In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s many women, including my mother, collected S&H Green Stamps and other trading stamps. Supermarkets, some of the 5&10 chains, gas stations and some shops gave out the stamps every time you made a purchase. They came in denominations of one, ten and fifty. We got most of our Green Stamps from the grocery store.
We pasted the stamps in little books that the supermarket gave away for free. It was my job to put the stamps in the books. They were the “lick and stick” type of stamps, I remember that glue, it tasted terrible. My mother carefully stored the books away in a kitchen drawer until she had enough filled books saved to redeem for something she wanted.
The stamp companies put out catalogs containing all sorts of items you could get with your filled stamp books; the Green Stamp catalog was called “The Idea Book.” The “cost” of the items was listed in filled and partial books. So many filled stamp books for a blender or electric frying pan, so many for a toaster, so many books for a hair dryer, so many books for a lamp, so many books for a fan. Women would save up stamp books for years to accumulate enough to get the items they wanted. Most married suburban women did not work outside the home in the 1950s and early 1960s, and did not have an income of their own. Collecting trading stamps gave them a way to obtain items they wanted or needed, independent of their husbands.
Different supermarkets and shops gave out different kinds of stamps. For example, A&P had its own program called “Plaid Stamps.” If you lived in a town large enough to have more than one supermarket, you tried to make all your purchases at the store that gave out the kind of stamps you were collecting. Women would trade different kinds of stamps among themselves. If you didn’t normally shop at the A&P, but happened to do so one time and got some Plaid Stamps, you might trade these to your neighbor or a relative who collected Plaid Stamps but not Green Stamps, and had some Green Stamps she wanted to give up. My mother traded stamps with her friends all the time. Women would also help each other out by giving them filled stamp books. My grandmother would often give my mother filled books to help her get things she needed.
My mother saved stamps for almost two years to redeem for a white RCA table radio for the kitchen. That was in 1959. I also remember she got a KitchenAid stand mixer in the mid-1960s with Green Stamps.
When I got my first apartment in the early 1970s, the supermarket near me gave out Green Stamps. I collected enough to redeem for a hair dryer. The hair dryer cost 2 ½ books of stamps, and it took me the better part of a year to accumulate enough.
Diane T. from NY sent this comment: Going to the stamp redemption center was such a big deal when I was a kid! We loved looking through the catalogs at all the things we wished we had enough stamps to get–and when Mom finally had enough filled books to get something new for the house we felt so lucky. I remember my mother taking the bus across town to shop at a supermarket that gave out more Green Stamps per dollar spent than the store closest to our house.
E. S. from Connecticut sent this comment: We lived near Waterbury, CT when I was growing up. There were two gas stations in our very small town. One gave Green Stamps and the other gave some other kind of stamps, Plaid Stamps, I think. My mother always bought gas at the station that gave Green Stamps, and insisted my father fill up the car there too. She got a new iron and electric frying pan with her Green Stamps. It was a big deal to get new things for the house back then.
Editor’s Note: For more S&H Green Stamp memories, also see the “Do You Remember?” page on our site: http://americansremember.com/?page_id=206
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