Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Trading Stamps

   Today we have rewards on our credit cards, clip coupons, or go online and click a discount symbol, before we go shopping at the supermarket, to save a little money. We don't always use the weekly offerings as we can frequently find similar items in the store that are cheaper than the item with the coupon.
   The money saving ways in earlier days were trading stamps. Little stamps you pasted in a book and saved until you had enough to go shopping in special stamp premium redemption stores.
   Interestingly enough, trading stamps caught on first with chain gasoline stations, about 1910 in Canada, then spread to the US, with their new chain supermarkets, during the 1920s.
   The stamps were only issued to cash customers. Customers who ran credit accounts and paid once a month mounted a loud vocal complaints as to unfair marketing practices. In the 1930s, the stamp companies began giving the stamps to all, no matter what method of payment was used.
   The little stamps were a big hit with customers and by 1957 there were over 200 different trading stamp companies operating in the United States. They supported 250,000 firms that were using a stamp program to attract consumers.
   The monetary value of the little stamp was about a hundredth of a mill, or 1 stamp for every ten cents of purchase. The books held 1200 stamps, which equaled $120 in premium value.
   Sperry & Hutchinson's Trading Company issued their first stamps in 1896. Those became the largest and most famous, S&H Green Stamps. The company with its little green stamp continued in operation until 1986.
   Other well know trading stamps were Top Value (used by Kroger), Blue Chip, and Gold Bond. Eagle Stamps was the last company to issue stamps. They closed their doors in 2008, which gives us over a century of saving trading stamps for premiums.
   The only stamp redemption store I was ever in was located in Lexington, KY. I remember you had to show your filled books to a doorman to be admitted. Then inside there were aisles and walls loaded with all kinds of merchandise, much like a modern Wal Mart or in combination with Lowe's because there were large and small appliances, carpeting, clothing, nick-knacks, garden tools, etc.
  I still have and use the electric hand-held Sunbeam mixer I got with my little book. The interesting not is in a regular store it was priced at $10.99, by using trading stamps, which were free, people thought they were saving money. On the other hand, maybe I did save money, because it has given good service for over forty years.
   Not long ago I noticed the Internet listed books of the little stamps for sale at Southey's (auction house in New York City) for more than their original value and full sheets of the unused little stamps commanded a premium price.

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