Green Shield Stamps
Green Shield Stamps were almost everywhere in the Britain of the 60s and 70s. If you bought your groceries at certain shops the retailer gave you stamps to stick in a book. Once you had collected enough you exchanged the books for gifts. Most people can remember Green Shield Stamps, but there were other schemes. Does anyone remember Blue Star, Gift Coupon, Happy Clubs, Thrift Stamp, Uneedus Bonus, Universal Sales Promotions or Yellow Stamps?
What do you get for living in a climate like this, Green Stamps? (American guest at Fawlty Towers)
Green Shield Stamps and other trading stamps, as they were known, were more often found in smaller shops in the early sixties. Local grocers, butchers, greengrocers, fishmongers, chemists, bakers, tobacconists, confectioners, drapers, ironmongers and petrol stations all gave stamps. Later in the sixties, big stores such as Tesco signed up the scheme. For the retailer it was a way of encouraging customer loyalty. For the customer it meant free gifts. The gifts though, had to be paid for. It was the retailer who paid the stamp company. He may have passed on those costs to the customer, but Which? in 1965 found prices no higher in stores that gave away stamps.
A "Stamp War" broke out in 1963/4. Fine Fare starting giving away the American S & H Pink Stamps. Green Shield Stamps were being given away by Tesco and Priceright and other stamp companies competed aggressively for outlets.
Lord Sainsbury opposed trading stamps. He formed the Distributive Trades Alliance comprising Boots, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, W H Smith and other leading retailers. This challenge lead to an Act of Parliament to regulate the stamp companies. Fine Fare dropped stamps, but Green Shield Stamps remained popular for many years after this.
Green Shield Stamps: the gifts
So what could you get with Green Shield Stamps? Answer: almost anything. The Green Shield Stamp Company produced a glossy catalogue that left consumers drooling over the latest gadgets to enhance their homes. The Green Shield Stamp Catalogue offered every luxury imaginable for nothing. Or so it seemed.
In the 60s the emphasis was on glamour and style. The illustration, left, is from the 1965 catalogue. In this catalogue some of the top gifts were:
- Regentone 19" television - 88 books
- Longines 9ct Gold watch - 39½ books
- Kodak Brownie 8 Movie Camera - 13¼ books
- Kenwood Chef - 33¼ books
- Silver Cloud motor boat (outboard motor not included!) - 170 books
You could fly with Green Shield Stamps; they could be used as whole or part payment for a flight with BOAC.
You could dream with Green Shield Stamps, but how much did you have to spend? Each book contained 1,280 stamps. You got 1 stamp for each 6d spent. For the motor boat you would need 217,600 stamps; meaning an outlay of £5440, or the price of a large detached house, on groceries and petrol.
So most people had to settle for something more modest. You would need to spend £2,816 to get the television; £1064 for the Kenwood Chef and £424 for the movie camera. For these sums you would have got a modest house, a large family car or a mini respectively. So you would have to have spent a lot at your local grocers or garage. The average person had to go for something even more modest. You would have to spend £32 to get just one book. In 1965 that would give you:
- A set of six mugs in pastel colours
- Finlandia imported stainless steel tableware (8 pieces)
- A record rack
- A mouth organ
- A set of six lager glasses with gold rims
- A set of three pictures
- A cigarette box with a paisley pattern lid
- Stainless steel salad servers
- A gent's brush and comb set
Green Shield Stamps in the 70s
In the 70s the Green Shield Stamp Catalogue sold a dream of a more relaxed, informal lifestyle. Gone was the glitz and glamour of the 60s. In 1976 top gifts were:
- Philips Colour TV - 375 books
- Lec Chest Freezer - 140 books
- Creda Starlight cooker - 115 books
- Hotpoint Automatic washing machine - 185 books
- Car - any British make or model - ask for a quotation
Richard Tompkins, who brought Green Shield Stamps to the UK, launched the Argos Catalogue Showroom as a spin-off in 1973.
