Almost every day, The A.V. Club is absolutely inundated with promotional swag. And while we’re certainly not complaining about free DVDs, umbrellas, and boxy, oversized T-shirts promoting things we couldn’t care less about, we’d be remiss if we didn’t report extensively on all the perplexing, trashable, and/or amazing things we’ve received in the mail over the past year. The rules for 2014’s Year In Swag aren’t too dissimilar from the ones we laid down for 2013, in that we’re weighing in on both an item’s relevance and relative market value, should someone—not us, obviously—ever choose to part with, let’s say, a crunchy and awkward-fitting T-shirt for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Read yesterday’s part 1, and be jealous of our promotional bounty.
Item: American Idol headphones
Promoting: American Idol.
Relevance: Insofar as both American Idol and American Idol headphones are music-related, then this is pretty relevant, and it even comes in its own branded carrying case.
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 3. The OrigAudio headphones work just fine, so as long as you don’t mind being a sitting advertisement for American Idol XIII, you don’t have to tell anybody you’re actually listening to the new Taylor Swift instead of Caleb Johnson. And these are less garish than the headphones we got last year to promote Behind The Candelabra, which had a keyboard printed across the headband.
eBay market value: $20, which is a lot cheaper than any of the unbranded headphones on OrigAudio’s website. [Laura M. Browning]
Item: Orange Is The New Black cookbook and a plastic cafeteria tray
Promoting: Orange Is The New Black.
Relevance: Questionable. Do you really want to eat prison food?
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 4. Some of the recipes actually look pretty decent—there’s one for homemade Sriracha (Taystee’s Thailand Rooster Hot Sauce), plus Crazy Eyes’ Dandelion Salad and Breakfast Sandwich (Without The Tampon), both of which feature ingredients you definitely won’t find in the prison system (that’s a good thing). On the flip side, the cookbook is cluttered with OITNB photos, quotes, and other ephemera. It was sent with a flimsy plastic cafeteria tray, a plastic fork and knife, and a bunch of stickers, including one that proclaims, “I THREW MY PIE FOR YOU!”
eBay market value: $20 unsigned, $50 signed by one of the cast members. (Ours is unsigned.) [Laura M. Browning]
Item: A reusable bag and four branded glow sticks
Promoting: Nickelodeon’s “spooktacular line-up” of “spine-tingling adventures” this October.
Relevance: Solid. Nick’s viewers (a.k.a. kids) could use this bag and these glow sticks when they’re out trick-or-treating.
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 3. On one hand, who doesn’t have too many reusable bags already? On the other, this is one of those semi-nice ones that fits into its own even littler bag, lest its fabric mass become cumbersome. The glow sticks are also nice enough, though, having no kids and not being into DMT, it’s hard to imagine using them any time soon.
eBay market value: This package hasn’t actually popped up on eBay, so it’s hard to say. Given that this much jazzier SpongeBob SquarePants reusable tote goes for $7.99, maybe $5? [Marah Eakin]
Item: A martial arts-themed beer bottle koozy
Promoting: The Last Supper, a “martial arts saga from renowned director Lu Chuan.”
Relevance: No idea. Do they drink a lot of icy cold beer normally in martial arts sagas? Especially this one, which IGN says “chronicles the brutality of war and the devastation of betrayal”?
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 1. It’s a dumb beer koozy for a movie none of us have seen. We’ll be fine using a napkin, if anything.
eBay market value: Not surprisingly, this item isn’t on eBay, probably because you couldn’t make any money off it. $119.95 will get you a compact Last Supper-themed beer pong table, though. [Marah Eakin]
Item: Homemade strawberry jalapeño jam
Promoting: The Foxery, a band from Louisville, Kentucky.
Relevance: Unclear. The Foxery isn’t a jam band, instead describing itself as “indie/punk/whatever.” And the music that accompanied the jam was neither “spicy” nor “full of flavor,” which is how the band described the food product itself in a handwritten note. It was probably just a nice gesture to get our attention, and it worked.
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 5. We’re eating this shit. Here’s hoping it’s not poison.
eBay market value: This particular jam isn’t on eBay, understandably, but a 20-ounce jar of a similar “Amish Made” jam goes for about $10. [Marah Eakin]
Item: A fast-food bag containing a stress ball that looks like french fries and a T-shirt wrapped up to look like a hamburger
Promoting: Wahlburgers, A&E’s “hit” show about a burger place owned by Mark, Donnie, and the other Wahlberg brother.
Relevance: The actual Wahlburgers restaurant in Hingham, Massachusetts sells both burgers and fries, and the Wahlbergs appear to wear T-shirts and ostensibly deal with stressful situations, so it seems legit.
