S&H Green Stamps

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An S&H Green Stamp
S&H Green Stamps.

S&H Green 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 company promoted its rewards catalog as being the largest publication in the United States and boasted that it 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.[1]

S&H Green Stamps had several competitors, including Greenbax Stamps offered by Piggly Wiggly, Gold Bell Gift Stamps (in the Midwest), Triple S Stamps (offered by Grand Union Supermarkets), Gold Bond Stamps, Blue Chip Stamps, Plaid Stamps (a project of A&P Supermarkets), Top Value Stamps, Gunn Brothers given by Safeway, Buccaneer, and Eagle Stamps (a project of several divisions of the May Department Stores Co. of St. Louis, Missouri and offered, notably, by May Company stores, supermarkets, drug stores, gas stations, and dry cleaners in the Cleveland, Ohio area).[2][3]


S&H Green Stamps sign preserved on a grocery store building in Goleta, California.
A repurposed S&H Green Stamps sign in 1973 (see 1973 oil crisis).
Newspaper ad for the program, 1910. Shows the stamps and gives a description of the programs and offers.

Sperry & Hutchinson began offering stamps to U.S. retailers in 1896. The retail organizations that distributed the stamps were primarily supermarkets, gasoline filling stations, and stores. They bought the stamps from S&H and gave them as bonuses to shoppers based on the dollar amount of a purchase. The stamps were issued in denominations of one, ten, and fifty points, perforated with a gummed reverse. As shoppers accumulated the stamps, they moistened the reverse and mounted them in collector's books, which were provided free by S&H. The books contained 24 pages and filling a page required 50 points, so each book contained 1,200 points. Shoppers could then exchange filled books for premiums, including housewares and other items, from the local Green Stamps store or catalog. Each premium was assigned a value expressed by the number of filled stamp books required to obtain it.

Green Stamps were one of the first retail loyalty programs,[4] by which retailers purchased the stamps from the operating company and then gave them away at a rate determined by the merchant. Some shoppers would choose one merchant over another because they gave out more stamps per dollar spent.[5]

The company also traded overseas. During the early 1960s, it initiated S&H Pink Stamps in the United Kingdom, having been beaten to their green shield trademark during 1958 by Richard Tompkins's Green Shield Trading Stamp Company.[6]

The program had its greatest popularity during the mid-1960s, but a series of recessions during the 1970s decreased sales of green stamps and the stamp programs of their competitors. The value of the rewards declined substantially during the same period, requiring either far more stamps to get a worthwhile item or spending money for an item that was barely discounted from the price at regular stores, creating a general downward spiral as fewer and fewer people saw them as worth the trouble.

In 1972, the company was brought before the Supreme Court for violating the unfairness doctrine. In FTC v. Sperry & Hutchinson Trading Stamp Co., the court held that restricting the trade of the stamps was illegal.

Sperry and Hutchinson was sold by the founders' successors in 1981. In 1999, it was purchased from a holding firm by a member of the founding Sperry family. At that time, only about 100 U.S. stores were offering Green Stamps.

Eventually, with the rise of the Internet and the World Wide Web, the company modified its practices, and offered "greenpoints" as rewards for online purchases. The Greenpoints could be earned and redeemed at only a few stores, such as Freshtown in New York state.

Furniture division[edit]

Between 1969 and 1971, Sperry & Hutchinson bought four furniture companies, which became part of a Richmond, Virginia-based furniture division in 1974. While S&H bought other furniture companies, the first four became a High Point, North Carolina-based division called S&H Furniture in 1976. In 1981, S&H executives bought the division along with other investors, forming LADD Holding Co. in 1981 and LADD Furniture Inc. in 1983.[7]

S & H Solutions[edit]

The company operated S&H Solutions, a sales training and incentives program developed for its own sales force but run as a separate profit center offering services to other employers.

On December 7, 2006, it was announced that S&H Solutions was purchased by San Francisco-based Pay By Touch. The purchase price was in excess of $100 million in cash and stock. Pay By Touch suddenly shut its operations in 2008 and sold its assets to other corporations.

In popular culture[edit]

In amateur radio and CB radio jargon[edit]

  • In amateur radio, a "green stamp" is a US dollar bill sent by regular mail to pay for return postage for QSL cards. It can be more cost-effective than international reply coupons, but increases the risk of theft of mail in transit.[8]
  • During the 1970s and 1980s, the term "green stamps" was commonly used by truckers and other motorists on Citizens' Band (CB) radios to refer to money; for instance, a radio operator advising fellow operators that "Ol' Smokie just got some of my green stamps" was understood to be saying a highway patrolman had just stopped him and given him a traffic ticket. This usage still occurs in the CB radio community.[9]

In film[edit]