Green Shield Stamps were less popular in the later 70s. Competition from the new supermarket, Kwik Save, made Tesco stop giving away stamps and concentrate on value. Customers realised that they were ultimately paying for the gifts and chose cheaper prices.
More on Green Shield Stamps
If you fancy reliving your memories of Green Shield Stamps in the 60s and 70s you can buy them on eBay. Look for and
Add your comments on Green Shield Stamps
"Is it true that someone saved enough for a car bur was refused it because they suspected fraud?" Simon 17/07/2011
"Do I remember correctly that there were Green Shield Stamp stores where you could redeem your stamp books? If I recall correctly I we used to go to one in Gloucester." Angus 10/03/2012
"Yes there were Green Shield Stamp showrooms throughout the country. Best regards" Steven 11/03/2012
"Does anyone know where the store was near Tottenham, London. At the time we lived in Sheffield and my dad convinced my mother to redeem stamps in London. This gave him the chance to take us all to the Tottenham vrs Sheff wed game in 1971. Would love to have it confirmed that the store was near White Hart Lane." robert smalley 15/05/2012
"i worked for green shield for 6 years great company ,love to look up a few old work mates" jack lord 03/07/2012
"To Robert Smalley - The Green Shield Stamp shop was not in Tottenham, but further north past Angel Road in Fore Street, Edmonton. The building is used by Argos today, as what also happened to the Green Shield Stamp shop in Harlow's Harvey Centre." David Andrew 16/09/2012
"I think a number of Green Shield Stamp shops were taken over by Argos. That's what happened to the Coventry one in the 70s." Steven 17/09/2012
"I still have some Green Shield Stamps books and a catalogue.
I wonder what happened to the models in it?" Jean 20/10/2012
"if I hadn't fallen over nikki suddens wonderful song about the theme, I'd never have heard of gss, but now, it's an icon to me, something very emotional, do not ask why, it's nikkis trade, I suppose ..." Laurent 31/10/2012
"You could also get GSS when you bought petrol and a lot of the garages gave doulbe stamps on the week end." Frank Young 27/11/2012
"you are correct , my dad used to get them from the petrol station, and the shop in leeds was taken over by argos" banner41 21/12/2012
"I remember the Green shield stamp shop in Dalston becoming an Argos and the one in Seven Sisters Road, between Finsbury park and Holloway did the same. Anyone remember the Wembley Trophy Football on sale for one book of stamps ??? If you do, i'm looking for a pic of one." Enfive Gooner 15/01/2013
"I worked at the Swansea branch for 3 years, and one person saved enough Books for the FORD ESCOURT, he walked in with 2 suitcases and he did get the car. Big excitement in our store, took nearly all the staff to check the books." Lynne 14/04/2014
"My dad used to deliver for Greenfield and was actually used as a model in one if their photoshoots helping a lady with her luggage and also my mum's blue budgie was used to model a budget cage, if anyone knows how to find a copy of the catalogue they both appeared in please let me know, we're talking mid 70s??? Thanks" Denise burgin 05/05/2014
I've got 1973 and 1978 an neither of those seem to match what you describe. There is a green budgie in the 1973 one.
Best regards" Steven 05/05/2014
"Green Shield Stamps were available around 1950 in Southend on Sea. Although everyone says they weren't founded until 1958 they were around then, certainly before 1953.
The books were a very dark green a cheap type of thick paper and the glue on the stamps was poor. Whether this was an initial trial in the area I do not know but I do remember collecting them from a small grocery shop." Tel 13/09/2014
"Do you know what number in Palmerston Road, Southsea, Portsmouth that the Green Shield stamp shop was, or can you find out to settle arguments, when did it open and when did it shut" Jane Hewitt 27/09/2014
"The Green Shield Stamp shop (Redemption Centre) was not in Palmerston Road Southsea - It was in Elm grove.
Am I the only one who got a wife from Green Shield Stamps ?
