Rockin’ the 80’s – Tale of the 30-Year-Old Snickers

Rockin' the 80's - Tale of the 30-Year-Old Snickers bar

When you are a collector of old candy wrappers and candy boxes, you quickly learn and have to accept that you’re collecting what most folks consider trash.   Candy wrappers are discarded, not saved.  Because of that fact, you look for and find them wherever you can.   In a few instances, that means they still contain the original candy inside.

Now, when a candy wrapper gets saved, it’s usually by accident, and the same has to be said of an intact candy bar.  Maybe a store closes down, and the shelves remain untouched and unclean – the candy bars just sit.

Two years ago, I took possession of six different unopened candy bars, originally produced for sale in 1980.   I wanted the wrappers for my collection and wasn’t sure how I’d separate them, but I did know that when I did, I wanted to capture the contents on film.  How often do you get to see a 30-year-old Snickers bar, after all?

So I put those bars in a box, where they remained until this weekend, when I pulled them out for today’s posting.

Since the time that I acquired the 1980 bars, I also picked up a 1988 Milky Way, as well as a UK Snickers bar (then called Marathon) from 1990.  All of these, along with their contemporary counterparts, are the topic I’ll be covering today.

I know that, with old food, there is a particular curiosity and I’ve endeavored to include the photos I think most of you will want to see.

I began by photographing the main pieces, and their contemporary counterparts [Note: The contemporary examples are from 2011.  Last Summer, I tracked those down and they’ve been waiting in my fridge ever since.]

1980 Assortment of unopened candy bars

2011 Assortment of unopened candy bars

I decided to start with one of my personal faves, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups - 1980 and 2011 packages

Having the hobby that I do, I am used to dealing with some occasionally old candy, but nothing quite like these.  This first package was a little daunting.  What would be in there?  Some kind of rot, or dead bugs, or decades-old-mold?

Opening the Reese's from 1980

Flipping the pack, we find…

1980 Reese's revealed

Considering these are approaching the retirement age of most pro athletes, they didn’t look too bad.  [Not sure what that dark spot is, though.]

For contrast, here’s another look, but with a current package included.  When you look at the 1980 Reese’s relative to a new one, it isn’t looking so hot.

1980 and 2011 Reese's

In an effort to be thorough, I wanted to get inside these.. to see how the innards aged.

Cutting in...Reese's 1980

Cutaway - Reese's

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? For the sake of expedience, I’m going to get through the rest of these in direct order.  I’ll comment along as needed.  First up… Snickers.

With the Snickers – I have my 1980 example, a current version, but I also have an intact 1990 Snickers bar from the UK – but in the UK, Snickers was called Marathon, at least until the late 1990’s, when they changed it to Snickers (this particular naming issue is something I plan to address in more depth – in another post down the road).

So we have three bars to get to know… and to dissect [insert mad-scientist laugh here].

Snickers bars of three eras

I should point out that my end game is to end up with these vintage wrappers in my collection, but these were so brittle and sealed up that it was impossible to remove the contents without some damage occurring.  Unfortunate, but I won’t keep full candy bars… except when I’m planning to publicly take them apart, of course.

Snickers Trio - 1980-2011

Snickers Trio Cutaway

You’ll notice some writing on the paper underneath, as well as some odd grease stains.  The stains are from the bars, the 1980 Snickers was pretty dry, but the 1990 UK Marathon had a bit of a… sort of moist to it.  The writings are my notes, so I could keep track of which bar was which.  Next up, Milky Way.

For my Milky Way showcase, I again include three different bars.  After I had acquired the 1980 assortment, I saw a listing on eBay for a 1988 Milky Way bar.  The seller repaired and restored vending machines, and this was the bar that sat in the display window of a vintage machine, for the last twenty years.  I won that auction, and today, it joins its Milky Way brethren in the scientific quest for knowledge.

Milky Way trio. 2011, 1988 and 1980

Milky Way trio revealed

The 1988 Milky Way was particularly brittle and crumbly, even more than the 1980 example.  Clearly these things age differently, depending on environmental surroundings.   Now to 3 Musketeers!

