Green Stamps & Pieces of Eight


Connie MooreIt was a shallow box. There didn’t seem to be much in it besides the old post cards. They in themselves might be counted as a treasure. But underneath, a deep memory, hidden for many years, was about to surface on strips of filigree-edged green stamps.

Our annual auction fix was a couple of weeks ago. Diligently we scan the Mumma Auction listings each Sunday for the words "lots of cookbooks." So it was with joyful heart that we ended up on Route 40, west of Donnelsville at what proved to be a good morning for anyone wanting a good deal on old toys, old books, old ... well, lots of old things.

Along with the green stamps, there were bright yellow stamps, loose and spilling out of an envelope, and books filled with both kinds. Enough S&H stamps and Top Value stamps to get a coffee pot or toaster or toys or laundry hamper.

At their peak of popularity, people and organizations would cash in bundles of filled books for such things as camping equipment, games, pen/pencil sets, Pyrex dishes, china, lamps, radios, appliances, everything one would need for a new baby, record players, fishing equipment, bicycles and sets of encyclopedias, musical instruments, furniture, and just about anything normally purchased at a store. Enough stamps could even get you a new car!    

These paper coupons or stamps were given at the end of sales as loyalty rewards for shopping with a particular merchant. Keep shopping there, collect enough stamps, and one could choose from a whole catalog of "gifts." The idea began back as early as 1891, when Schuster’s Department Store in Milwaukee decided to reward customers for paying in cash rather than carrying a credit (which was usually hard to collect).

H. Parke Company of Pennsylvania established their own stamp program in 1895 whereby they rewarded customers for buying Parke products such as coffee, tea, spices and canned goods. Showrooms were set up in corporate headquarters where customers could see and inspect goods to be obtained for the stamps.

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