Glasses. Bowls. Toys. Do you remember Green Stamps?
Whenever she went grocery shopping when I was growing up, Mom brought home pages of Green Stamps.
I helped her by licking them and putting them in the Green Stamp books. She let me look through the catalogs of things we could buy with the redeemed books.
I don’t know how much Christmas shopping she did with them, but they were a nice supplement, like a discount or money back, for her weekly allowance for groceries.
Looking through the catalog was even better than the Sears catalog, because we had the money invested in the stamp books already and could estimate when we would have enough to buy something.
Officially, they were called S&H Green Stamps, after the Sperry & Hutchinson Company that invented them in 1896.
The S&H Company sold them to retailers, like grocery stores, gas stations and department stores, who then distributed them to customers, as a bonus, at a rate of stamps per dollar purchase that each store set themselves.
S&H then determined the number of books required for purchase of their catalog merchandise.
The stamps grew in popularity from the 1930s until their peak in the 1960s. By then their catalog was the largest publication in the U.S. and the company produced three times more stamps than the U.S. Post Office.
Where Are They Now?
The recessions of the 1970s curtailed the use of the stamps. Sperry & Hutchinson was sold in 1981 and now offers S&H Greenpoints for online sales.
Its sales and incentives division continued to sell its training program until it was bought out in 2006 and the buyer went bankrupt.
In 2001, you could still redeem books of stamps for cash or merchandise at a retail value of $1.20.
A 2002 article says the S&H catalogs are a collector’s item, but also valuable for identifying, not the collectible price, but the names of things that might now have collectible value.
Today, you can redeem books of stamps for cash or online Greenpoints. Click here for instructions on how to redeem your paper stamps.
What Did People Buy?
A trip to Disneyland, a school bus for deaf children, a grandchild’s rocking chair. All are memories of purchases from people whose parents saved Green Stamps. Click here to read more.
College towels and linens. China.
One hitchhiker hand-printed a sign saying, “I give Green Stamps.” He raided his Mom’s green stamp stash and never had to wait long for a ride.
Apparently, it’s a generational thing. If you came of age after the 60s, when Green Stamps were given out in fewer and fewer stores, nostalgia for licking Green Stamps is not part of your culture.
That’s what Tom Tryon, a journalist at the Sarasota, Florida, Herald Tribune found out when he assumed everyone in his office knew about Green Stamps.
We bought kitchen appliances and tools. If my Mom bought toys with them for our Christmas presents, we weren’t part of the selection process.
Why Were They Successful?
What are some of the elements you most remember about saving Green Stamps?
- Shared activity
- Joint decision-making
- Savings over time
- Free money
It was often a shared activity between adults and the children in a family. Children were usually asked to lick the stamps and put them in the books.
Children were often given some say over what was purchased. Catalog purchases were generally things you could not afford or would not choose to spend your limited budget on and children were often included in the purchase decisions for the family.
You could anticipate purchases in advance. This was an excellent lesson in planning because you could estimate, based on your buying history, about how long it would take to accumulate the books you needed for any given purchase.
Green Stamps seemed like free money, since they came with things you were going to buy anyway, like groceries.
For store owners, of course, they were an incentive to bring in more customers. Did customers calculate price differences compared to stamp redemption differences?
Do you still have any Green Stamp books from your Mom’s things?
Did you get to look through the catalog and help select things to buy?
Do you remember anything your parents bought with Green Stamps?
To you and teaching your grandchildren the joy of anticipation of something earned.
Carol Covin, Granny-Guru
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Do You Remember Green Stamps?