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.
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.
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.
(**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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.