- Trading stamp
Trading stamps are small paper
coupons given to customers by merchants. These stamps have no value individually, but when a customer saves up a certain number of them, they can be exchanged with the trading stamp company for other merchandise.
The practice started in the 1890s, at first given only to customers who paid for purchases in
cash, to reward those who did not purchase on credit. It grew with the spread of chain gasoline stations in the early 1910s and then the new industry of chain supermarkets in the 1920s, and merchants found it more profitable to award them to all customers. Trading stamps were at their most popular from the 1930s through the 1960s.
An example of the value of trading stamps would be during the 1970s and 1980s where the typical rate issued by a merchant was one stamp for each 10¢ of merchandise purchased. A typical book took approximately 1200 stamps to fill, or the equivalent of US $120.00 in purchases.
United States, the most popular brand of trading stamps was " S&H Green Stamps", sometimes informally simply known as " Green stamps". Other larger brands included " Top Value Stamps", "Gold Bond Stamps", " Plaid Stamps", " Blue Chip Stamps", and " Gold Strike Stamps." " Texas Gold Stamps" were given away in their namesake state mainly by the HEBgrocery store chain, and Mahalo stamps in Hawaii.
Merchants would pay a stamp company for the stamps, and then would advertise that they gave away stamps with purchases. The intent of this was to get customers to be loyal to the merchant, so that they would continue shopping there in order to get enough stamps to redeem it for merchandise.
Often customers would fill books with stamps, and take filled books to a stamp company store to redeem it for items. Books could also be sent to the stamp company in exchange for merchandise via
At the start of the 1960s, the S&H Green Stamps company boasted that it printed more of its stamps each year than the number of
postage stamps printed by the US government.
By the 1960s, trading stamps had spread to other countries. Entrepreneur
Richard Tompkinsestablished Green Shield Stampsin the United Kingdom(independent of S&H Green Stamps, but with a similar trademark,) selling stamps at filling stations, and signing up Tescosupermarkets to the franchise in 1963.Cite web
title=Tompkins, (Granville) Richard Francis (1918–1992)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press
author=Richard Davenport-Hines] By 1965, the
British co-operative movementwas offering trading stamps as a new means of allocating patronage dividends to its consumer members. [Cite news
title=Rear window: In the grip of Green Shield mania
The Independent on Sunday] [Cite web
title=CORPORATE STRATEGY IN UK FOOD RETAILING, 1980-2002
quote=Tesco...signed up with Sperry & Hutchinson, issuer of Green Shield stamps, in 1963 and became one of that company’s largest clients.] [Cite web
title=Our history: 1951–2000
The Co-operative Group
quote=1965 Dividend Stamps introduced as an alternative to the traditional methods of paying the 'divi', and as a response to the adoption of trading stamps by other food retailers; individual societies operated their own stamp schemes. CWS launched the national Dividend Stamp scheme in 1969.
It is generally presumed as a result of serious inflation starting in the 1970s trading stamps became less common as merchants discontinued offering them as a means to cut costs. Their role has been subsumed by rewards programs offered by
credit cardcompanies and other loyalty programs, such as grocery "Preferred Customer" cards.
Modern cultural references
The plot of a well known episode of "
The Brady Bunch" ("54-40 and Fight", 1970) revolved around the children bickering over what to do with all of the trading stamps they had collected (many of which Alice had saved up) since the trading stamp company was going out of business and all the stamps needed to be redeemed that day. The boys wanted to trade them in for a row boat, and the girls wanted a sewing machine. A contest was held between the boys and the girls involving building a house of cards, which the girls won. After going to the store to trade in for their sewing machine, the girls returned home with a new color television, much to the delight of the boys.
The musical parodist
Allan Shermanhad a song "Green Stamps" (to the tune of "Green Eyes," on his album "Allan in Wonderland", 1964) in which the singer describes buying immense quantities of unneeded groceries in the desire to collect trading stamps.
An episode of the sitcom
Everybody Hates Chriscenters in part around Chris' father running to redeem the trading stamps before the Trading Stamp Company closes.
An episode of
The SimpsonsTelevision show (Season 8 - Homer Phobia) features a "Johnny Reb" figure that Marge cherishes as a family heirloom. The family visits an antique store to sell the figure. The clerk (Voiced by John Waters) informs the family that it is not an antique, but a novelty liquor bottle, "two books of green stamps, if I'm not mistaken." Les Belles-Soeurs, an important Révolution tranquilleplay by Québécois Michel Tremblay, features a group of women sticking Gold Stamps in booklets as its setting.
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