And with that, a new industry boomed: sticker hobbyists. Here’s a look back at some popular and collectible vintage stickers from the late seventies and early eighties that came on both rolls and sheets.
Stickers, stickers, stickers all over: The craze for youngsters (1983)
Article excerpted from The Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey) – April 25, 1983
Stickers are the latest craze for pre-high pre-high pre-high school kids, and they’ve taken both east and west coast by storm. The offspring of the lowly label, pressure-sensitive stickers have become the baseball cards of the 80s.
Kids collect them and trade them. Teachers use them as rewards. Parents buy them as party favors. Teen and pre-teen pre-teen pre-teen magazines, as well as the education journals, are filled with ads for stickers, and an estimated 100 American companies now manufacture and sell them.
For one Canadian company, Sandylion, stickers are its sole raison d’etre. And one San Francisco Francisco store sells nothing but stickers.
Ranging in price from 10 cents to 50 cents each, stickers of all shapes and sizes are turning up everywhere.
From bubblegum machines to gift shops, stationery stores to catalogs, they reappear for show in special sticker albums, photo albums and shoeboxes, on school assignments and books, on hands and lunch boxes.
Gorilla stickers. Rainbow stickers. Parrot stickers. Metallic stickers. Sparkly stickers. Three-dimensional stickers. Stickers that smell like pizza and old shoes and strawberries when you scratch them. Stickers that change color when you touch them.
“A lot of people collect them just to keep them,” said 14-year-old Tiffany Evans of Hillsborough. “They’re neat to look at, and you don’t have to have a big thing to keep them in.”
Tiffany has a photo album full of different stickers, and they also adorn the grocery-bag covers to her school books. “My math book has a panda bear on it. That’s how I know it’s my math book,” she explained.
Her social studies book, on the other hand, was covered with “smelly” stickers until she was caught walking home in a downpour. But now she’s redecorating it “so my books don’t look so much like school.”
Then, there are the more serious collectors, who’ve committed themselves to one special kind of sticker. Thirteen-year-old Carey Marichak of Hillsborough is devoted to unicorns, of which she has two photo albums full.
“I’m a nut on that,” the eighth grader admitted. They adorn her stereo and fill two photo albums.
Stickers debuted in California (as do so many American trends) not as collector’s items, but as seals for envelopes and gift wrap, explained John Grimes, an urban planner-turned planner-turned planner-turned paper company owner who helped pioneer the stickers market in 1980.
“It was the kids’ idea to collect them, not ours,” he said. Then, “the whole market exploded.” His five-year-old five-year-old five-year-old five-year-old five-year-old Oakland, California firm CarDesign started out as a greeting card company. Now, three-quarters of the company’s business is in stickers.
Sticker manufacturers hope they’ve hit upon a lasting market. “It fits in with the way kids are in the large East and West coast urban populations,” said Grimes.
As opposed to the more outdoors-sports oriented children of the south and midwest, the coastal populations of kids are “visually oriented” towards TV, magazines and colorful graphics, he said hence, stickers’ appeal.
An eighties sticker collection primer (1984)
Cedar Rapids Gazette (Cedar-Rapids, Iowa) July 30, 1984
About scratch ‘n sniff stickers
Scratch ‘n sniff stickers are very popular. Each sticker, about 1-1/2 inches in size, has some 4 million tiny smelly bubbles. With each rub or scratch, only about 20,000 to 40,000 bubbles are broken to free the scents.
A company named 3M makes most of the scents you smell, but not the actual stickers. The company uses about 1,300 chemicals and some natural oils to make the smells.
Other kinds of popular stickers
Puffins and furries are two of many types of stickers. Here are a few others:
Puffins are made of plastic. They puff up because they are foam-filled. They are also called puffies.
Furries have a kind of fur feel. They are also called feelies and fuzzies.
Character stickers are based on TV or comic strip characters.
Prismatic stickers reflect different colors.
Smellies are the scratch ‘n sniff kind.
Plain stickers are the colorful, flat type.
Freebies are free stickers that are stuck on things like fruits and vegetables.
Holographies are made with laser beams. They have a silvery look. If you hold them just right, many have a three-dimensional effect.
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A vintage Trend sticker collector album from the ’80s
“Stinky stickers” – bubble gum, apple, Smurf with gum, lemon and orange. (And ~30 years later, all five of these still work!)
Happy holidays stickers
Hearts, Santa hats, bows and snowflakes — in glitter, prism, regular and metallic foil styles
Boynton comic stickers (regular balloons, heart balloons and carrots at the end of the rainbow) and two metallic balloon stickers.
