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Trading stamp

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Title: Trading stamp  
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Subject: Green Shield Stamps, Loyalty program, Payback (loyalty card), Legal Sea Foods, Coupon
Collection: Cinderella Stamps, Customer Loyalty Programs
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Trading stamp

Trading stamps are small paper coupons given to customers by merchants in loyalty marketing programs that predate the modern loyalty card. Like the similarly-issued retailer coupons, these stamps only had a minimal cash value of a few mils (thousandths of a dollar) individually, but when a customer accumulated a number of them, they could be exchanged with the trading stamp company (usually a third-party issuer of the stamps) for premiums, such as toys, personal items, housewares, furniture and appliances.

Gold Bond trading stamps were dispensed in strips at the time of purchase and pasted into books for saving.


  • History 1
  • Modern cultural references 2
  • See also 3
  • References and sources 4


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.

L. H. Parke, a Philadelphia and Pittsburgh manufacturer and distributor of food products, including coffees, teas, spices, and canned goods, set up a trading stamp program in 1895 under the name Parke's Blue Point Trading Stamps for customers who purchased Parke's products in local retail grocery stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The program was very successful. Parke set up viewing rooms where retail customers could inspect and obtain various premium goods in their headquarters buildings in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

It grew with the spread of chain gasoline stations in the early 1910s and the then-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.

Plaid Stamps sign at Cracker Barrel restaurant in Lubbock, Texas

In the 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", "Buccaneer Stamps", and "Gold Strike Stamps". "Texas Gold Stamps" were given away in their namesake state mainly by the H-E-B grocery store chain, and Mahalo stamps in Hawaii.

Merchants would pay a third-party trading stamp company for the stamps, and then would advertise that they gave away trading stamps with purchases. The intent of this was to get customers to be loyal to the merchant, so that they would continue shopping there to obtain enough stamps to redeem for merchandise. Customers would fill books with stamps, and take the books to a trading stamp company redemption center to exchange them for premiums. Books could also be sent to the trading stamp company in exchange for premium merchandise via mail order catalogs.

In the early 1960s, the S&H Green Stamps company boasted that it printed more stamps annually than the number of postage stamps printed by the US government.

By the 1960s, trading stamps had spread to other countries. Entrepreneur Richard Tompkins established Green Shield Stamps in the United Kingdom (independent of S&H Green Stamps, but with a similar trademark), selling stamps at filling stations, and signing up Tesco supermarkets to the franchise in 1963.[1] By 1965, the British co-operative movement was offering trading stamps as a new means of allocating patronage dividends to its consumer members.[2][3][4]

The bottom fell out of the trading stamp business in 1965, when many supermarkets stopped issuing stamps altogether and started spending more money to advertise lower prices.[5] Their role has been subsumed by rewards programs offered by credit card companies and other loyalty programs, such as grocery "Preferred Customer" cards.

Modern cultural references

A British trading stamp collecting book from the mid twentieth century.
  • Philip K. Dick wrote several novels set in a future society where trading stamps have replaced currency, among which Galactic Pot-Healer, and Nicholas and the Higs (one of his several early, unpublished novels).
  • In "Stamp Scamp", episode 20 of the TV cartoon The Yogi Bear Show that originally aired October 7, 1961, Chopper gives Yakky a trading stamp so his book will be completely filled, but the wind keeps blowing the stamp away from them.
  • In 1964, musical parodist Allan Sherman had a song "Green Stamps", to the tune of "Green Eyes," on his album Allan in Wonderland in which the singer describes buying immense quantities of unneeded groceries in the desire to collect trading stamps.
  • In "54-40 and Fight", episode 15 of the TV sitcom The Brady Bunch that originally aired January 9, 1970, the girls and boys fight over 94 books of trading stamps, each wanting to trade them in for different premiums. Furthermore, they must decide in short order since the trading stamp company is going out of business. After attempts to reach a compromise fail (the boys want a rowboat, the girls want a sewing machine), neither side will give in. Carol and Mike allow their children to compete to build a house of cards with the winner to decide. The girls win, but their sense of compromise eventually prevails when they buy a portable color television set.
  • In "Just a Lunch", episode 17 of the TV sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show the originally aired January 16, 1971, Mary receives free trading stamps from a date. She ends up saying that she will use her six books of trading card stamps on a baseball mitt for her nephew's birthday.
  • In "The Merger", episode 76 of the TV sitcom Sanford and Son that originally aired December 20, 1974, Fred watches a car dealership TV commercial. They offer Blue Chip Stamps to anyone who makes an offer on a car. Fred calls and makes a very small offer just to be able to get trading stamps — a pile of them are seen near the phone. At the end Fred is at the kitchen table sorting all of the trading stamp books he's collected.
  • In SFA'S Atomic Mouse issue 3 published in 2001, Atomic Mite creates a real version of comic book superhero Jackal Lantern and is tricked into covering himself in Plaid trading stamps to send him home. (Plaid trading stamps was a loyalty program of A&P supermarkets.)
  • "Everybody Hates a Liar", episode 4 of the TV sitcom Everybody Hates Chris that originally aired October 23, 2006, centers in part around Chris' father running to redeem the trading stamps before the trading stamp company closes. Julius wants to get something fun with his trading stamps, but Rochelle wants a new refrigerator.

See also

References and sources

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Lonto 2004c.
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