Scratch And Sniff Stickers Of The 80s

Any kid that grew up when I did, will quickly remember the popularity of the scratch and sniff stickers of the 80s.   They were the BOMB!!   Often referred to as the “Smelly Stickers”, they were the craze for all kids of this era.


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scratch and sniff stickers of the 80s - fun

There wasn’t a kid in class that didn’t have a scratch and sniff sticker album to show off.  Sharing your album with your friends, was such a huge part of the fun of collecting them.

Every time you would get a new page of stickers, you would peel each one off and put them in your album that way they were easy to show off.  Honestly just so much fun!

History of the stickers

The introduction of the scratch and sniff sticker dates back to 1965 and was invented by the company 3M.  YUP!!!  I sure didn’t know that they were the ones that invented this phenomenon.

Although created in the mid-1960s, it wasn’t until 1977 when Creative Teaching Press first rolled out the earliest scratch and sniff stickers.

It was at this point that they became a household name from that point up to the mid-1980s.  The original creation of the stickers was for teachers to use as a type of reward, much like the gold star was given.   This reward was their way of saying “Good Job” or “Excellent Work”.   Of course, kids quickly fell in love with them.

Once the sticker was out, it didn’t take long for kids to start buying and collecting their own smelly stickers.

Between 1980 and 1982 a company called Trend joined in on the sticker madness to create their own smelly sticker designs.  By 1985 Trend had designed over 100 different smelly sticker designs.   The largest selection of stickers available.    This quickly led them to be the company to look for in these infamous stickers.


scratch and sniff stickers of the 80s - glossy

In 1987, they retired these stickers and replaced them with a glossier style of scratch and sniff sticker.   They were released in a more artsy and full color designs then the older stickers.  To this day, they remain one of the most popular brands of scratch and sniff stickers.


How do they work?

Now that we know a bit about when they first came out and who was responsible for these super cool stickers, let’s cover how they actually work.

Back before Xerox machines as a way to copy documents, we used carbon paper as a way to transfer information from one page to another.

In 1960 a chemist named Gale Matson from 3M came up with a way to do this without using carbon paper.  The process was called “Microencapsulation”.

With this new procedure, you would have 2 pieces of paper, but the top page would be coated with something called “Microcapsules” of colorless ink.  The way it works is, if you write on the first page it breaks and releases the capsules onto the bottom piece of paper.  The bottom piece has a developer chemical on it, thereby transferring the information to the second sheet.  VIOLA…. You have a copy of the original page.

scratch and sniff of the 1980s - how they are made(**Picture care of the Atlantic article How to: Make Your Own Scratch-And-Sniff Map)

Once this process was mastered 3M quickly realized that this could also be used with scent oils as well as with just ink.   This process was invented in 1965 and was used to create pull apart perfume samples and ALAS….the Scratch and Sniff Sticker.

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Different kinds

When the stickers were rolled out to the teachers and eventually the students, the stickers came in a variety of designs and scents.

The idea was that the design or picture of the sticker would tell you what kind of scent you would smell once you scratched it.

So, for example a picture of popcorn when scratched would smell like buttered popcorn, or the dill pickle character that when scratched would smell like dill.  You see where I am going with this.  With the more than 100 designs, there was really a sticker for everyone.


scratch and sniff stickers of the 80s - kinds

To make even more fun, they would put a cute little title or saying around it, hoping to draw your attention to it.

Some of the most popular ones were:

  • Hot Stuff – which was a slice of pizza
  • Snappy – which was an apple
  • Grape Stuff – which was grape jelly on bread
  • Berry Good – which smelt like a strawberry
  • Pear-fect – which smelt like a pear
  • Appealing – which was the smell of banana

and so on.  There were just so many amazing scents and designs to choose from.


scratch and sniff stickers of the 80s - kinds


Why and where were they used?

I mentioned that the scratch and sniff stickers were originally meant for teachers as a reward for good work.  Once us kids started buying our own stickers, we used them on almost every surface you can imagine.

While lots of kids used the stickers as a means of collection and saving, some kids opted to use them differently.  They would often be put on things like lockers, backpacks, and even as decoration for your books or notebooks.

Myself, I used them as a means of collection.  I had a photo album that I would put them in.  That way, they would be covered in the plastic film as a way of protecting them.  Unfortunately, if you over scratched the sticker or had it for a long time, the scent would of course dissipate.


scratch and sniff stickers of the 80s - book


By putting them in an album, I was able to make them last much longer.  The only downside of that, was that you always had to flip back the clear film cover just to get to the sticker.  So, in hindsight, I am not sure that was the smartest way of keeping them.  But honestly it worked for me.

If you wanted a completely different option, you could actually buy books that were completely made of the scratch and sniff concept.  Very cool!

Scratch and sniff sticker roundup

We often are triggered in our life, by smells that remind us of our past.  There is truly nothing more reminiscent of that then the scratch and sniff stickers of the 80s.  One quick scratch and boy the smell just takes you back.

It is so funny to think about how these little stickers, were such a fad and crazy time in my youth.  I guess back then, something new and fun like these stickers just made me happy.  Showing off my newest sticker to my friends and classmates, is something that I will always remember.  Truly just another amazing thing about growing up an 80s kid.


scratch and sniff stickers of the 80s - album

Anyone who didn’t grow up in that era, sure did miss out some pretty groundbreaking and interesting products that are still around today.  YES, you can still today get a set of scratch and sniff stickers for you, your kids, or your grandkids.  If they have never heard of them before, you can very easily rock their world by introducing them to them.


I hope you have enjoyed reading my post and that I have piqued your interest a little.  I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

4 thoughts on “Scratch And Sniff Stickers Of The 80s”

  1. Nice article. It is interesting to see what stickers looked like back then in the 80s. And also get to know a bit of the history of stickers.

    I must say I am amazed to know that scratch and sniff stickers were present as far back as the 60s.

    Thanks for this article that has not only educated us on the history of scratch and sniff stickers, but also how they work and the different types. It’s great to have something to remind us about the days back then as a kid.

    • Hi Kelvin,

      Yes I so agree that it is nice to go back and think about the things that we enjoyed when we were kids.  That was my whole reason for writing the post.  Being able to share all the things I loved about being a kid, is just another way for me to remember the cool things that came out of the 80s.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post.  I really appreciate it.


  2. Wow. This was really beautiful, bringing back the scratch and sniff stickers of the 80s to now is really a top notch innovation, I would like to get some for my children so they will also get to know what the 80s kids used back in those days.

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful work

    • Hello,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and enjoy my post.  I absolutely loved scratch and sniff stickers from the 80s.  It was such a cool thing when I was a kid.

      In writing the post, my goal was to hopefully introduce them to a new generation.  Most of the people from my era now have kids or grand kids, this is a perfect opportunity to share them.

      Thanks again.



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