From Mary Lou to MJ to Tiger: cllct ranks Top 10 Wheaties boxes

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of athletes appearing on Wheaties boxes, we rank the 10 most collectible

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Appearing on the cover of a Wheaties can validate an athlete's greatness.

Ninety years ago today, Lou Gehrig became the first athlete to appear on a box of Wheaties with the words “The Breakfast of Champions.”

The marketing strategy worked as the flake cereal rose to No. 1 in supermarkets. Over time, as more and more athletes graced the cardboard (they were on the front of the box for the first time in 1958), maker General Mills became very aware that these boxes were becoming collectible, and some buyers weren’t even eating the cereal inside.

As always, beware of reprints and replicas. Wheaties has brought back many of the classics. Spot the originals by matching up the year below on the copyright, and stay away from the 75th anniversary logos.

Wheaties boxes currently on eBay.

Here are our Top 10 Wheaties boxes.

1. Mary Lou Retton (1984)

This was the most talked about Wheaties box of all time. Retton landed perfect 10s and won five medals in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and became the first woman to grace a Wheaties box. The picture is amazing.

2. Michael Jordan (1988)

Like everything, Jordan changes the game. The number of variations and the print runs that were made proved Wheaties knew people were saving these things. When Jordan signed with the company in November 1988, Wheaties said the initial box run would be at least 12 million. As usual, you must get the OG version.

3. Caitlyn Jenner (1976)

There’s something so iconic about winning the Olympics and getting your Wheaties box — more than 70 Olympians have been featured on a box. Caitlyn Jenner, known then as Bruce Jenner, was widely recognized as the best athlete in the world after winning gold in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

4. Tiger Woods (1998)

Jordan was four years into his NBA career by the time he signed with Wheaties. Woods was less than two years into his pro career and had won only one major. The ability to score a young Tiger pic here, complete with a belt that doesn’t fit, certainly ramps up the collectibility.

5. Michael Jordan (1991)

This is the first box that was in the market when Jordan actually was an NBA champion, following the Bulls' victory over the Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals for the franchise's first title. Wheaties likely made more boxes with this image than any box in its history.

6. Walter Payton (1986)

Just the perfect athlete at the perfect time as Sweetness graced the box after the "Super Bowl Shuffle" Bears won the title in dominating fashion. Iconic uniform, iconic smile. Not gonna lie, the poster card of Payton inside is sweet.

7. “The Magnificent Seven” (1996)

The best team box is the 1996 women’s gymnastics team, featuring Kerri Strug all bandaged up. This is essentially Wheaties best “Dream Team” because the basketball “Dream Team” sold itself to General Mills competitor Kellogg’s for the 1992 Games.

8. Detroit Pistons (1989)

The original “Bad Boys” were the first championship team on a Wheaties box. While there’s an inclination to go with the Bulls championship boxes, I like the scarcity play here. Plus, the picture of Dennis Rodman in the middle gives me all the feels.

9. Dale Earnhardt (1997)

Wheaties was the original sports marketing validation. It validated athletes, and it validated sports leagues. Earnhardt’s appearance in 1997 said to the sports marketing world that NASCAR was to be taken seriously. It wasn’t just a cover, Wheaties actually sponsored his car for some races.

10. Cael Sanderson (2002)

Sanderson boasted a 159-0 record and four NCAA titles in his collegiate wrestling career (1998-2002) at Iowa State. Putting him on the Wheaties box was a cool move, and there’s a scarcity play here, too. Most of the boxes ended up in two places: Utah (where he wrestled in high school) and Iowa.

Darren Rovell is the founder of and one of the country's leading reporters on the collectible market. He previously worked for ESPN, CNBC and The Action Network.