The words “Pizza Points” are well known to those of us over the age of twenty-five. Pizza Points were essentially a proof-of-purchase that could be clipped and saved off the back of a Ninja Turtle figure box and redeemed for cool merchandise and prizes, and as a child, I imagined perhaps even a car.
A look at a section of a Pizza Points catalog reveals that the merchandise included pencil sets, beach towels, and what looks likes a very crappy plastic visor.
It may seem like the whole Pizza Points thing was your typical merchandising machine money grab, but I won’t talk bad about the Turtles. Ever. Not even about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3.
I’d never committed to anything in my life. I was good for a go-around the cul-de-sac when selling fundraising candy bars, but after that, I was done. I’d try to convince my mother to let me buy of the rest of the bars. I couldn’t stick with karate for more than a month. And forget it when I said I was going to save my Christmas money for a few weeks. I’d already decided what I wanted on December 26th.
But saving Pizza Points? That was something I was going to commit to. I was going to get The Big One. All I needed to do was get all the figures, and I’d save enough points to get a freaking Corvette. I bet there were sewer lids for rims. Oh yeah. This wasn’t like playing with Monopoly money, either. In fact, the words “Pizza Points” were synonymous with the words “cold hard cash.”
Well, sort of. Well, not really at all. Ninja Turtle figures were worth two Pizza Points a piece. Even if I could have possibly conned my parents into buying me one Ninja Turtle figure per month—and that would have been quite the feat—at the end of a year, I’d have only had twenty-four pizza points. But that’s low-balling it. So let’s assume Santa also brought the Ninja Turtle Blimp at the end of the year, which was worth a whopping four points. That’s twenty-eight points. Hardly enough for a Corvette with sewer lid rims. (A red one, like Raphael, I had decided.)
The Ninja Turtles themselves would have surely scoffed at my twenty-eight pithy little points. And I didn’t have my whole life to save them holding out for The Big One. I didn’t have the patience. I didn’t even have the patience to chew my food before swallowing.
Not only that, but not losing the points would have been a miracle. A plastic baggy full of a small cardboard squares was the first thing to get thrown out when Mom was cleaning the pantry. I learned pretty much early on that life was crap.
But a closer look at the Pizza Point catalog would reveal something even crappier: you couldn’t even purchase an item with Pizza Points alone. You also needed some cash money mucho dinero. Each item had a set price plus the additional points. But hey, if you wanted, you could just pay cash in full—no points required.
What was that I said about the merchandising machine money grab? No, I won’t talk bad about the Turtles. Michaelangelo saved my life, once. Well, he didn’t—but that’s beside the point.
Recently, I’ve been having these moments that bring all of my childhood into a lucid perspective. Here’s one. I just turned thirty years old. Here’s another one. Calculating the true value of Pizza Points, they were worth only twenty-five cents a piece. Gee, a whole quarter. Let’s see. Figuring the cost of a Corvette in 1990, about $60,000, I would have only needed 240,000 Pizza Points.
Guess I’d have settled for that crappy visor. It would have been awesome and I would have looked totally slick in it at the beach. Except then some kid would have made fun of me for wearing a dorky Turtles visor, and to the closet it would it go for private worship only.
A while back on the blog, I asked whether there was even anyone out there who had ever redeemed a Pizza Point for a prize. Two folks came forward and commented. I found their stories touching, and I want to share them.
One mother, Reva, commented that she found them by accident. Twenty years later, as she was cleaning out the kitchen cabinets, she found a dusty plastic baggy of them, containing fifty six points. The contents of the packages were long gone, those action figures, games and play sets that her boys had to have. They never knew of Mom’s secret Pizza Point stash. She was saving them up and one day, she was going to surprise them with “a big special something.”
“I guess I have the big prize,” she wrote, “in the loving memory of my boys and their collection of TNMTs brought on by the discovery/recovery of 56 pizza points.”
Go ahead, it’s okay to tear up a little. I did, too.
Then another commenter, Travis, wrote “I do remember saving up enough pizza points to send in for a Ninja Turtle CALCULATOR…I can’t even find a picture of one on the internet.”
I understood instinctively what Travis meant in his all-caps stylistic choice for the word CALCULATOR. He probably once had dreams of getting the Corvette, too. Ah, but how often in life we settle for a cheesy calculator instead. Still, I was intrigued. Here was a living, breathing person who had redeemed Pizza Points. I had to know more. I did some research online and found some pictures of the TMNT calculators that might have been his. Next, I wrote him an email to find out more details.
He wrote me back with one of the funniest and saddest stories I’d ever read.
“My mother and one of her friends were at our kitchen table one day doing taxes or paperwork of some sort, and the lady asked if we had a calculator she could use. I’m not sure if my Ninja Turtle calculator was just really conveniently close, or if it was the only one in the house, but I remember my mother making me let her use it. The buttons were probably a little small for extended calculating sessions, so she used a pen to press the buttons instead of her finger. Fine, no problem. But this B!#@$ USED THE INK END AND F’D UP ALL MY BUTTONS! Haha. I remember yelling at my mother about it an showing her the “damage” but she didn’t seem to care. After that, it probably ended up going where pretty much all childhood toys go… wherever that is.”
I could relate. The story just felt like one of those childhood stories that is inherently true. First, you dream big, then you settle for a calculator, then your Mom’s friend damages it with an ink pen, and then you think about what a bitch she is. Eternal stuff that transcends. Kind of like Ralphie’s longing for a Red Ryder BB Gun or Elliott’s friendship with E.T.
Then Travis added, “I still see those Ninja Turtle ice creams on the ice cream truck and the eyes are usually in the totally wrong locations. It would be funny as hell if all those ice cream bars were just leftovers that they never got rid of in the 80s. If they had Super Shredder ice creams, I’d be all over that shit.”
I liked this guy. So I wanted to do something for him. I wanted to replace the calculator that was ruined as a child, and eBay was selling a box of the very calculators once available in the Pizza Points catalog. I purchased them and sent him one.
And now, I too, own an actual fabled item from the Pizza Points catalog. It’s getting better all the time.
As you can see, it’s more than a CALCULATOR. It’s a TOTALLY TUBULAR TABULATOR. Each calculator comes with a plastic slip cover, supposedly to protect against pen ink, and a place on the back to write your name so some lady doesn’t steal your calculator and mess it up. Right on.
And here’s what else I want to do. I’ve got five extra of these babies and I want to give one to YOU. That means it’s blog giveaway time. Here’s your chance to own an actual coveted item from the Pizza Points catalog. Each calculator is brand new, never opened, and while I can’t guarantee that it works, each of the ones I have opened have worked just fine. It’s powered by magical solar power.
Here’s the gist. Simply comment below. You guys have the most amusing things to say. So tell me a story about whatever you want. What would you buy with all the Pizza Points in the world? What did you get for Christmas? Where did your dog poop in the house where he wasn’t supposed to? What is the crappiest prize you ever settled for? How do you feel about polarfleece?
I’ll pick five winners at random and announce it next Monday, the 10th. I’ll send you a totally tubular tabulator for free—no charge for the stamps. Add The Surfing Pizza on Facebook to get the latest, and don’t forget to put your email in the form.
And there will be additional BONUS MYSTERY prize for my favorite story. And who knows, what if the BONUS prize was actually a Corvette with sewer rims?
Hey, you gotta dream, right?
UPDATE – Thanks for sharing your stories, ya’ll. I’ve emailed the winners, so check your inboxes!