A recent spate of newspaper and magazine articles regarding the electronic makeover of the venerable Sperry and Hutchinson Company into S&H Greenpoints has revived a lot of memories among the general population and generated a buzz among collectors.
S&H, which first introduced Green Stamps in 1896, reached its zenith during the 50's, 60's, and 70's, but had begun to fade when sold in 1981. Barely surviving over the subsequent two decades, the company was purchased in 1999 by Walter Beinecke, the great-grandson of original co-founder Thomas Sperry. With headquarter walls lined with old S&H ads purchased on eBay, Beinecke and CEO Rod Parker have begun to transform S&H into a combination online and card-swipe presence.
So, what have the old S&H trading stamps got to do with collectibles? Two things: First, the stamps themselves, the stamp saver books, and the catalogs are collectibles in their own right. They represent a period in our history when consumers did not "shop" price, but were rewarded for their loyalty to merchants with the little green stamps redeemable for a host of consumer goods.
Second, the stamp catalogs are GREAT, not only as collectible items showcasing the kind of merchandise widely available at the time, but also for identifying and dating all kinds of "common" goods from tidbit trays and umbrella stands to Melmac dinnerware and Libby stemware. Just peruse any period trading-stamp catalog and you'll probably recognize all sorts of items that you've passed up or picked up at yard, church, and estate sales. For example, last summer I discovered a mint-condition casserole dish, sans box, at a yard sale. It was in a retired Corning pattern, but I did not know the name for the KIND of dish, which is no longer being manufactured. There it was in an old S&H catalogpattern, description, and number of books.
Unlike the old Sears and Montgomery Ward books that have been showing up at yard sales at ridiculously-inflated prices, I've been able to pick up a number of trading-stamp catalogs for under a dollar, some even as low as ten cents or a quarter! I never use old catalogs or books as price guides, as the collectibles market is in a state of constant flux and current prices are easily available on the Internet. It was nice to know, however, that my casserole had been traded for 2 books of S&H stamps ($6.00--$3.00 per book--in 1967 dollars).
(TIP: Trading stamp catalogs come in a variety of sizes, but I have found that most store quite nicely in 9x12 or 10x15 polyethylene comic bags.)
S&H was and is the most popular of the rewards companies (MacDonald Plaid Stamps, Top Value, Gold Bond, etc.), and the old lick'm-and-stick'm stamps are still offered by a few stores scattered around the country. So, if you happen to have saved any of the old filled books, you can still redeem them since, by law, they never expire!
For more information, check out the following:
http://www.greenpoints.com The official S&H Greenpoints Web site
The article by Justin Pope, AP Business Writer, that originally piqued my interest.
Interestingly, I could find no book currently in print that covers the subject of trading-stamps! If anyone knows of one, please let me know.