ink ended up wiping right off while I was handling it and trying to clean it.  In addition to that unpleasantness, years earlier some type of grubs had found their way into the sealed package and made their way through the Kit Kat itself:

Nestle Kit Kat from Asia - rotten and worn - 1980's or 1990's

Nestle Kit Kat from Asia – rotten and worn – 1980’s or 1990’s

That’s what the wrapper looked like when I received it, but my attempt to clean it turned it into an unrecognizable piece of wrapping, as the contents saturated the wrapper causing the warm water to flake and smudge away all of the graphics.

Asia - Nestle KitKat chocolate wrapper after being kept unopened for 15 years - 1990's

Asia – Nestle KitKat chocolate wrapper after being kept unopened for 15 years – 1990’s

Beyond being an unfortunate circumstance, as the wrapper looks to have been very neat at one point, this was also the most difficult “old candy smell” experience I’ve ever endured.  My 30-year-old Snickers experience was weird but the smell coming off of this old Kit Kat was monstrously pungent and very tough to handle.  It was BAD.

Here’s what the bars looked like after they were dropped into the sink – you can see where the bugs had their way with it:

Nestle Kit Kat from Asia - rotten and worn - 1980's or 1990's

Nestle Kit Kat from Asia – rotten and bug-worn – 1980’s or 1990’s

I once thought that items like Bubble Tape containers would be immune to degradation but it is simply not the case.  Here’s a Bubble Tape I recently acquired that sadly might be unrecoverable and need to be thrown out.  The syrupy contents have so saturated the label that I don’t know if it can be successfully cleaned:

Bubble Tape Sour Green Apple seeping and leaking ruined

Bubble Tape Sour Green Apple seeping and leaking ruined

Of course, even significant decomposition of the contents of a vintage candy package doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the wrapper.  With effort, even a disgusting mess of syrup and gook can be cleaned and the wrapper restored.

I’m going to close today’s post with images of an unopened package of Blow Pop Gum Balls from the 1990’s that was pretty far gone when it came to me, but some work recovered the wrapper:

Blow Pop Gumballs unopened pack - 1990's

Blow Pop Gumballs unopened pack – 1990’s

From the front, the pack looks alright, but turn it around and you can see what’s brewing inside.

Blow Pop Gumballs gross unopened pack - 1990's

Blow Pop Gumballs gross unopened pack – 1990’s

Blow Pop Gumballs gross unopened pack - 1990's

Blow Pop Gumballs gross unopened pack – 1990’s

Though this package was sealed, I didn’t want to take the risk that it might ever crack open or that the contents might eventually damage the graphics printed on the plastic package.  So I began the process of squeezing the gum out.

Blow Pop Gumballs gross unopened pack - 1990's

Blow Pop Gumballs gross unopened pack – 1990’s

Blow Pop Gumballs gross unopened pack - 1990's

Blow Pop Gumballs gross unopened pack – 1990’s

I don’t know that intentionally gross novelty candy could possibly compete for how rough that squeezing out of the Blow Pop Gumballs looks.

The happy ending to that experience is that after a lot of work and a lot of hot water, I managed to get most of the contents of the Blow Pop Gum Balls off of the package without damaging it.  There is still some sticky residue of the gum it once contained, but it’s now manageable and stable.  Here’s the final wrapper:

Tootsie - Charms Company - Blow Pop Gum Balls - bubblegum candy wrapper - 1990's

Tootsie – Charms Company – Blow Pop Gum Balls – bubblegum candy wrapper – 1990’s

So even a package that might seem like a lost cause doesn’t have to be.  The lesson here; don’t throw out that old syrupy gum… because it might be a lost confectionery treasure – like this Blow Pops Gum Balls package!

And that’s everything for today’s post on why saving unopened candy can be a very bad idea.  I hope it didn’t gross you out too much and if it didn’t, that you enjoyed seeing it.   Because you surely didn’t want to touch or smell any of this stuff.

See you next time!