3 Musketeers comparison - 1980 - 2011

3 Musketeers revealed

3 Musketeers cutaway

Finally, the two packs of M&M’s.  I’ve seen old M&M’s that were just a few years’ old, and they get crumbly.  What’s surprising here is that the peanut M&M’s from 1980 were in remarkably intact condition.  Some of them looked almost new.  Another thing to note is the lack of vibrant color shells in 1980.  Back then, there were no red and no blue candy shells for M&M’s.

M&M's Peanut comparison

M&M's Peanut revealed

M&M's Plain comparison

M&M’s Plain revealed

Another notable observation about these 1980 candy bars, was the UPC codes.  Except for the Reese’s, all of the UPC’s of the 1980 bars matched their 2011 counterparts.  So if one of these somehow managed to find it’s way into the candy isle at your local retailer, it would scan…

They're the same! 1980 and 2011 UPCs

That’s the last of the comparison shots.

If I could share the sickly-sweet, yet somehow “off” smell of old chocolate, I would. It filled my living room as I shot these, and while it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, it wasn’t a happy aroma.  I do this for you, curious reader.

After shooting these photos, I did place the ancient bars into ziploc bags.  I plan on doing something else with them soon, and I’ll reveal that later.  I’m also going to work on the removed wrappers in the next few days to get them presentable.  Here’s how they looked at the end of the day.

After the photos - part one.

After the photos part two

In case those images are a little unpleasant, I wanted to round out today’s post with a view of the 1980 bars, the way I’d like to remember them…

1980 bars in repose

Decades of bars fanned out.

[EDIT:  I’ve since carefully flattened the wrappers recovered from these bars.  You can see the results here.]

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 My Google Profile+
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36 Responses to Rockin’ the 80’s – Tale of the 30-Year-Old Snickers

  1. I was truly fascinated by this post! It’s interesting to see how the candy and the wrappers have evolved, and I would fully endorse it if the companies decided to use these “throwback” designs on their current packaging. That Three Musketeers wrapper is awesome. Well done sir!

  2. I’m with Brian, well done! Very fun! I collect candy and food wrappers, especially when I travel so it’s real neat to see what you have on your blog. Look forward to more!

  3. azog says:

    Thanks for your blog. I’ve added you to my RSS since your Big League Chew post, which I guess was the blogs debut? Anyways, you mentioned Marathon and that you’re going to talk about it in the (near?) future; I remember a different candy bar named Marathon here in NJ, it was a twisted pretzel-shaped bar. That was quite some time ago, probably in the very late 70s. I guess it was a novelty bar that didn’t have much longevity.

  4. IAreGeek says:

    Awesome post!

    Those Reese’s still look goo enough to eat! O_o Which one did you try? C’mon don’t lie, I know you tasted one of them. 😉 Well done. Thanks for making me want to collect something I didn’t realize I wanted to collect yet.

  5. Dan B says:

    Now that’s entertainment! 🙂 Loved it.

  6. Jay D says:

    Awesome job Jason!!!
    this website is going to be incredible!!!

  7. Jason K. says:

    Great article, Jason! Now I’m hungry for a 30 year old M&M Blizzard……

  8. Am I correct in recalling that the(still available) British “Curly Wurly” bar is very similar to the US Marathon bar. Also: did you actually tear the whole end off of the plain M&M pack, or is it just folded over somehow?

    • jasonliebig says:

      The plain M&M end is just folded over.

      And yes, the UK Curly Wurly is very similar to what we had in Marathon, back in the 70’s. More on this, soon.

  9. This is why I love the Internet! Where else could you find something so unexpectedly entertaining this side of MythBusters?
    Looking forward to see what’s next for these candies out of time.

  10. Brandon says:

    You’re like a Candy Mad Scientist!

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  13. booberryman says:

    Why do you open them if you are collecting old candy wrappers? Wouldn’t they be worth more/be a cooler collection piece if everything was intact?

