Trading Stamps

In the day everyone had a card able. This was where you could play bridge, poker, Monopoly or Old Maid. This was also where the kids would sit for big family dinners. When I say “kids” I use the word loosely since my cousin, Chucky, who was old enough to drive was relegated here along with his pre-school cousins.

No one ever bought a card table – no sir! A card table was the very first thing you got when you filled up enough books of something called trading stamps. Those you got at the grocery store as a kind of “rebate” or incentive for your spending. You also might get them at the drug store, the hardware store or even a gas station.

But just like “points” that might get from your credit card, these stamps presented challenges at redemption time. You could not put your S&H green stamps in the Top Value book that was illustrated with a happy elephant on the cover. No, they were separate and that meant that you might have a collection of books either half-filled or waiting to be redeemed. And then as if to deliberately complicate things, very few merchants gave out Plaid Stamps. Most of us could save every Plaid Stamp that you’d get for years before you could get a rolling pin or Corning pie plate.

These brands all had their own catalogue books – books of dreams they were – a reflection of what modest prosperity we had at the time. Nobody gives stamps and nobody uses card tables anymore. Such simple things don’t constitute the stuff of modern dreams.