I married the Area Managers Secretary Jackie in 1963 !!" francis 12/11/2014
"I remember Dad driving miles to find petrol stations giving Double or Treble GSS. Must have used a lot of petrol to save them. Collected loads of mugs, and cutlery...." Colin 10/03/2015
"I worked as a displayman for Green Shield stamps 1968 & 1969 all over South London & southern England. The company was started by Richard Tompkins who went to the States with his notebook to observe how the company S&H Green stamps was operated there (in the UK they were S&H pink stamps), He came back to the UK and created Green Shield stamps, I remember going to the head office at Station Road, Edgware every two weeks to pick up display supplies, I used to see his Rolls Royce in the parking lot with the number plate 007, story is that he was out driving one day and he saw an E-type Jaguar with that number plate on it, he bought the car just for the plate to change over to his Rolls Royce.
I used to replace the petrol station aluminium box signs on the main pole, i.e. Shell, BP, National, Esso etc. then I would add self adhesive stickers, Double, Treble, Quad. Tesco stores were the hardest because you had to stick a self adhesive banner along the top of the window, each sticky plastic banner was about 4 feet long so a 40 foot window needed 10 banners end to end, of course cleaning off the old dried up banners was a real chore, then clean of the old sticky residue with thinners, awful task. Inside the store you hung large cardboard banners from nylon filament and bunches of balloons on promotional stunts. I got to travel all over southern England staying at good quality hotels, they gave me a brand new van Thames 15 cwt to start with then later a diesel Transit van, worked from home and got all my communications by post, hotel bookings, work assignments, staff meetings to attend etc. Once the whole display team went to Dublin to cover all the Williams supermarkets there. I'm now almost 71 and I have very fond memories of my time with Green Shield stamps, for such a big institution and a way of life in the 60's & 70's there really isn't that much out there about it's history (we were told that it was one of the ten fastest or largest? growing companies at that time), I've tried to rectify that lack of information here with this tedious monologue, hoping that I've enlightened some of you about this part of Britain's lost history." Tony West 22/08/2015
"I was a green shield personality girl in 1973 Mr Poultney was my boss Such fun We all wore green uniforms" Carol 10/09/2015
"My late father Frank William Coleman worked for Green Shield Stamps as a surveyor for many years looking after all the shops he used to take me to seaside towns which was great fun to see how they put the displays together. My late mother and I used the Wembley shop used to get all my toys and games.
They had a social club Brookshill Drive in Stanmore had a games room, arcade, dance floor ,music night and fate every summer I helped run a stall and got free Ice Cream, great days. Does anyone remember these days?
Peter Coleman (Son)" Peter Coleman 02/10/2015
"My mum is on the lighting page of the 1966 catalogue. The photo us on another page of this site x Do you have a copy of the catalogue that could be scanned really high resolution for me? Thankyou in advance x" Chantal 11/01/2016
"Was Ron Holpin the MD of GSS's in the UK?
I was told this was the case but am unable to find any reference to him" Colin Andtrews 31/03/2016
"My Grandfather, Ernie Crane worked for them and then Argos before retiring in 1988. He was heavily involved with the launch in Northern Ireland and led a team of sales people to get it off the ground there. Was store manager at Shepherds Bush Argos before finishing his time at Aldershot. Always spoke affectionately of his time with Green Shield." Jason Taylor 16/04/2016
"We were a family affair. My dad was a maintenance man at Green Shields warehouse (and Argos), Daventry. My Mum worked in the canteen. My sister was a secretary, who married her personnel officer boss. I worked as a Saturday girl at the shop in Abingdon Square Northampton. I loved working for Green Shield, the best wages, and really good management. Still looking for my store colleague Denise." Karol Douglass 03/05/2016
"I have three Star Gift Coupon Savings Books, same principle as green shield stamps. Issued by The Gift Coupon Company Limited of Star House, 19-23 Norland Road, London W.11 Does anyone collect these? Thank you." Kate Weldon 22/07/2016
"I used to be the nanny to Richard Tompkins daughter, Victoria at their belgravia house.
