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Green stamp memories

Moseyin’ Along

January 18, 2012
Long before the days of cash back bonuses, frequent flyer miles, extra bucks rewards or today’s myriad of other customer loyalty programs, there were S&H Green Stamps. Chances are, in your growing-up years, your family, like mine, had a place set aside for all the Green Stamps that came with purchases at the grocery, the gas station or the department store. In those days, it seemed Green Stamps were everywhere. When the subject came up recently in a conversation with a youngish pal, we began comparing our experiences with the magical little savings stamps. Although a generation apart, we both remember Green Stamps as an important part of our lives. Each of us recalled those long-ago “lick ‘em and stick ‘em” sessions, filling the stamp books from the accumulation our families had gathered on shopping trips. The end results of the activity were always a green tongue, sticky fingers and filled stamp books. Of course, the greatest challenge in completing those albums was filling the final page. When we got to that point, we’d rummage through kitchen drawers and anywhere else we could think of to locate the last few stamps. Finally, with that end-of-the-book green gem in place, we’d sit back with an air of satisfaction, realizing we were now in a position to reap the rewards of all that sticky work. At last, it was time to enjoy a browsing session through the temptations offered in the S&H Green Stamp catalog. In my growing-up years, as well as those of my young friend, this catalog shopping session was a family affair where everyone voiced their opinion on what the stamps should be traded for. With enough filled stamp books, we could get anything from toasters to tennis rackets, radios to roasting pans. Green Stamps, founded in 1896 by Thomas Sperry and Shelly Hutchinson, were the most popular trading stamps in the country from the 1930s to the late 1980s. According to an Internet history of the program, during the 1960s the rewards catalog printed by the company was the largest publication in the United States. And at the time, the company issued three times as many stamps as the U. S. Postal Service. Given that statistic, I think it’s safe to say Green Stamps found their way into every home in America. I remember how my sister, Lynn, and I worked to fill those little books as quickly as possible, dreaming of the day mom would take us to the Green Stamp store to trade our collection for some new treasures. Lynn’s favorite reward was a spiffy plastic radio for her bedroom. My special goal was to bring home the pink comb and brush set I had discovered in the tempting pages of the catalog. The S&H Green Stamp program was phased out at the end of the 1990s. Eventually, with the advent of the Internet, the program was modified and now offers “greenpoints” as rewards for online purchases. I’m sure those collecting this new wave of rewards are devoted to the system and what it can bring them. But, in my opinion, nothing can compare with those long-ago “lick ‘em and stick ‘em” sessions, browsing the catalog and, finally, trading the filled books for treasures at the old S&H Green Stamp store.


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