The No-Prize. A Marvel tradition.
The No-Prize originated as a joke, back in the early 60s, in Stan Lee's letters pages. He ran a poll or an essay contest, and indicated that there'd be "No Prize", since there'd be no winners. But the term stuck in his lexicon, and eventually, at about the same time that the Merry Marvel Marching Society was formed, Stan had a bunch of envelopes printed up like the one in the image beside this page, indicating that the recipient's No-Prize was inclosed. The envelopes, of course, were empty.
Stan would send these out to whomever he felt was worthy, for "meritorious service to the cause of Marveldom." Or, sometimes, he'd say he would be sending them out, and then would forget to do so. (He'd also get letters asking for an exchange from kids who didn't get the joke, and who thought their No-Prize must've fallen out of the envelope.) But there was never any rhyme or reason to how he distributed these things--it was just a fun little item.
Years later, Mark Gruenwald decided to regiment the conditions which qualified a person to recieve a No-Prize. Mark said that a No-Prize would be given for any letter writer who pointed out a mistake in a Marvel comic, and then explained why it wasn't actually a mistake. And he printed up a whole new batch of No-Prizes for the occasion.
No-Prize sending was never all that regular--it waxed and waned all through the years--but it pretty much stopped completely when Mark passed (though Stan apparently sent No-Prizes out to those letter writers who asked him a question that got printed in his Soapbox column in the late 90s.)
But now, with the ease of e-mail, sending out a No-Prize, digital style, is as easy as the click of a mouse key. And, like Stan, I think I'll be sending them out for whatever strikes my fancy, not through any regimented system.
So let the call go forth: No-Prizes are a'waitin' for the deserving!