For those of a certain age (as in, anyone alive in the 1960s), you probably remember S&H Green Stamps. S&H Green Stamps were distributed by the Sperry and Hutchinson company, founded by Thomas Sperry and Shelly Hutchinson in 1896. During the '60s, the S&H catalog distribution was the largest in the United States and there were three times as many Green Stamps in circulation as U.S. postage stamps. To be sure, there were other trading stamp companies, but none were ever as popular or successful as S&H. This is the way it worked: shoppers would get stamps from retail outlets for purchases, and then the stamps could be traded for items in the S&H catalog. Retailers, most often grocery stores and gas stations, purchased the stamps from S&H and then decided how many to give away per dollar spent. Those stores giving away more stamps generally got more customers. The stamps themselves were issued in various denominations, just like money, and were pasted into 24-page stamp books provided by S&H. Each book was worth 1,200 points. Stamp books could be traded for all sorts of things, most often small appliances. For those lucky enough to live in a place with an actual S&H Green Stamps store (called "Redemption Centers"), they were places of pure wonder (well, that's the way I remember it at least). The Green Stamps store in Meridian was located somewhere downtown. I distinctly remember the interior, filled with all sorts of nifty things like shiny new toasters, vacuum cleaners, glasses, and the like. Mainly, I remember it being a very bright store.
|1971 S&H Catalog|
The threat of store closures by the time the Brady Bunch episode aired was a very real thing for many consumers. By the early 1970s, stamps sales declined due to inflation. In other words, it simply took too many stamps to get worthwhile items and stores were closed across the country. Also, S&H was hauled before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 by the Federal Trade Commission for unfair trading practices. Sperry and Hutchinson lost. Despite these setbacks, they are still around, although only online. Today, the almost irresistible notion of getting lots of things we may or may not need in exchange for spending actual money on things we may or may not need is alive and well in the form of coupons.
The American dream lives on...
Photo and Image Sources:
(1) Store: Located in Tallahassee, Florida. From Florida Memory, administered by the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services. http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/45723
(2) Stamp book: Image from e-Bay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-S-H-GREEN-STAMPS-SAVER-BOOK-Mint-B-/390116817014#ht_2069wt_931
(3) Catalog: http://vintagecatalog.net/2009/01/30/1971-green-stamps-catalog/