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 2. The T-shirt feels starchy in a way that not even a good rinse cycle could banish, and while the stress fries are kind of cute, we’d rather stress-eat fries than stress-squish them.
eBay market value: The actual branded items aren’t on eBay, and shockingly, unbranded french fry stress balls don’t appear to be either. There are Wahlburgers screeners and sweatshirts listed, though, for $8 and $20, respectively. [Marah Eakin]
Item: A Columbia fleece jacket
Relevance: Several of the crunchy, Earth-conscious characters on the IFC series would probably wear an item like this, and Columbia’s based in Oregon. There’s also a little silver bird hanging from the zipper, keeping the jacket totally true to the “put a bird on it” lifestyle.
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 5. This thing’s warm as hell, and while we wouldn’t necessarily consider ourselves “fleece people,” the jacket’s nice to have around the cold, cold office.
eBay market value: There are a lot of Portlandia-themed clothing items on eBay, but none of them are made of fleece, something that seems like a real lost opportunity for all those bootleggers out there. A similar-looking Columbia jacket goes for anywhere from $10 to $40, though, depending on wear, style, and color. [Marah Eakin]
Item: A rock—sorry, a Green Aventurine Stone Of Prosperity
Promoting: A.V. Fest/Hideout Block Party 2014 artist Valerie June’s album Pushin’ Against A Stone.
Relevance: The stone, which comes with a card explaining which elements (water, earth) and chakras (heart) it corresponds with, is in keeping with June’s general hippie-dippie vibe, if not the letter of the title track itself, which is about ending a relationship that has run its course.
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 2. We’re feeling pretty “confident” and “optimistic” at the moment, both qualities that are supposedly encouraged by doing… something (we’re not sure what) with the stone. Better keep it just in case.
eBay market value: The average tumbled green aventurine stone goes for between $2 and $4 on eBay, the value of said stone appearing to increase with the keyword “Wicca” attached. [Katie Rife]
Item: A bloody rabbit’s foot keychain
Promoting: The movie The Bunnyman Massacre.
Relevance: As far as we can tell without actually watching the movie Bunnyman Massacre, practically nil. It’s the bunny that’s doing the killing, not being killed, and although cannibalism does seem to be a major plot point a la The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the meat on the menu is human.
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 1. It’s like something from one of those 50-cent supermarket vending machines, but with red tempera paint on it. It doesn’t even appear to be a real rabbit’s foot, for better or for worse.
eBay market value: The price of real rabbit’s foot keychains varies wildly on eBay—some sellers are asking for $4 for a set of five, while others are asking $8.50 for a single foot. As for bloody rabbit’s feet, there aren’t any currently for sale, so it’s difficult to say. [Katie Rife]
Item: Monogrammed medical case
Promoting: The Knick.
Relevance: Part of a swag trend that made watching every new 2014 series tantamount to cosplay and/or an alternate reality game, this handsome, cherrywood (or convincingly faux-cherrywood) case provides its recipient with the tools of the trade at New York’s fictional Knickerbocker Hospital. Contained within is a letter—dated November 7, 1901—from Dr. John Thackery (played by Clive Owen in the series), welcoming the Knick’s newest resident surgeon in convincingly authentic handwriting. In fact, the least authentic part of the package is its other contents, like prop bottles of spirit of turpentine (“Slays intestinal parasites” begins the label) and Emerson’s Emetic, and a USB-drive syringe which provides plenty of background information and none of the pleasing sting of Thackery’s favorite poison: “The miracle drug Cocaine,” as described in the welcome letter.
Item quality on a scale of 1 to 5: 4, because the one legitimately potent item within, a bar of soap labeled “Carbolic Antiseptic Scrub,” fills the entire case with the nose-hair-singeing scent of tar.
eBay market value: N/A, as none are currently listed on the auction site. Presumably, the personalized elements and/or the smell of the soap completely negates the resale value. [Erik Adams]
Relevance: The ionizing radiation hazard symbol indicates that this Manhattan is separated from New York City by most of a continent: This is another package immersing critics in the world of a TV flashback, this time WGN’s Los Alamos-set period piece. Promotions for Manhattan leaned heavily on interpretations of World War II propaganda, and this set is no different, containing a sloganeering T-shirt, tin signs, and, most amusingly, a cookie whose icing advocates for food rationing. (The cookie is currently MIA, presumed eaten.) In an echo of the show’s paranoid Manhattan Project atmosphere, the footlocker also contains a war department ID badge for the recipient, complete with their LinkedIn profile photo, an addition that is in no way creepy.
Item quality on a scale of 1 to 5: 3. The locker feels like it could withstand a nuclear blast, but what’s inside isn’t much good to those of us in pre-apocalypse society—unless your rec-room decor could use a hanging pick-me-up that reads “What you see here / What you do here / What you hear here / When you leave here / Let it stay here!”
eBay market value: Only the T-shirt appears to have made its way to the online auction block, with a $9 “buy it now” price that would tempt even the stingiest of Axis saboteurs. [Erik Adams]
Item: “Special brownie” with erotic artwork
Promoting: The home-video release of Date And Switch.
