A showbag is a themed bag of commercial products, novelty item
s and promotional merchandise
, usually made available for purchase. It is a distinctive feature of
Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. With an area of , Australia is the largest country b ...
An agricultural show is a public event exhibiting the equipment, animals, sports and recreation associated with agriculture and animal husbandry. The largest comprise a livestock show (a judged event or display in which breeding stock is exhibi ...
s (the Australian equivalent of state fair
s or travelling carnival
s), where they are sold from stalls; they can also be found at exhibitions, festivals and fundraising events. Showbags are unique to Australia.
Showbags were once known as "sample bags" as they originally contained product sample
s of household goods such as soap or canned foods, produced by a single vendor or a group of vendors.
[ Such sample bags were originally given away free of charge or carried only a nominal price in order to promote brand awareness.] [
The first "showbag", a bag of ] coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as rock strata called coal seams. Coal is mostly carbon with variable amounts of other elements, chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen.
Coal is formed when de ..., was given away for free to all visitors at the inaugural Brisbane Ekka in 1876; however, only from 1902 were stallholders allowed to start giving out samples. An IXL sample bag from 1933 contained tomato sauce, canned fruits, baked beans or spaghetti in a can and a ruler, all for 9 pence
A penny is a coin ( pennies) or a unit of currency (pl. pence) in various countries. Borrowed from the Carolingian denarius (hence its former abbreviation d.), it is usually the smallest denomination within a currency system. Presently, it is th ... ($3.90 in 2020); this allowed families during the Great Depression
The Great Depression (19291939) was an economic shock that impacted most countries across the world. It was a period of economic depression that became evident after a major fall in stock prices in the United States. The economic contagion ... to fill up their pantries for very little. [ Visitors at the 1954 ] Sydney Royal Easter Show
First held in 1823, the Sydney Royal Easter Show, commonly shortened to The Easter Show or The Show, is an annual Show (fair), show held in Sydney, Australia over two weeks around the Easter period. It comprises an agricultural show, an amusement ... could buy a Planters sample bag containing potato chips
A potato chip (North American English; often just chip) or crisp (British and Irish English) is a thin slice of potato that has been either deep fried, baked, or air fried until crunchy. They are commonly served as a snack, side dish, or ap ..., potato straws, peanuts, toffee, honeycomb and a lollipop for 3 shillings ($5.36 in 2020). [ Toys would sometimes be included in the sample bags, but often they would be secondary to the product samples.]
By the 1970s, the sample bag had evolved into the confectionary and merchandise-filled showbags known today. [
Pricing and contents
Compared to the practice of giving away sample bags for free or at very low cost in the past, showbags in the late-2010s were commonly priced in the $5 to $30 range, up from a typical maximum of $20 during the previous decade.
[ A showbag containing premium products can cost a hundred dollars or more,] while the classic Bertie Beetle showbag has been sold for $2 for more than three decades. [ In 2008, a $10,000 "showbag" containing a freezer of beef and a fridge with 100 bottles of beer was offered at the Royal Melbourne Show.] The rising cost of showbags is often identified as a major negative aspect of shows. Despite this, it is generally assumed that the total retail value of the individual contents of a showbag will exceed the price charged for the package.
Most showbags are marketed towards children, containing toy
A toy or plaything is an object that is used primarily to provide entertainment. Simple examples include toy blocks, board games, and dolls. Toys are often designed for use by children, although many are designed specifically for adults and pe ...s, sweets and chocolate
Chocolate is a food made from roasted and ground cacao seed kernels that is available as a liquid, solid, or paste, either on its own or as a flavoring agent in other foods. Cacao has been consumed in some form since at least the Olmec ci .... Other common showbag items include clothing such as hats, socks and T-shirts, backpacks, drinking cups and mugs, posters and stationery. Comic book
A comic book, also called comicbook, comic magazine or (in the United Kingdom and Ireland) simply comic, is a publication that consists of comics art in the form of sequential juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes. Panels are oft ...s were frequently included in showbags in the 1970s and 1980s, but the practice has declined since. A number of showbags are marketed to the adult consumer, with themes including cosmetics, fashion, fitness and health, premium confectionery and gourmet food, and even adult toys. Showbags themed around movies such as '' Ghostbusters
''Ghostbusters'' is a 1984 American supernatural comedy film directed and produced by Ivan Reitman, and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. It stars Bill Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis as Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Egon Spengler, thr ...'', '' Top Gun
''Top Gun'' is a 1986 American action drama film directed by Tony Scott, produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, with distribution by Paramount Pictures. The screenplay was written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr., and was inspired by a ...'', or '' Back to the Future'', or television shows such as '' The Simpsons'', '' The Big Bang Theory'', '' Friends
''Friends'' is an American television sitcom created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, which aired on NBC from September 22, 1994, to May 6, 2004, lasting ten seasons. With an ensemble cast starring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Li ...'' or '' The Office'' are generally targeted at adult fans of those properties. An adult marketed showbag may also include discount voucher
A voucher is a bond of the redeemable transaction type which is worth a certain monetary value and which may be spent only for specific reasons or on specific goods. Examples include housing, travel, and food vouchers. The term voucher is also a ...s that can be redeemed at the vendor's business at a later date. [ Showbags often contain exclusive merchandise and items; ] Nestlé
Nestlé S.A. (; ; ) is a Swiss multinational food and drink processing conglomerate corporation headquartered in Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland. It is the largest publicly held food company in the world, measured by revenue and other metrics, since ...'s Bertie Beetle chocolate bar
A chocolate bar ( Commonwealth English) or candy bar (some dialects of American English) is a confection containing chocolate, which may also contain layerings or mixtures that include nuts, fruit, caramel, nougat, and wafers. A flat, easily b ... was generally only available to the public in a showbag from the 1970s to 2018.
