Do you remember Green Stamps?

green stamps

Pasting stamps into this buy-hundreds-of-dollars'-worth-of-groceries-and-get-a-free-knife card got me to thinking about the Green Stamps we collected in my 1960s childhood at the Manse.

Pasting stamps into this buy-hundreds-of-dollars’-worth-of-groceries-and-get-a-free-knife card got me to thinking about the Green Stamps we collected in my 1960s childhood at the Manse.

The Foodland supermarket in Madoc (the town nearest the Manse in Queensborough) is encouraging people to shop there by giving customers stamps (one stamp per $10 spent, I believe) that you can paste on a card and, if you get enough, exchange for kitchen knives. Raymond and I don’t need kitchen knives particularly, but then again you can never have too many; and since we were spending the money on groceries anyway we figured we might as well take the stamps. While I was sticking them onto the card one recent day (still a long way from a free knife, as I discovered), I thought – for the first time in many a decade – of the green stamps people used to collect and exchange for – well, stuff. Mostly household stuff, but there were other things too (toys?), I think.

I have a vivid memory of my mum having those stamp books at the Manse, and how they bulged when they were full of pasted-in stamps. What I do not remember was where they came from. I can’t think that Bobbie’s or McMurray’s general stores – independent operations, obviously – gave them out, and I don’t recall it being the Kincaid Bros. IGA in Madoc either.

When I looked up green stamps just now, I learned that in the U.S. they were S&H (for the Sperry & Hutchison Company) Green Stamps, and I have to say the images looked familiar. Our friend Wikipedia has this to say:

S&H Green Stamps (also called Green Shield Stamps) were trading stamps popular in the United States from the 1930s until the late 1980s. They were distributed as part of a rewards program operated by the Sperry & Hutchinson company (S&H), founded in 1896 by Thomas Sperry and Shelley Byron Hutchinson. During the 1960s, the rewards catalog printed by the company was the largest publication in the United States and the company issued three times as many stamps as the U.S. Postal Service. Customers would receive stamps at the checkout counter of supermarkets, department stores, and gasoline stations among other retailers, which could be redeemed for products in the catalog. 

But that’s the U.S., right? What about Canada? Well, I also discovered that Loblaws stores had a green-stamps program of their own, called Lucky Green Stamps. Here’s what it says on the Loblaws site:

Lucky Green Stamps1959 – Loblaws enters the trading stamp wars with its own “Lucky Green Stamps.” Featured on its saver books is Miss Lucky Green, a bright-eyed, pony tailed little girl. With wand in hand, she points the way to the “Magic World of Gifts” that awaits Loblaws shoppers. The Loblaws Lucky Green Stamp Gift Catalogue, with hundreds of household items to choose from, becomes a mainstay in many homes.

Trouble is, in Queensborough we were a long, long way from a Loblaws supermarket, so our Green Stamps couldn’t have come from there.

Anybody got any ideas?

Anyway, wherever they came from, I know that my mum did redeem them. I’m not really sure what items in the Manse came to us as a result of Green Stamps – with one exception. The one thing I am pretty sure of was a set of melamine dishes – turquoise! – that were perfect for a large (four kids) rambunctious young family. (I don’t think it is possible to break melamine dishes, though you can burn them. Don’t ask me how I know.) Where that set ended up I’ve no idea (the dump would be my best guess, more’s the pity), but the happy news is that Raymond and I have a replacement for it:

melamine dishes

We found this set – the right colour and everything! – at some antiques-and-collectibles warehouse or other a few years ago. A little expensive, but I knew I’d be kicking myself if I passed it by. So the turquoise melamine dishes sit at the Manse, unused to date, but I’m sure their time will come.

Do you suppose the original owner got them with Green Stamps? I’d like to think so.