When kids sent in a nickel, along with 3 poofs of purchase from their favorite chocolate milk powder to radio station WTHX, they received the official Agent 236 Secret Society Manual and Secret Agent 236 Decoder Wheel. Inside the pages of the Secret Society Manual were the official secret password, the Agent 236 Golden Rules, and of course, instructions for using the Secret Decoder Wheel. At one point WTHX could not keep up with the demand.
Each week Agent 236 would give out a coded message. Only those boys and girls who had the special decoder wheel could decipher the message. Although the decoder wheel was primarily kid's toy, many adults joined in the fun as well. Soon, the entire nation had decoder wheels.
Nowadays, the decoder wheel, and accompanying manual are highly sought after collector items. They can be found on eBay for thousands of dollars. These two items are far more rare than the Orphan Annie Decoder Wheel (as seen in A Christmas Story), or the Captain Midnight Decoder Badge. The movie Curse of the Phantom Shadow features a decoder wheel moment inspired by the original secret decoder badge. Unfortunately, director/producer Mark Ross was unable to procure an actual original decoder wheel. He commissioned a prop company to make a new one just for the film. He had the wheel enlarged so that the audience could watch the decoding process.
Later, after the film wrapped photography, Mark Ross was presented an actual Agent 236 Decoder Wheel, which has become one of his most cherished possessions.