Thursday, February 7, 2013

Marvel Value Stamps 1974

Premiums, bonus gifts, were very popular in the 1940s through the 1970s. In the era before product codes on every package, our parents and grandparents saved coupons, bottle tops, or Ovaltine wrappers and sent away for decoder rings and other “gifts.” Of course, the Ovaltine codes, broadcast on the Little Orphan Annie show, mostly said things like: “Drink Ovaltine.”

If you are younger than 50, you probably don’t remember Green Stamps or Raleigh Coupons.  These stamps, put out by Sperry and Hutchinson (and usually called S&W Green Stamps) were premiums given away at many supermarkets and gas stations. After you complete a purchase you would be given, manually, or in later years, through a machine, a series of stamps based on the amount of your purchase.  The denominations  were one, ten and fifty.  Although stores were free to give them out anyway the wanted, it was usually, as I recall 1 stamp for every ten cents you spent. Often stores would advertiser, “Double Stamps” to lure customers.

You would also be given a book, which held 1,200 stamps, to lick and store the damn things. I don’t think anyone did this as it happened, but every several months families would sit down and ruin their tongues putting them in books all at once. Then you’d pick up the S and W catalog and, based on the amount of filled books you had, you could order products: toaster ovens, bicycles, radios, anything. There were trips to Disneyland, TV sets and other expensive items. Of course, you’d need a million books and a new tongue.

Raleigh Cigarettes and their related brands had something similar. Every pack contained a coupon and the cartons gave you 4 bonus coupons. They also had a catalog where you choose products based on the amount you had.  But, as the old joke goes, we all know what you got for 10,000 Raleigh coupons.

How popular were these stamps? Believe or not they inspired the Frequent Flyer Miles program established in 1972 and is still around today.  The stamps really ran their course by the mid 1970s.

So when Marvel released its stamps in 1974, it was a big thing.  And a lot of money was involved.  Tens of thousands of fans RUINED their comics by cutting out those damned coupons! And for what?  Privileges at conventions and gifts we never really saw. As Rob Salkowitz said, “Yeah, a lot of people could have probably done without the Shanna the She-Devil stamp they clipped out of Hulk #181.” (in case you don’t know, that was the first major appearance of the Wolverine. He also appeared in issue 180, but briefly)

This is actually from a small chapter from my book. Here are the stamps and where they appeared.  #100 was the mystery, secret stamp!

There were two separate series of the stamps, Series A and B. If there is a demand, I'll put up the second batch next time.

Here is a numerical list of the Series A stamps and the comics in which they appeared. I also mention where the artwork for each stamp originally came from.


  1. A 1961 "Maverick" episode, "A Technical Error," spoofed Green Stamps. Bart Maverick (Jack Kelly) won a bank in a poker game, then found out the vault was empty. Fearing a panic and a run on the bank if word got out, he offered trading stamps to new customers. The depositors could redeem the stamps for prizes (actually worthless junk that Bart bought cheap from merchants who had been unable to sell it). Soon the bank had enough funds on hand to do business, and the depositors were happy with their "prizes."

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