Sperry & Hutchinson Company offered S&H Green Stamps as a rewards program with a history from the 1930s through the 1980s.
This writer remembers licking (or daubing with a sponge) tons of the little suckers. You then paste them onto pages of your reward book, hoping you don’t cement two pages together. You endured this self-inflicted torture to get enough filled books to exchange for a reward from the S&H catalog. The physical activity got you invested in an outcome. This was a far cry from the automatic accumulation of cash back rewards on today’s credit card.
I remember hurrying back to my participating retailer when I got a chance to buy something else. Making the stamps come out even on a page was also a challenge. Lots of tearing and trying to put a square peg into a round hole.
Was it all worth the effort? The answer will be quite subjective and will depend on whom you ask. You could argue that getting ANYTHING back as a reward – so long as you didn’t pay extra for the merchandise – was worth it. However, it took a lot of books to obtain meaningful prizes. While the craze lasted, Sperry & Hutchinson did pretty well.
The Company Behind the Stamps
The Sperry & Hutchinson Company, commonly known as S&H, was founded in 1896 by Thomas Sperry and Shelley Byron Hutchinson. The company’s initial focus was on the production of lithographed advertising posters and other promotional materials for businesses.
The company was founded in Jackson, Michigan in 1896. Over the years, S&H had several headquarters and regional offices located throughout the country to support its operations and marketing efforts. During its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, S&H had an estimated 800 employees working in its headquarters and processing centers located in various cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.
In the early 20th century, S&H began to expand its offerings, and in 1930 the company launched its iconic S&H Green Stamps program. The program proved to be incredibly popular, with millions of Americans collecting stamps and redeeming them for a wide variety of merchandise.
In addition to the S&H Green Stamps program, the company also offered a range of other promotional and marketing services. For example, S&H produced a series of “gift checks” that could be used as promotional incentives for businesses, as well as various types of coupon booklets and other marketing materials.
S&H also diversified into other areas, including the production of plastic products like credit cards and key tags, and the development of computer systems for loyalty and rewards programs. The company also operated a subsidiary, S&H Solutions, which provided marketing consulting and other services to businesses.
Peaking Out and New Technology
The S&H Green Stamps program reached its peak in the 1960s, when it was estimated that the company was printing three times as many stamps as the US Postal Service was printing stamps. At its height, there were over 10,000 stores that participated in the program, including major retailers like Sears and JCPenney.
However, as the 1970s and 1980s wore on, the popularity of the S&H Green Stamps program began to wane. More and more retailers began offering their own rewards programs, and the rise of credit cards made it easier for consumers to accumulate rewards points without having to collect physical stamps.
In 1980, Sperry & Hutchinson filed for bankruptcy.
Here is a brief overview of the company’s ownership up until its 1980 bankruptcy:
1896-1955: Thomas Sperry and Shelley Byron Hutchinson co-found the Sperry & Hutchinson Company.
1955-1967: S&H is sold to the publicly traded Universal Match Corporation, which subsequently changes its name to Sperry and Hutchinson Company.
1967-1978: S&H is acquired by the financial services company Citicorp, which incorporates it into its newly created subsidiary, Diners Club.
1978-1981: Diners Club is sold to the investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), which retains ownership of S&H.
- Year Started: 1930
- Year Ended: 1980
- Origin Of Name: Initials of Founders
- Location Sales: United States
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Sperry & Hutchinson Company
- Owner While In Use: Sperry & Hutchinson Company
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Cash Back Credit Cards
- Naics Code: 541800
- Location Headquarters: Jackson, Michigan USA