Appreciating all that makes America special

Americana: Green Stamps

Sperry and Hutchinson started selling Green Stamps to merchants in the 1890s. They reached their peak of popularity in the 1950s and 60s. Uploaded by

In an attempt to keep this site from becoming “Great Nostalgic Things,” I try to keep a good balance between great things of today and of yesterday. So I apologize for those who are too young to know what Green Stamps were all about. Simply put, during they heyday in the 1950s and 60s, they were given by merchants (mostly grocers and gas stations – you may not know what those are, either) as a way to build customer loyalty.

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The store would give you so many stamps for each dollar purchased. You’d put those in special books, and then redeem the books for merchandise. A lamp for, say, seven books. A garden tool set for 21 books. A new Cadillac for 25,400 books. Okay, I made that up. But the Green Stamps catalog was the wish book of its era, and the challenge was to resist the temptation to buy the small things when you could keep saving for the big things.

The stamps were sold to merchants by Sperry & Hutchinson, so the S&H Green Stamps were the most popular type offered. Lots of competitors sprang up, I remember Gold Bond stamps in my household. The program faded away in the 1970s, though now many merchants use “points” in much the same way as Green Stamps were used a generation before.

But you can’t take your points down to the redemption center and get the garden tools. That particular thrill is gone forever.

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