Here's another extract from my book, 21st Century Dodos. Anyone remember Green Shield Stamps?
Before the days of loyalty cards and Nectar points, we had Green Shield Stamps. These were small, about the size of a postage stamp, and dispensed from machines at the tills of many supermarkets, petrol stations, and corner shops.
Customers collected them and stuck them into books; completed books could then be traded in for items of differing value from a catalogue, or from one of the many Green Shield Stamp catalogue shops. You had to collect loads of the buggers to be able to get hold of anything remotely worthwhile, but that didn’t stop the little green things proliferating across the ’60s and ’70s.
You would need to spend a little over £32 to fill one book. That was a lot of money in those days, equivalent to over £350 today. That one book, which would have taken you considerable time to fill, could be exchanged for items such as a mouth organ or a brush and comb set.
More serious collectors, those who stacked up piles of books, could go for rather grander fare. In the 1960s, 33¼ books would get you a Kenwood Chef, an item many kitchens would have been proud to have. Of course, the amount of money you would have to spend to obtain said food mixer was about the price of a small car. Although, to be fair, if you were spending the money on your weekly shop and petrol anyway, it was just a case of being patient and licking lots of stamps.
The company was founded in 1958 by Richard Tompkins, who adapted an idea from the United States to fit the British and Irish markets. It was hugely successful for nearly two decades, and there were many imitators, including S&H Pink Stamps, Yellow Stamps, Blue Star, and Happy Clubs. At one point in the early ’60s there was even a ‘Stamp War’ when Fine Fare supermarkets started offering the Pink Stamps, and Tesco countered by giving away Green Shield Stamps for the first time.
The business came a cropper in the late-’70s, when competition between supermarkets hit new heights, and customers were more interested in cheap produce than collecting stamps. When Tesco pulled out of the scheme in 1977, the writing was on the wall for the little green shield.
The company limped on until 1983, when it stopped issuing stamps altogether. There was an attempt to reinvent the scheme in the late ’80s, but by 1991 the Green Shield Stamp company was no more.
It does live on, however, in some form at least. The Green Shield Stamp catalogue shops were rebranded as Argos in 1973, and continue trading to this day, with people actually paying cash for items that previous generations would get for free after purchasing 2,500 packets of fish fingers over 13 years, or something like that.
And, of course, the concept was brought up to date in recent years by the introduction of loyalty cards, air miles, and Nectar points.
Dodo Rating: *****