Common themes for showbags include confectionery brands such as Cadbury
Cadbury, formerly Cadbury's and Cadbury Schweppes, is a British multinational confectionery company fully owned by Mondelez International (originally Kraft Foods) since 2010. It is the second largest confectionery brand in the world after Mars ... or Chupa Chups, children's toy brands such as Barbie
Barbie is a fashion doll manufactured by American toy company Mattel, Inc. and launched on March 9, 1959. American businesswoman Ruth Handler is credited with the creation of the doll using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration ... or Hot Wheels
Hot Wheels is an American brand of scale model cars introduced by American toymaker Mattel in 1968. It was the primary competitor of Matchbox until 1997, when Mattel bought Tyco Toys, then owner of Matchbox.
Many automobile manufacturers have ..., and licensed properties such as Disney
The Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Disney (), is an American multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios complex in Burbank, California. Disney was originally founded on Octob ..., '' Star Wars
''Star Wars'' is an American epic space opera multimedia franchise created by George Lucas, which began with the eponymous 1977 film and quickly became a worldwide pop-culture phenomenon. The franchise has been expanded into various film ...'', '' Pokémon
(an abbreviation for in Japan) is a Japanese media franchise managed by The Pokémon Company, founded by Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures, the owners of the trademark and copyright of the franchise.
In terms of what each of those c ...'', '' Harry Potter
''Harry Potter'' is a series of seven fantasy novels written by British author J. K. Rowling. The novels chronicle the lives of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, all of whom are students at ...'', or DC and Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics is an American comic book publisher and the flagship property of Marvel Entertainment, a divsion of The Walt Disney Company since September 1, 2009. Evolving from Timely Comics in 1939, ''Magazine Management/Atlas Comics'' in 19 ... superheroes. Broad areas of children's play interest such as fairies, dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of reptiles of the clade Dinosauria. They first appeared during the Triassic period, between 243 and 233.23 million years ago (mya), although the exact origin and timing of the evolution of dinosaurs is th ...s or pirate
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat-borne attackers upon another ship or a coastal area, typically with the goal of stealing cargo and other valuable goods. Those who conduct acts of piracy are called pirates, v ...s are also common subjects for showbag themes, as well as international and domestic sporting teams. Showbags may also be created to cash in on current fad
A fad or trend is any form of collective behavior that develops within a culture, a generation or social group in which a group of people enthusiastically follow an impulse for a short period.
Fads are objects or behaviors that achieve short ...s and trends, as well as to promote recently released movies or television series. Others take on vague generic themes such as extreme sport
Action sports, adventure sports or extreme sports are activities perceived as involving a high degree of risk. These activities often involve speed, height, a high level of physical exertion and highly specialized gear. Extreme tourism overl ...s, teen culture or practical jokes. The 2008 Royal Melbourne Show had a David Hasselhoff-themed showbag offered for sale. [
The physical showbag itself is similar to a shopping bag and is usually made from plastic or heavy paper, and is printed with graphics promoting the theme or brand. Sometimes a backpack or tote bag may be used to hold the items instead, especially if such a bag is part of the showbag's contents.
Distribution and sales
Major showbag companies operating today include Hunter Leisure, Bensons Trading and Chicane Marketing, as well as other smaller companies.
[ Modern showbag companies seek out or are approached by established brands or vendors to create a branded showbag, or come up with a generic theme independently. The company then sources the contents of the showbag on their own, sometimes designing the included merchandise themselves. Assembly of the showbag is often done by a third party before final distribution to the show or event, where they are usually sold direct to the consumer by the showbag company.] [ Before sale to the public, the contents of a showbag come under the scrutiny of state government product safety inspectors, who review the contents of the bag and remove potentially dangerous items such as those that could cause eye injury or have small parts that could pose a choking hazard to children.] [
In 1971 the Sydney Royal Easter Show offered a selection of only around 30 different showbags; in 2012 there were 342 varieties for sale.] [ A major showbag company could expect to sell up to 500,000 showbags each year at the Royal Melbourne Show alone.] [ At the 2017 Brisbane Ekka, more than 250,000 Bertie Beetle showbags were sold.] [ Showbags were typically only available to people attending the shows, which in most places were only held once a year; however in the late-2010s showbags began to be sold online by showbag companies throughout the year and are able to be delivered direct to a customer's home, even internationally.]
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The novel virus was first identif ... cancelling many agricultural shows in Australia during 2020 and 2021, online retailers of showbags have reported a boom in trade, though online sales of showbags still lagged far behind of those sold at shows in previous years. [ Atypically, showbags were also sold in supermarkets and other brick and mortar stores after the cancellation of major shows in order to deal with the large surplus of stock. The pandemic also forced smaller showbag sellers in regional areas to tour country towns independently in order to continue trading.
After children aged 5 to 11 became eligible for ] COVID-19 vaccine
A COVID19 vaccine is a vaccine intended to provide acquired immunity against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2), the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 ( COVID19).
Prior to the COVID19 pandemic, an e ...s in January 2022, state vaccination hubs in Victoria gave out showbags to children receiving their COVID-19 vaccination.
Agricultural shows in Australia