    • jasonliebig says:

      BooBerryMan… Well, if having thirty-year-old candy is important to a collector, I suppose it would certainly be cooler to have the candy bars. But to me they’re just old food that will eventually/potentially ruin what I want to collect. And they look pretty awful after so many years. So they’re not much to look at anyway.

      As to value, well it’s all in the eye of the beholder. 🙂

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  15. Mark says:

    Nothing makes me cringe than ruining a perfectly good INTACT piece, even if it is vintage candy?

    • jasonliebig says:

      I know what you mean, Mark.

      But intact candy is never quite as intact as you might like it to be. These are not like other collectibles – these are chemicals and food. When you’ve seen as much damage as “intact” bubble gum and chocolate has done to packaging as I have, it gets easier. But it’s still a bit like stepping over a cliff, opening up a vintage piece. Because you can’t go back.

      I’ve just found wonderful wrappers ravaged by a small piece of chocolate left inside to fester and break down. And it seems to happen at different times and for no discernible rhyme or reason. But it definitely happens.

      A bubble gum collector I know recently went into boxes they hadn’t been in, in years, and found a syrupy, sticky mess inside. Now THAT is cringe-worthy.

  16. Mark H says:

    Very cool article… thanks for posting! Were there any light brown M&Ms in the peanut pack?

    Not sure if this has been covered yet or not, but using a hair dryer on the unopened candy wrappers will soften the glue & you might be able to peel them open without ripping the wrappers. Of course, it might melt the chocolate too… working slowly & peeling a little bit at a time is the way to go. That is, if you’re more concerned about keeping the wrappers in pristine condition than the candy.

    • jasonliebig says:


      A hair dryer is a tool I’ve utilized on many modern pieces of packaging. Doesn’t work for all types of seals or glues, but works VERY well for some. :-). -Jason

  17. Kerry says:

    I googled “marathon-snickers” bar…and this page came up. First time I’ve seen a Marathon bar in ages. Im from the UK….Jason I’m surprised that Marathon bar is dated at 1990 as I had assumed the change of name to snickers occurred just earlier…so that must have been the very last year it was called that. Took some time getting used to calling it snickers. The M&M wrappers were very plain around that time also.

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  19. robert says:

    Three musketeers were huge because of the texture of their filling was light. Butterfingers were larger. Now they’re all the same size. Bring back the original size to candy bars.

    • Jason Liebig says:


      Well, the current standard-size Butterfinger is 2.1 ounces, and a quick check of my files shows the standard-size back in the early 70’s as 1.5 ounces, and that grew to 1.8 ounces in 1980. But neither of those is larger than the 2.1 standard size currently offered.

      Now, of course there were “King Size” bars offered back then which were larger, just as there are now, and before “King Size’ they would offer Butterfinger “Twins” which was just two bars end-to-end in a single package – but essentially those were the King Sizes of the 1940’s to mid-1970’s.

      But standard-size to standard-size, shows a steady growth, at least based on my historical wrapper samples.

      • Daniel Wayman says:

        Quite some years back, I worked custodial at a 50+ year old school. We were repairing some of the lockers and found a paper Butterfinger wrapper that was an inch and a half longer than one we bought out of the vending machine that day. I forget what the ounce size was but it was more than the new one. I had them pinned to the wall in my office for a long time. And no, I don’t know what happened to them, sorry. You say the “size” has gone up, but that is weight though. I have noticed that Butterfinger has gotten harder as the years have passed by. In my youth, they were crispier inside, like a chocolate covered Chick-o-stick. Now they are quite hard. I wonder if the way they are made today has contributed to the physical size change. By that I mean that the center of the bar wasn’t compacted like today giving the bar bigger dimensions while having similar or less weight.

        • Jason Liebig says:


          Well, on the size front, I can tell you that just like today, back in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s they did create “king size” bars, so those would subsequently have larger wrappers. Even going back to the 1930’s, they had 1-cent and 5-cent versions of the bar.

          As for the texture of the center changing? On that front, anything is possible. The ingredients and formulations have absolutely changed numerous times over the decades.

