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Stuck on green stamps

by | Jan 19, 2023 | Latest, Opinion

My mom and her mother saved 7-1/2 books to get us that swing set. Just three years before in 1966, my parents had saved to buy their first house. Money was tight, so, if my sister and I were going to have that new addition to the backyard, Green Stamps would be the key.

For families in America in the 60s and 70s, Green Stamps were part of life.

S&H Green Stamps are no longer available, but at their zenith, moms, children, and grandmothers, shopped at stores that offered Green Stamps as a way to make ends meet and have something to look forward to. If you saved enough Green Stamp books, you could buy just about anything you wanted with them.

According to a 2013 article by Greg Hatala at nj.com, the Sperry and Hutchinson Company was founded in 1896 by Thomas Sperry of Cranford and Shelley Byron Hutchinson of Ypsilanti, Michigan.

The company once claimed that they distributed three times more stamps than the U.S. Postal Service. The number of copies of their catalog and redemption books ranked them among the most printed pieces in America. And unlike postage stamps, you could cash their stamps in for anything from luggage, to a card table and chairs, to a TV, to furniture.

But how did Green Stamps work? How did Sperry and Hutchinson make any money?

Through grocery stores, gas stations, and other retail outlets, they created what we now call a rewards program.

They sold their stamps, certificates, and Saver Books (which held the stamps) to the retailers, who then would give a certain number of stamps to customers based on how much they spent. The person with the stamps would then look through the catalog, pick something out, and save their Green Stamps to get it.

S&H had about 600 stores across the country at its peak, with the closest one to my hometown being in Texarkana. You took your stamps to the store and used them like cash for your item.

Each Saver Book had 24 pages, and each page had 50 points to be filled. Green Stamps came in denominations worth 1, 10, and up, but each page had to be filled with stamps totaling 50 points.

My mom would cram the stamps in a drawer, and when the drawer got full we’d head to the Formica dinette table in the kitchen and begin to lick and stick the stamps.

About two pages in, I’d had enough and would try and find reasons to get out of licking. My mom would say that I didn’t have to do it, but when it came time to pick something out, I wouldn’t be participating if I quit.

By John Moore

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