About Jason Liebig

A New York City based writer, editor and sometimes actor. After spending much of the 1990′s in the comic book business helping tell the stories of Marvel Comics’ X-Men as series editor, he has since split his time between developing his own entertainment properties while still consulting and working on others. Having been described as “the Indiana Jones of lost and forgotten candy”, Jason is one of the country’s premier candy collectors and historians with his discoveries appearing in countless blogs, magazines, newspaper articles, and books. Always happy to share his knowledge and unique perspectives on this colorful part of our popular culture, Jason has consulted with New York’s Museum of Food and Drink and has also been a featured guest on Food Network’s Heavyweights, France’s M6 Capital, and New York’s TheActionRoom.com. My Google Profile+
This entry was posted in 1980's, 1990's, Bubble Gum, Chocolate, Gum, Nestle and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Why Saving Unopened Candy Can Be a Very Bad Idea. Presented in Pictures!

  1. Jeff says:

    I totally agree that “soft chunk gum looks so darned good when it is unopened in its original block form”. Maybe there is a way you can cast fake gum pieces out of silicone, so you can unwrap, then re-wrap them, without getting the inevitable goop problems.

    Of course, re-wrapping never looks as good, does it?

    • jasonliebig says:

      Jeff,

      I suspect that I will eventually go down this very path for most of my packs at some point. Though I am still hesitant to open many of them, I have many packs that I would hate to see unexpectedly turn one day. And I know it happens. So I suspect either opening and flattening are in their future at the least, but likely they’ll be fitted around some type of inert “soft-chunk replacement block”.

  2. Reggie says:

    I’m sorta in the camp that shutters at the thought of opening a package that’s survived in it’s original sealed state for so many years.. I was very conflicted watching the opening of the Snickers bars awhile back! However, your pics make a good case for doing so.. Do you think the proactive approach is always the way to go? It seems to me that some candy, and many gums in particular, are almost in a “petrified” state. Like much of the moisture or oils have long since dried out to the point that they’re now less likely to ruin a package. Do you think that’s a possibility or is goo an inevitability? Perhaps, too, if they’re stored in stable conditions or dry climates they’d be less susceptible to this fate?

    • jasonliebig says:

      Reggie,

      Well, after a lot of trial and error, and examining a LOT of old bubblegum – all I can say is; I’m not sure. I tend to doubt that you can ever have a soft-chunk bubblegum pack truly approach the stability of petrification. And the question I ask myself is; Do I want to take the chance?

      I’ve seen gum stored very nicely and it still goes bad. But I’ve also seen gum stored in the backroom of an abandoned convenience store that has SEEMINGLY turned hard.

      I think the key thing is, if you want to be sure that your pack or wrapper is never going to implode, you need to get rid of the potentially unstable elements.

      Even so, there are many packs in my collection that I may take a while to open. My ideal plan would be to replace the contents with a 1/1 scale piece of inert resin or something similar. That way, the visual look of the pack would remain, but with zero danger of it ever going bad.

  3. Reggie says:

    Oops – Shudders!

  4. Ross says:

    Jason –

    This was a timely reminder – I must open my 1970’s ButterNut and Milk Shake bars… I want to send the candy bars to Hershey so they can make them correctly in shape, size and content – but they most likely will not take me up on my suggestion…

  5. charlotte ghering says:

    I Found A 1971 Recipe Book That Shows All The Old Snicker Bars. The Snickers Munch Was Really UnUsual Since I Never See It Before SO I Had To Look Up The Age Of The Book. Your Blog Helped. thanks

  6. Dan Bretta says:

    This is a link to a photo of 100+ year old gum (Colgan’s chips) that I found in my great grandma’s personal belongings.

    http://s22.photobucket.com/user/nudan92/media/xFamily%20Pix/00whatcouldhave003.jpg.html?sort=4&o=95

  7. DUSTINDUSTRIES says:

    Thanks for the write informative info on Candy and gum storage. I would like to know if you have ever heard of Punch pastillas, a candy from Stani Argentina? For me it is the Grail of candies and I finally found an original if not Mini pack that was 30 years old and still had some candy inside. I payed a decent amount and patiently waited for it to arrive in the mail. when I opened the package there was a small half crushed pack with Mould dust on it. I did attempt o clean it up, I think I was expecting to find an original intact pack of candy and put it in a display case or something. I also own a box full of Gum I have collected in the last 10 years and I may have to look at preserving the packaging.

  8. Pingback: Q&A With America's #1 Candy Wrapper Collector and Historian

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>