By Tara V. Kohlenberg —
Did your mother ever give you the job of pasting trading stamps into books? Mine did. My childhood is full of rainy afternoons spent licking (or wetting with a sponge after I got smart) drawers full of S&H Green stamps. That entitled me to browse the S&H Idea Book to see what we could spend our stamps on. It was almost as cool as looking through the JCPenney Christmas Catalogue… almost. My recent discovery of trading stamps in the Sophienburg Collection prompted a little more in depth look at trading stamps in New Braunfels.
Before there were frequent flyer miles, hole punched discount cards or computerized loyalty discounts, there were trading stamps. Trading stamps were developed as a retail loyalty program. Merchants would purchase the stamps in varying point denominations and give them out based on the amount of the purchase. Stamps were then pasted into savings books and redeemed for other merchandise. Sperry & Hutchinson created S&H Green Stamps in 1896. They were one of the first loyalty programs of its type. Issued in denominations of one, ten and fifty points, the gummed paper stamps were mostly distributed to supermarkets, department stores and gasoline stations.
The first Herald advertisement with S&H Green Stamps in New Braunfels appears in 1915, by the Pfeuffer-Holm Co. furniture store. The ad announces the adoption of the “Sperry System of Profit-Sharing” to reward their cash paying customers, much in the same way that the bank pays interest on the money one saves. Then in 1922, Green Stamps appear in ads by Ludewig Furniture (now Johnson Furniture) and also by Oscar Haas & Co. clothing (yes, our County Clerk and historian was a man of many talents). They even gave S&H Green Stamps with the sales of ladies’ corsets and brassiers.
Trading stamps grew in popularity over the years, especially with the spread of chain gasoline stations and supermarket chains. Most retailers found it easier and more profitable to award all purchases than just the cash sales. The height of collecting trading stamps came during the 1950s and 1960s. Here in New Braunfels, the only Herald ads promoting green stamps in the late 50’s was Plaza Drug. Numerous others followed and proudly posted their Green S&H shield in their windows like Mom ‘n Tot Shoppe. Some had large free standing metal signs out front of their businesses to get your attention. Tip Top Cleaners even posted an S&H logo in their 1965 Yellow Page ad.
There were other trading stamp competitors. One such competitor was Texas Gold Stamps. Developed by HEB in 1955, Gold Stamps were run as a subsidiary and available to all merchants. Gold Stamps did not appear in local advertising until 1958 promoted by Ritter Service Station locations in New Braunfels. Within a short period of time there were a lot of merchants touting Texas Gold Stamps, including HEB, City Pharmacy, Jarisch Gulf, Landa Texaco & Sinclair Service Station.
In the 60’s, grocery stores were noted for Green Stamps bonus days. In 1964, Baenziger Model Market opened (now part of NBISD Ed Center). My mom shopped at Baenziger’s to take advantage of the Double Stamp Wednesdays. (Yay, more to paste. More to dream of getting!) Then in 1966, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company opened an A&P Grocery Store in Landa Plaza Shopping Center (now Das Rec area). They brought with them their own brand of trading stamps – McDonald’s Plaid Stamps. Other lesser known trading stamps appeared as well. Sometime in 1964-65, Superior Market & Grocery, on the corner of North Union and Garza (now a small office building) began offering S&S Red Stamps. I have neither seen these or found any information on them, but Superior’s grocery ads touted that S&S Red Stamps “Spend like Cash with your hometown Merchant”. The redemption center was listed as Dedeke’s Housewares and gifts at 215 S. Seguin. I would think that it was fashioned after the S&H Green Stamp program, but with local merchant products. Red Stamps lasted until about 1967, when the store loyalty program changed to Gold Bond Stamps. Weyel’s Foodliner gave out Top Value Stamps.
By 1965, trading stamps were saved by 35 million of the 50 million families in America, redeeming $500 million dollars in stamps each year. However, trading stamps began to decline after that. In 1967, a joint ad from Comal, Plaza and City Drug stores stated that “effective immediately” trading stamps would no longer be given, but they would give 10% cash discount on all purchases. Wuest’s Grocery never gave trading stamps. Instead, they promoted their lower discount prices every day. More stores began to realize the savings in ditching stamps. With the economic downturn and gas crisis of the 70’s, trading stamps held less value and shoppers realized that they could get their premium items almost as cheaply by buying outright. The stamps became too much trouble. S&H continued on until about 2013, then became S&H Points. As of December 2020, their website states that points are no longer valid and cannot be redeemed.
So what did we end up getting on our big S&H Green Stamp shopping trips to the redemption center in downtown Seguin? I remember my dad getting lawn chairs. My mom got a new bathroom scale and my sister and I got a vanity chair with a hot pink (not quite psychedelic) “fuzzy” seat cover when we redid our room in high school. What did you get?
Sources: Sophienburg Museum and Archives newspaper collection; https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook