There was a catalog lying on coffee tables throughout America back in the 1970s. Children around the country would pick up the catalog and browse through the toy section. Imaginations ran wild with thoughts of, “If I had a million dollars…” “For Christmas…” “I’m getting this for my birthday…” “I want…” and “Can I have…” The Blue Chip Stamp catalog was used to redeem the popular trading stamps for TOYS (if you were a kid) and lots of other stuff if you were an adult.
In most eloquent language, the inside cover states, “The beautiful and useful merchandise in this catalog is available to you because of the many fine merchants who offer Blue Chip Stamps. These merchants make this offer as a way of saying, ‘Thank you for your patronage.’ They realize that a reward of value is the most sincere means of showing their gratitude.
Always shop where you see the Blue Chip Stamp sign. Your savings books will accumulate faster and you will get the things you want that much sooner.” Well isn’t that just like the innocent past, especially the seventies, telling it like it is – “…get the things you want that much sooner.”
Inside the catalog, the company tells you how to redeem your hard earned trading stamps for those “things you want”. The inside back cover says, “Please take your filled Blue Chip Savings Books to any Blue Chip redemption store to obtain the merchandise of your choice. If you reside in excess of 25 miles from your nearest redemption store you can redeem your Blue Chip Savings Books by mail.” The instructions direct you to the back cover of your Blue Chip Savings Book for mailing instructions.
Plus, they give the redeemer strict instructions about retaining their Blue Chip redemption receipt since the store personnel cannot make any adjustments without the receipt. This is in case the thing you wanted to get that much sooner, wasn’t the thing you really wanted.
The Blue Chip Stamp Catalog didn’t scrimp on name brands. The customer didn’t have to choose between A-1 Dolls and Brand X K’nippling Pins. Name brands abound in The Blue Chip Stamp Catalog. There are board games from Parker Brothers and Selright, Dr. Seuss books and Murray Pedal cars. Even in 1973, we were health conscious. This catalog shows a Jr. Scat Pedal Car for children ages 2 1/2 to 6. In the description, the company notes that the toy is finished with non-toxic enamel. MTD contributed a few tricycles (10″ and 16″) plus a cool Dumpster Trike. AMF got in on the action with a cool 16″ Hugger tricycle, made with a tubular steel frame and adjustable saddle.
There are other bicycle brands besides Murray. Although Murray offered a 10-speed 23″ racer with center-pull brakes for 46 1/6 books, Huffy entered the catalog with matching men’s and ladies’ 26″ Deluxe lightweight bicycles with trigger shift controls. Murray’s selection also included boy’s and girl’s Stingray-style Wildcat bikes. The girl’s Wildcat was 25 4/6 books, but you had to give up an extra 2/6 of a book to get the boy’s model. For the little ones, you could get a 16″ Murray Convertible Parkcycle. This bike was “full ball bearing” with a coaster brake. It was equipped with training wheels and adjustable handle bars for 16 books.
And you might choose a Mattel “Zappit Plus-Pak” high-speed pocket booster with two Zappits and three cars for off-track action anywhere. Or a Tyco over and under Roadrace Set including cars, piers and controllers. There was a Skilcraft Rock Tumbling Set, a Gilbert Microscope Set (500X) and an Eldon Wood Burning Set with a woodburning pencil, 3 screw-on tips, 12 wood plaques, paint, brush and more! Eldon also offered a Crystal Radio Kit, a Coast Guard Patrol Boat and a Racing Sloop with mahogany deck, vinyl sails, counter-balancing rudder and removable dinghy. The racing Sloop went for a mere 2 2/6 books! This catalog had a 40″ beginner pool table by Golden Oak with big 1″ balls and 30″ cues, complete with instructions for 8 3/6 books. Even Transogram got in on the game with a smaller version pool table. Made of plastic, Transogram’s table had all the features of a regular pool table including a rack and automatic ball return for only 2 4/6 books.
The Blue Chip Stamp Catalog for 1973 featured a virtual Toy Store for the average American kid. Check out the additional pages below. There are Hot Wheels, model cars by Revell, Cox gas-engine cars, Dolls, Playskool toys, Disney-themed toys, Playsets, doll strollers and high chairs, toy kitchen sets, ironing boards, Perfume Kits, Tom Thumb toys, Mattel Jack-In-The-Box, Fisher-Price pull toys, Transogram kits and more Gilbert sets, Tonkas and Marx Playsets , Huskys and Buddy L’s and Daisy Rifles and even a Doughboy Bobo the Clown.
For parents, there’s a disclaimer inside about uncertainties in supply and price fluctuations. The company is reserving the right, without prior notice, to withdraw any item offered or replace it with an equal or better-value substitute, or increase or decrease the number of Blue Chip stamps required for any catalog item. Additionally, they are explicit in reminding the customer that this is catalog number 17, which replaces all previous catalogs on May 1, 1973, and this catalog remains in effect until it is replaced with Blue Chip Catalog number 18.
As a child, you never read the grown-up stuff, like the disclaimers or the grocery store technicalities. You didn’t even care about the rugs or lamps or clothes. It was all about the toys. It was only about the toys!
The Other Stuff
Additional merchandise available for redemption included:
- APPLIANCES and AUTOMOTIVE EQUIPMENT
- BATH ACCESSORIES and CAMERA EQUIPMENT
- CLOCKS, CLOSET ACCESSORIES and SEWING
- DINNERWARE, ELECTRONICS and GIFTWARE
- GLASSWARE, GOURMET and HOME FURNISHINGS
- HOUSEWARES and JUVENILE Merchandise
- LADIES’ GIFTS, ACCESSORIES and LAMPS
- LUGGAGE, MEN’S GIFTS, ACCESSORIES
- PATIO, PICNIC and PERSONAL CARE
- PET SUPPLIES, PICTURES and PLAQUES
- SILVER, SILVER FLATWARE
- SOFT GOODS and SPORTING GOODS
- STATIONERY and TOOLS
The Blue Chip Stamp catalog was designed and produced by Jon Sandvick Studios, Los Andeles.
Catalog copyright 1973 Blue Chip Stamps.
Front, back and inside cover designed by Mark English.
Scenic photographs by David Muench.
BACKGROUND – from en.Wikipedia.org
Blue Chip Stamps started as a trading stamps company called “Blue Chip Stamp Co.” They were a competitor to S&H Green Stamps. Blue Chip stamps was a loyalty program for customers, similar to discount cards issued by pharmacies and grocery stores in the digital era. A customer making a purchase at a participating store (typically grocery stores, gasoline stations, and pharmacy chains) would be given stamps in proportion to the size of the purchase. The stamps would be issued by machines next to the cash register. The customer would paste the stamps (which could be licked or moistened with a sponge, like postage stamps) into books. Pasting a large number of stamps into books could be time consuming. The books could then be taken to a special redemption store and redeemed for merchandise, such as lawn furniture, dining tables, table ware, and many other items. The redemption stores did not keep a full inventory of items, but would order from a catalog on behalf of the customer.
The loyalty program was paid for through the overall pricing of goods in the participating stores. When the recession of 1980 hit, cost cutting caused the program to lose popularity, and the growth of credit card transactions competed for retail margins. As computerization developed, less cumbersome loyalty programs were developed. These programs required less of a customer’s time and also had lower operational costs: they did not require retail outlets for the redemption of stamps, and the discounts often were restricted to the products offered by the participating stores, i.e., the participating stores were discounting merchandise that they would keep in stock even without the reward program.