Sperry & Hutchinson began offering stamps to U.S. retailers in 1896. The retail organizations that distributed the stamps (primarily supermarkets, gasoline filling stations, and shops) bought the stamps from S&H and gave them as bonuses to shoppers based on the dollar amount of a purchase. The stamps issued in denominations of one, ten, and fifty "points"—-were perforated with a gummed reverse, and as shoppers accumulated the stamps they moistened the reverse and mounted them in collectors books, which were provided free by S&H. The books contained 24 pages and to fill a page required 50 "points", so each book contained 1200 "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 that item.
I loved these stamps. Licking them and pasting them in the books was fun. When I got tired of licking, my mother would place a wet sponge on a dish so I could press the stamps on the sponge and then place them in the books. Once she presented the sponge, I was set to go all day and hated it when I ran out of stamps. When the stamps were too wet from the sponge technique, the pages would crinkle after they dried and the books appeared bigger. I would do anything to get my little hands on these stamps.
Back in the 1960's a child could go outside and play all by themselves without parents worrying about them. I lived in a wonderful neighborhood and the neighbors thought nothing about a small child showing up on their doorstep anytime of the day. My mothers good friend Ruthie Pratt, lived in back of us, and many days I'd end up knocking on her door. Her dwelling place was on the other side of an empty lot that was not occupied by a house yet. This empty lot was used by all the kids in the neighborhood for different activities, depending on your age, and I often played there.
After being shoed out the door, I ran into the field. My intention was to run over to Ruthies to put her S&H Green Stamps in her books. All of a sudden I heard my mother yell to me, "I don't want you going over to Ruthies today." I turned around and looked at her. She knew exactly what I was thinking. She yelled to me again, "Barbara, if you go over there your going to get a spanking." I didn't care, it was worth it. I started to run towards Ruthies house. The next thing I know, my mother was scooping me up and heading back towards our house. I'm sure I was crying, I don't recall, but I do remember being thrown over her knee and getting a good spanking on my behind. From that day forward, I did what my mother asked.
My mother collected US Postage stamps. She would cut stamps off envelopes and place them in another envelope to save. She never put them in a collectors book, only in other envelopes or a box. I use to take them out every so often to look at all the pictures. I didn't like the lines the post office put on the stamps to cancel them, I viewed them as ruined and they weren't as 'pretty'.
As I got older, I too, started collecting postage stamps. Not to sell or trade, I don't really care what they will be worth 20 years and I don't have to have them on an envelope showing where they have been cancelled. I collect them because I like them, it's as simple as that. It's exciting to see who is going to be honored on the face of a stamp or what new design has been drawn to adorn the upper right corner of your piece of mail.
In order to be chosen for a postage stamp, you have to be dead at least 10 years before your image can go on a stamp. The only exception to that rule is a president, they can go on a stamp in the year following their death.
Some of my favorite stamps are during the Christmas season. I have to mix it up and get both religious and whimsical stamps, deciding who gets what after I pick out my cards, and always getting an extra sheet to tuck away for myself.
Whenever we've traveled out of the country, I've always made it a point to visit the local post office. I have wonderful stamps from England, Belgium, Barbados and other interesting places. It's another paper addiction of mine. The thought of the USPS going out of business is unthinkable to me and not being able to get these beautiful stamps makes me sad.
As long as there are holidays, news to be shared and well-wishes to be sent, postage stamps will be needed and I'll be standing in line to purchase the newest version of these little 7/8"x1" paper squares.