The special products were in addition to numerous items from the Sun's busy promotions department, including Sun T-shirts, jackets, caps, toques, coffee cups, coasters, SUNShine Girl calendars etc.
Most of the special event products were limited edition creations presented only to Toronto Sun employees, while the promotional items could be purchased by the public or won in contests.
Ask veteran Sun staffers and former staffers for their favourite piece of Sun memorabilia and chances are they will name one of two items.
The first: A 1986 collector plate marking the first 15 years of the Toronto Sun, featuring a painting by Andy Donato and titled The Toronto Sun - 15 Great Years. Only 900 were made and distributed to employees.
The second: A round, brass Seiko Quartz alarm clock distributed to employees in April of 1986 to celebrate a daily circulation of over 300,000. The clock is still a topic of conversation, mostly by owners asking where a replacement battery can be purchased. (Radio Shack.)
Andy Donato says veteran Sun staffer Joe Duffy posed as the Sun reader for the collector plate painting and a "great old guy" named John posed as the executive peering over Joe's shoulder.
"John was a messenger in the advertising department," says Andy. "He was a retired executive and had more great suits than the prime minister."
Joe Duffy not only got one of the 900 collector plates, Andy gave him the original painting, which now hangs on a wall at his home.
Andy says the 1986 plate was only one of several special products projects Doug Creighton requested.
"Dianne (Andy's artist wife Dianne Jackson) and I combined to do a litho of the Clivedon House in England for one of Doug's famous seminars. They were limited to 88, I believe. I also did original lithos of King Street, Eaton Centre, the Sea Ray Restaurant, the old newsy at Yonge and Adelaide - all done for different occasions."
The circular brass-plated Seiko clock was also a quality product, with a roll-down front protective cover. On the cover: "The Toronto Sun - April, 1986 - 300,056. "
Another favourite memento is a litho created for the Toronto Sun's 20th anniversary in 1991, with the names of all employees and colourful sketches of staffers in their various work environments by veteran Sun artist Pam Davies.
Meanwhile, back in the Sun's promotions department . . .
During the 1970s and 1980s newsroom reign of Les Pyette, readers winning contests were awarded Sun T-shirts in summer months and a "snappy Sun toque" during the winter.
Those were the days when readers were royalty. They were invited to Sun parties. They were encouraged to call the Sun and write letters to the editor. They were part of the Sun Family.
Collectively, the special products for employees and Sun merchandise for readers track the rise of the Little Paper That Grew. Looking at them, you can sense the positive mood of the tabloid in the 1970s and 1980s.
We had something to sing about and we did to a 1978 two-sided 45, with The Little Paper That Grew on one side and The Little Paper That Grew - Disco Version on the flip side,with music and lyrics by Griffiths-Gibsons Production.
Another novelty item from the 1980s is a coaster set, with different front pages on each of the coasters, beginning with Day 1 and the "$10M Goof" headline. Other coaster front pages reflect the growth of the Sun: May 1973 - 100,000 (daily); October 1975 - 200,000 (Sunday) on up to November 1980 - 401,206 (Sunday).
(Speaking of the first edition of the Sun from Nov. 1, 1971, it is more difficult to find than the last edition of the Toronto Telegram published two days earlier. Collectors are paying more than $30 for a rare first Sun, while the plentiful final Tely can be had for under $10.)
Among the few surviving promotional products offered to readers in the 21st century is the annual SUNShine Girl Calendar.
Perhaps a Sun crying towel would be an appropriate special product for today's staff.