          • Daniel Wayman says:

            Maybe that”s it. Do you know when they started putting “king size” on the wrappers? And I wonder if where you bought them made a difference. The butterfingers in our vending machine at work are 1.9 oz. while at the gas station it is 2.1 oz. and at the grocery store today I saw it was 2.5 oz and none of them say anything different on the wrapper. I think for curiosity sake I want to buy one of each and set them side by side and see the difference in actual size. I wonder why there is such a variety of sizes of this bar but snickers, milky way, and three musketeers seam to have not varied at all in 30+ years?

  20. Adrian says:

    I’m trying to figure out when Reese’s switched from the paper outer wrapper to the plastic wrappers.

    I recall taking a tour of a Hershey plant somewhere between the SF Bay Area and Yosemite. I was amazed to see people (not machines!) putting pairs of Reese’s peanut butter cups onto the trays and manually folding the wrappers around them. I don’t think that plant is still there, and I assume today’s plastic wrappers are applied by machine.

    Anyway, I’m intensely curious to learn the learn the year they switched from paper to plastic.

    • Tamara Beasley says:

      as a huge Reese’s cup lover since 1985, i think in between 1989 and 1990, because in 1989 is when i seen the plastic packaging for the first time, when my dad use to buy them from someone who’s child, was selling them, for their school’s fundraiser.

  21. Letricia Marshall says:

    I hate the peanut butter squares. Please bring back the peanut butter snickers in the red package that is one bar. That’s the best!

  22. Zaxzax says:

    Wow I was wondering what kind of Flavours does snickers has and peek into some great insights and passion Jason has . Thanks Google images . Also I do collect mostly chip bags

  23. Rob says:

    Ok, why is it that the wrapper designs got more streamlined looking over the years? Like the M&M’s and 3 Musketeers? Why did the M&M letters get tilted with a white background? Milky Way letters really changed over the years. It happens with most consumer packaged products you buy at the grocery store. I’ve seen the detergent Cheer’s logo change three times in several years. Do companies change the logos and lettering to be more “hip” or something? Like the newer lettering usually has rounded edges, is tilted, sometimes changes from all caps to only the first letter capital, that’s what the detergent Gain did. It was all caps for years, then got lower case letters several years ago. Look at Cheez-It and Ritz crackers. Letters are a bit different than 1980’s. The C in Cheez isn’t as extended in the front as the old C. Now, if you compare a Campbell’s Soup label or a Kit Kat label to 1980’s ones they don’t look much different.

    • Jason Liebig says:

      Evolution in packaging design and logos is all part of the consumer goods business and a pretty big part of it actually.

      The reasons for a brand wanting to update their packaging design are myriad. Sometimes it’s to modernize, sometimes it’s to make more “hip”, sometimes it’s to address changes in consumers tastes, or to stand out against competitors packages, and sometimes it’s just to give the marketing department something new to highlight. And there are countless other reasons why they might update or overhaul their packaging look.

      Of course the kind of things you are noticing are the kind of things I’ve been documenting and endeavoring to bring attention and historical context to. So it is a subject matter that I really dig.

  24. Pamela Meckley says:

    This was absolutely fascinating, not to mention nostalgic. I remember those wrappers! It’s strange to see them through older eyes, if you know what I mean.

    The Three Musketeers bars seemed huge compared to Snickers and Milky Way bars. I do remember the Marathon bars here in the US being the pretzel looking, chocolate covered caramel. Thank you for leaving a link to you holding one of those bars – more nostalgia! It’s interesting that the UK Snickers (then Marathon) looked a bit larger than the US Snickers.

    Going back to the size and my comment about how the bars seemed bigger then, I suppose that was a “child’s eye phenomenon.” Doesn’t everything seem bigger when you’re a child?! I always tell people how much bigger these candy bars used to be but now I see that it was what I call the “child’s eye phenomenon.”

    Thank you for doing what you do, I appreciate and can understand your passion for collecting candy wrappers from decades past!

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