I posted a month ago about a case from 1965 in which a car dealer advertised, and then had to sell, a new Pontiac sedan for "1,395 bananas."
Turns out this isn't the only time a merchant has run into trouble using the word 'bananas' as slang for 'dollars.'
In 1986, the discount electronics chain Silo ran a TV ad offering a new stereo system for only "299 bananas." Thirty-five people showed up with the appropriate number of bananas, expecting to get a stereo. The store gave 33 of them stereos, and credited the other two for the cost of the bananas.
Lafayette Journal and Courier - May 1, 1986
For more info, check out this article on the Priceonomics blog
. It notes that Silo ended up stuck with around 11,000 bananas that they had to get rid of:
Silo’s Seattle manager donated his cut of the bananas (10,000) to Woodland Park Zoo, but found that the demand there was limited: the zoo only needed 1,000 of them per week for its elephants, monkeys, gorillas, and hippos, and was unable to feed them uncontrolled amounts of any particular food. The vast majority of the fruits were, in turn, passed along to local food banks.
Banana-label collecting is not only a thing. It has an active community of collectors.
One of the top collectors is Becky Martz who now has over 22,630 labels. She's archived them at her website, Becky's Gone Bananas
You can also check out the BananaLabel Catalog of the Produce Real Society
. There's not many labels to see on their website, but they sell a master catalog of 31,000 labels going all the way back to 1913.
Kia Scudder of San Antonio, Texas was recently granted Patent No. 11077701
for a "banana shaped writing device and method." From the patent:
Generally, the banana shaped writing device is a pencil that resembled a banana wherein the banana is peeled to reveal the lead. The banana shaped writing device allows the users to access additional lead when it gets too short or dull by peeling the banana layers. It enables children and even adults to stand out by using such a unique pencil. The device includes a cushioned inside that provides comfort to users, especially left-handed users. The present invention assists children that are beginning to learn how to write remember correct finger position.
The Continental/Moss-Gordin Banana-Matic could ripen, store, and display bananas in a controlled atmosphere "thus eliminating spoilage loss."
In 1967, Linda Gipson of Pensacola, Fla. had the honor of being named 'Miss Banana-Matic'.
Prattville Progress - Apr 17, 1967
The International Banana Museum
, in Mecca, CA, boasts that it's the home of "25,000 banana-related items and pictures."
I think the location of the museum is odder than the idea of the museum itself. Mecca is just a tiny desert community located at the northern tip of the Salton Sea. No bananas grow anywhere near it.
The California Curiosities site
explains how the museum ended up being there: because the owner of the museum, Fred Garbutt, saw a collection of banana memorabilia for sale on eBay and figured that a banana museum might generate some publicity for his struggling liquor store.
Bernice Wyszynski saw a brand-new Pontiac sedan advertised for "1,395 bananas". So she tried to take the dealer up on that offer. However, the dealer insisted that the car actually cost $1,395. 'Bananas', he said, was a vernacular term for dollars. Wyszynski threatened to sue him for false advertising, and eventually he relented, selling her the car in exchange for 1,395 bananas.
I can buy five bananas at the supermarket for $1. Which means that, in present-day money, Wyszynski got the car for around $280. That's a pretty good deal.
Bernice Wyszynski died in 2003, and the banana incident made it into her obituary
Mrs. Wyszynski became known as the "Banana Lady" after she bought a new 1965 Pontiac Tempest from Stephen Pontiac Cadillac, Bristol for 1395 bananas.
Long Beach Press-Telegram - May 5, 1965
Arizona Daily Star - May 1, 1965
In the late nineteenth century, Emile Kinst decided that the game of baseball was too easy, so to make it more challenging he invented a curved bat which came to be known as the "banana bat". Obviously his invention never caught on. But Kinst made several hundred of these bats, and the few that are still around are quite valuable. The one shown below sold for $2880.
image source: goldin auctions
From The Boston Globe - Apr 24, 1904:
Bats have been the subject of brain cogitations by ambitious inventors. Some years ago the players became familiar with what was called the flat bat. This was never patented, but it showed the inventive genius of some player. This bat was made by shaving one of the round bats with a knife until a part of the bat near the end was flat. The object of this was to give the player a chance to bunt the ball by catching it a short clip...
There was another bat invented, however, and the man who originated it had such faith in his idea that he had it patented in 1890. This bat had a curve in it and was something like a lacrosse stick. According to the theory of the inventor, Emile Kinst, when the ball was struck by a certain portion of the bat, in addition to the regular flight produced by the blow the ball would receive a rotary motion more or less violent. The result was supposed to be a ball not only difficult to handle by the fielder if it were to come straight at him, but also hard to hold if it were a fly and he got under it, because of the spinning produced by the bat.
It was also designed to produce the effect of a bunt, but in a better way, for the inventor claimed his bat would cause the ball to land near the batter and stay there under certain conditions. With these results Mr. Kinst claimed that it would make the game more difficult to play, and therefore more interesting and exciting. But his hopes were not realized, for the bat never got the official sanction of the league.
Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford offer some context in their book Cerealizing America: The Unsweetened Story of American Breakfast Cereal
[In 1964], Kellogg signed Jimmy Durante
to launch Corn Flakes and Instant Bananas with an update of one of his standard songs. Seated at the piano, the old vaudevillian belted out, "Yes, we now have bananas…" Sales were brisk for a few months, then dropped like a rock, as store owners like I.J. Salkin complained that the product tasted like "cardboard discs in a box." Burnett commercial director Rudy Behlmer agreed. "Those little banana wafers looked like holy communion wafers. When you put milk on them, they started to look dark and mushy."
In 1966, Kellogg pulled the plug on Corn Flakes and Instant Bananas. "We tested the market carefully, we tried, we failed, and we're getting out of the market," Kellogg's Ken Englert told Consumer Advertising
magazine. Without informing the star of their decision, Kellogg decided to move Durante over from Instant Bananas to Kellogg's main line, Corn Flakes. "Everything was kept quiet until Carl Hixon [a Burnett writer] and myself went to New York to shoot him in a couple of commercials for Kellogg's Corn Flakes," recalled commercial director Rudy Behlmer. "Suddenly he looks at the [story] boards and he says, 'Where are da bananas?' and we said, 'Well, Jimmy… this is without bananas,' and he said, 'No bananas, no Durante.'"
Wisconsin State Journal - Mar 24, 1965
Artist Maurizio Cattelan’s latest piece, consisting of a banana duct-taped to a wall, sold recently for $120,000.
Gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin defended the work by saying, “It looks like a joke, but step back and look at it again, and it becomes so much more.”
The new owner will receive a certificate of authenticity. However, they’ll also be expected to periodically replace the banana (and presumably the duct tape also). Which begs the question: what did they actually buy? The idea
of a banana duct-taped to a wall, apparently.
I'm curious to know how long the owner will actually bother to replace the banana. Twenty years from now, will they still be replacing it every few days?
More info: artsy.net
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