  • In the short film, The Engagement Party (1956), the hero learns the value of S&H Green Stamps from the manager of a local distribution center who hopes to hire him into the business.[citation needed]
  • In Send Me No Flowers (1964), George Kimball receives Green Stamps after buying a cemetery plot.[10]
  • In A Hard Day's Night (1964), starring the Beatles, John Lennon mentions Green Stamps when joking to Paul McCartney that he'll get the best lawyer they can buy.[citation needed]
  • In The Touch of Satan (1970), one of the characters is offered stamps after filling up his car with fuel.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Tiffany Case distracts Professor Metz, an agent of SPECTRE, long enough for James Bond to climb into the Whyte van by demanding her "stamps" from a gas station attendant.
  • In The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971), one of the characters is asked if he wants his stamps after hastily leaving a gas station.
  • In Where Does It Hurt? (1972), Miss Manzini pays her $500 hysterectomy with $2,000 worth of green stamps, by dealing with the clinic administrator Dr. Hofnagel (played by Peter Sellers).
  • In "Earthquake" (1974), after shooting his housemates, Jody Joad turns to Rosa Amici and mentions that "it isn't like back at the grocery store, no scrawny (b)itches coming around asking for double green stamps two days after the special is over".
  • In Breaking Away (1979), the characters Dave, Mike, Cyril, and Moocher sing a song about Green Stamps while walking to a quarry to swim.
  • In Sordid Lives (2000), Sissy mentions a cashier at a local convenience store who gives her extra green stamps when the manager isn't looking.
  • In Riding in Cars with Boys (2001), Green Stamps are mentioned as a wedding gift for Beverly Donofrio (played by Drew Barrymore).

In music[edit]


Nazareth 1976 Close Enough for Rock and Roll "Carry Out Feelings"*In the hit "Speedy Gonzales" (1962) by Pat Boone, Mel Blanc sings the final words of the song in Speedy Gonzales' voice, "Hey Rosita, come quick, down at the cantina they're giving green stamps with tequila!"[11][12]

In print[edit]

  • The Walt Kelly newspaper comic strip humor book titled Pogo Puce Stamp Catalogue (1962) presents a parody of Green Stamps, renaming them Puce Stamps, with his cast of usual suspects: Pogo Possum, Albert Alligator, Churchy La Femme Turtle, Howland Owl, and others. A page of nine character portrait real stamps accompanied the book with the inscription "Puce Stamps Big Zero Absolutely Guaranteed Worthless".[citation needed]
  • Stephen King attributes his first original short story idea to his mother's use of S&H Green Stamps. The unpublished "Happy Stamps" is about the counterfeiting of (the fictitious) Happy Stamps in order to purchase a house.[13] Also the title character in his book Carrie (1974) mentions, "Momma had gotten the cuckoo clock with Green Stamps", and wonders if they are sinful.[14]
  • Don L. Lee published a poem in Ebony magazine (March 1969) that finished with the sentence: "Jesus saves, Jesus saves, Jesus saves — S&H Green Stamps."[15]

In television[edit]

  • In the Better Call Saul episode "Alpine Shepherd Boy" (March 2, 2015) lawyer James McGill (also known as Saul Goodman) is discussing an elderly client's will with her. He volunteers, derisively, that he cannot accept S&H Green Stamps as a form of payment for his service.
  • On an episode of The Brady Bunch, hurrying to get to the redemption store before it went out of business, green stamps are used to buy a television.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Homer's Phobia" (February 16, 1997), Marge tries to sell a family heirloom from the Civil War. John (played by John Waters) tells her that it is, in fact, a liquor bottle from the 1970s worth "two books of green stamps, if I'm not mistaken."
  • In "I Love Lucy" episode "Off to Florida" season 6 Episode 6, Lucy and Ethel are trying to scrape up enough money to get tickets to Florida and Ethel comments she has "18 dollars and a half page of green stamps."


  1. ^ Hatala, Greg (November 4, 2013). "Made in Jersey: S&H Green Stamps - in the sixties, Americans were stuck on them". NJ.com. Retrieved 2015-12-27. 
  2. ^ Morrell, Alan (July 31, 2015). "Whatever Happened To ... trading stamps?". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Retrieved 2015-12-27. 
  3. ^ Cellania, Miss (March 17, 2015). "Free with Purchase: The Age of Trading Stamps". Neatorama. Retrieved 2015-12-27. 
  4. ^ Lach, Jennifer (May 1, 2000). "Redeeming Qualities". Advertising Age. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  5. ^ Burke, Melissa Nann (November 4, 2010). "Remember: S&H Green Stamps". The York Daily Record. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  6. ^ Richard Davenport-Hines (2004). "Tompkins, (Granville) Richard Francis (1918–1992)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  7. ^ See International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 12. St. James Press, 1996
  8. ^ Wilson, M.J.; American Radio Relay League (2007). The ARRL Operating Manual for Radio Amateurs. American Radio Relay League. ISBN 9780872591097. Retrieved 2015-02-26. 
  9. ^ Preble, Jon; Andrew J. Perlman; et al. (April 4, 2012). "Laugh if you want but WTH are green stamps". ham radio on the net (eHam. Net). Retrieved 2014-03-09. 
  10. ^ Brown, Gary. "The Monday After: Trading Green Stamps was a tradition among generations of shoppers". cantonrep.com. The Repository. Retrieved 18 April 2016. 
  11. ^ "Pat Boone - Speedy Gonzales". YouTube. 2010-06-24. Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  12. ^ Mancini, Henry Nicola. "Speedy Gonzales Lyrics". Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group,. Retrieved 2014-03-09. [year missing]
  13. ^ King, Stephen (2001). On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Pocket Books. pp. 38–39. ASIN B009BDVD2Q. ISBN 978-1-4391-5681-0. 
  14. ^ King, Stephen (1974). Carrie. New York: Pocket Books. p. 253. ISBN 0671039725. 
  15. ^ Lee, Don L. (March 1969). "In The Interest of Black Salvation". Ebony, Vol. XXIV No. 5. Chicago, IL: Pub: John H. Johnson. Retrieved 2014-03-09. 

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