Vintage animal stickers
Rabbit, pig, lamb, cat, bird, elephant, chick and whale
Nature stickers… and balloons
Stained-glass-style sun and rainbow and ocean rainbow stickers, unicorn, metallic rainbow star, prism star and paper star set
Vintage stickers with captions
Four stickers by Sandra Boynton (Grin and ignore it, How can you resist such cuteness and talent?, Seal of approval, Sweet) and a Garfield sticker (If I were any lazier I’d slip into a coma)
Four more from Sandra Boynton
Retro ’80s food & snacks stickers
More vintage stickers: Birds, lightbulbs, paw prints & more
Collectors getting stuck on stickers
by Janet Carl of The State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin) July 1, 1982
In the beginning, there were stars — gold stars.
They were hidden in the right-hand desk drawers of most second grade teachers, who used them to decorate the finest penmanship papers.
And then, man created Scratch ‘n Sniff stickers, and puffy stickers, and then, Scratch ‘n Sniff puffy stickers and Smurf stickers, puffy Smurf stickers, Garfield stickers, and lazy Garfield stickers.
And then, without knowing it, man created stickermania. And to any 6 to 16-year-old, it was good. In fact, to 8-year-old Megan Sharpless and thousands of other youngsters in Madison and across the country, it’s great.
Megan, daughter of John and Judy Sharpless of Madison, collects stickers; she has amassed about 1,100 of them. Megan has album upon album full of Scratch ‘n Sniffs, Smurfs, and puffy stickers. And, she is definitely not alone.
What started out as simple rewards for ‘A’ papers has grown into a million-dollar business for many of the country’s stationery and novelty manufacturers.
Collectors stick them in photo albums, on envelopes, on specially-made mirror boxes, on brightly colored bags, on just about anything stickable.
They have become even hotter in the sub rosa markets of grade and middle schools than baseball cards in their heyday.
A quick stop into any of downtown Madison’s gift shops will show the magnitude of the latest collectors’ craze: “USA official member rat race team” stickers, “I love you more than chocolate itself” stickers, Scratch ‘n Sniff pizza stickers.
They’re all there, on rolls stacked next to a pair of scissors for easy snipping.
The sticker fad has become so popular that Orange Tree Imports has started its own sticker collectors’ club. People must verify that they are hard-core collectors by bringing in their collections — some include as many as 2,500 stickers — before they can sign their name to the collectors’ board.
But collectors’ club or not, employees say the stickers’ price range, from 5 cents to 45 cents, keeps the customers coming.
“It’s just nickels and dimes all day long,” said Mark Terry of Orange Tree. Or sometimes, he added, “they just come in with a ‘five’ and spend every single cent of it.”
But this fad is not all silly kids’ stuff, by any means.
Adults get hooked on stickers
“The adults are just as bad,” said Terry. “I had one woman come in and spend $45 on stickers.”
The fad has been a boon to companies such as Mrs. Grossman’s, Illuminations, Internatural Designs, and the makers of Microfragrance Scratch ‘n Sniffs, 3M.
Mrs Grossman’s of San Rafael, California, one of the first and most popular designers in the sticker market, generates over $1 million annually in sticker sales alone.
According to Andrea Grossman, company owner, it’s not just the variety of designs that has made stickers more popular, but the way they are sold.
The craze really started, she said, after her company put stickers on a roll so that they can be sold individually at nickel and dime prices, rather than in a package.
Stickers have been around a long time, she said. They were particularly popular around the turn of the century, but were called “scrap.” At that time, girls traded entire albums full of stickers; giving stickers was a symbol of friendship.
But stickers today have developed from the “sweet, artsy” designs, continued Mrs. Grossman. After introducing 10 designs in 1979, Mrs. Grossman’s sticker sales tripled in one year. The company now has 89 different designs, and by the end of this year, it will have more than 100.
3M’s Scratch ‘n Sniffs have become so popular that flavor selections have been expanded to include popcorn, gasoline, alcoholic beverages, pizza, cheese, leather, “season’s greetings,” and “the great outdoors.”
The United States isn’t the only country caught up in the sticker fad. Mrs. Grossman’s sells to 13 countries, with sales especially strong in Japan, Great Britain, Switzerland, and South Africa.
In the United States, the West Coast still claims a great share of the sticker market, though Mrs. Grossman said Wisconsin is one of the best states for her business.
For skeptics, who are baffled by what can actually be done with stickers, collectors have a multitude of answers, from sticking them on envelopes, boxes, and bags, to creating sticker art, to saving them in photo albums for future generations.
This fall, there will even be a new sticker idea book and an album made just for sticker collections.
That’s good news to people like Megan Sharpless, who’ve had to save their stickers in ordinary photo albums. Those albums not only crush their puffy stickers, but don’t seem as fitting for preserving cherished stickers for future generations.
Megan says that her kids will probably benefit from her collecting someday, but she’s in no hurry to give up her treasures.
“I’ll give them the ones I don’t really love,” she said.