Relevance: With some three decades of earnest coming-of-age raunch in its blood, Date And Switch revolves around the virginity pact of two lifelong buddies—one of whom, it turns out, is gay. That revelation comes while friends Michael (Nicholas Braun) and Matty (Hunter Cope) are preparing a batch of pot brownies, to be eaten as a post-“losin’ it” celebration; later, to make up for the requisite second-act falling out, Michael ices the brownies with tiny cocks and tiny balls. This is, in fact, a brownie (intoxicant level undetermined) with fairly arrow-like phallic imagery, courtesy of Los Angeles’ Sweets For The Soul.
Item quality on a scale of 1 to 5: 3. Preserving the item for posterity means its taste factor is unknown, but we’ll give this to Sweets For The Soul: That icing dick is really holding up.
eBay market value: Considering the narcotics allusion would put a big take-down-notice target on the item, we looked to Sweets For The Soul’s menu for more information. Individual brownies from Sweets For The Soul range from $3.60 (for brownie bliss) to $3.85 for more specialized items (like the Obama brownie, which seems like a nice tribute to the president, but could certainly read as more offensive than a snack topped with male genitalia.) [Erik Adams]
Item: A mouth guard and metal water bottle
Relevance: DirecTV’s shot at a prestige drama—it airs on the Audience Network, formerly Freeview and The 101 Network—Kingdom is like Friday Night Lights but in the world of mixed-martial arts. (It stars a buffed-up Jonas brother, too.) As promo items go, it doesn’t get much more relevant than this metal water bottle and Kingdom-branded mouth guard, because MMA guys totally drink water, and they totally wear mouth guards so they don’t get their teeth punched out.
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 3. Re-usable water bottles are good for the environment, and this one won’t be too embarrassing to carry since it’s advertising a show that nobody’s ever heard of anyway. (It is black, though, with a matte finish, which seems unnecessarily badass for a water bottle.) Then there’s the mouth guard, which has “KINGDOM” printed on the front, to presumably scare your opponents by showing them that you’re savvy enough to have chosen DirecTV instead of cable.
eBay market value: Currently there are none of the mouth guards up for sale on eBay, though it appears that other outlets received Kingdom-branded towels and/or gym bags along with their water bottles. The former went for about $10, while the latter is going to fetch $30 or more. [Josh Modell]
Item: Action figures
Promoting: The Awesomes and Mike Tyson Mysteries.
Relevance: Action figures are the go-to swag item for cartoons, which makes perfect sense, as those two things have gone hand-in-hand forever. Even better when the shows being represented are mostly aimed at adults, as is the case with both the Awesomes figure—of Prock, a.k.a. Dr. Jeremy Awesome—and Mike Tyson, a.k.a. the former heavyweight champ, once disgraced, now starring in a cartoon about pigeons and solving mysteries. (Let’s pause to consider what a weird place the world is.)
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 4. These are very nice action figures, though the Mike Tyson one doesn’t really look too much like the real Tyson, in spite of the matching facial tattoo. They’re both manufactured by Emce Toys, and each stands about 6 inches tall. They’re not cheap looking.
eBay market value: Each is going for about $30 at the moment. [Josh Modell]
Item: Gift box, card, and conversation hearts
Promoting: House Of Cards season two.
Relevance: This box is less a useful gathering of swag and more of a fancified press release, but it is nice looking. It comes with an embossed card reading “Roses are red, violets are blue / Netflix invites you to watch season two” and a specially printed cloth bag filled with “conversation hearts”—those little crunchy Valentine’s Day candies that normally say things like “be mine.” These have Kevin Spacey-inspired messages like “one bite at a time,” “F.U.,” and “Hunt Or Be Hunted.”
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 2. You might want to look at it for a few minutes, but who eats those conversation hearts? The box and card are nice, but not “keep with your baby pictures” nice. Frank would approve of throwing them away like so many former political allies.
eBay market value: None have appeared recently, which makes sense since these came out in February, and House Of Cards fervor has died down. We can’t imagine anybody paying more than $5, though. [Josh Modell]
Item: Creepy Tim Heidecker sleep mask
Promoting: Tim And Eric’s Bedtime Stories.
Relevance: Super relevant. The show is called Bedtime Stories, and this is a sleep mask. It’s also supposed to be both scary and funny, and a sleep mask featuring somebody else’s eyes on the outside will be funny to you and absolutely chilling for the person who sees you in it, especially if they’ve just woken up. We only got the Tim one, but there’s an Eric one out there as well.
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 4, higher for a big fan. We won’t wear it, but we’ll cherish it, and we hope we can score an Eric mask to complete the set and display in our trophy case.
eBay market value: A pair went recently for $50. The last Tim was at $12, while an Eric got up to $26. [Josh Modell]