A nicer man could you not meet. His motto was look after your staff and they will look after you, a motto I have never forgotten.
A lovely family and his wife Elizabeth who's name the jewellery was named after was down to earth.
Happy days in my first nanny job straight from Norland." Gilly Smith 13/08/2016
"I have several books green shield stamps. They are very old and in good condition." Alonzo Webb 24/08/2016
"The post from "Tel" about them starting in 1950 could well be true, l remember walking down Deptford High street with my Grandmother and always seeing a bus wheel laid down with a pole welded on it advertising that GSS were available from a shop, it was shiny green and possibly GSS bought up old bus wheels and made signs cheap and gave them to shopkeepers to put outside, this was from about 1953 time l think, certainly up until 1959." Tom 01/10/2016
"I joined GS in November 1960 as a new business salesman. I was successful and over the 18 years was promoted 7 times and moved house 4 times to arrive at H/O in 1972 and finally become Independent Sales Manager. I am now 80 and have to say that my time working for Dick Tompkins was the best period of my life. He was really good to staff and rewarded us well for effort and success. It was a sad loss when he died. On a Thames Boat trip when he was the guest of honour at the Man at he Top Club outing in 1977 and he said something that stuck in my mind. It was roughly "People keep telling me how to run my business. My success is down to not listening to them". If anyone should have been knighted then it was him as he and GS are firmly in the history of the UK book of honours. Argos for which GS was the foundation is still a successful retail leader. Ted 21/10/2016" Edward Harding 21/10/2016
"I have recently found in a cupboard a carrier bag full of Pink Stamps and Saver books, also Green Shield Stamps. Do they have any value now?" Pauline Gawler 16/01/2017
"Pauline Gawler, have a look on eBay as there are some on there. This will give you an idea of what their value is." PADDY 23/01/2017
"My father worked as Marketing Director at Carreras Rothman in the 70s and launched the Cambridge cigarette brand which was the first to offer Green Shield stamps. I vividly remember the launch party on a boat on the Thames with a firework display featuring both brand logos. My Mum bought her Kenwood Chef with Green Shield stamps and it lasted for over 40 years." Meldops 27/01/2017
"Can u please tell me who the mother is in the green shield ad for Argos she appears in a sitcom but I can't remember her name and it's killing me" Fariha 03/04/2017
"Hello, I am wondering if you have any catalogue pages with electric fans on, and if so I would be very grateful if you could send them to me. Thanks." James 07/05/2017
"Has anyone got a copy of the advert for green shield stamps made at Silverstone in the sixties. My husband was a driver in the lorry formation, would love to see it again. Or does anyone know where to find it. Thanks" Beryl hill 15/07/2017
"Hi, I worked as a shift leader in the computer operations dept, bot at Edgeware and then at Merit house at Colindale. Sorry cant be too exact with the years, possibly mid 60's" Bob Hammond 10/09/2017
"Could anyone tell me when the green shield stamp shop opened in Gloucester" Marlene 30/09/2017
"I joined Green Shield in 1963 until 1974, I was Computer Operations Manager at Green Shield House Edgware and then at Merit House
Colindale. I married the Supervisor of the Data Control Dept in 1972 and
we now live on the South Coast. I agree with all the other staff members
that it was a pleasure to work for Richard Thomkins he was a true gentleman." Victor Godfrey 04/12/2017
"I was a Green Shield Personality Girl in the early 1970s. I travelled all over the UK launching the stamps at stores such as Tesco. We spent about 3 months in Scotland when Green Shield took over the S & H outlets. We had so much fun. We wore green uniforms with a yellow ribbon around a huge hat! I remember Bernie McClure, another Personality Girl, Robin the display man, and so many other nice people whom I worked with. I would love for anybody to get in touch if they remember me. I left just before the ferries promotions started. Good memories of good days." Joann Casey 21/12/2017
"I have a large number of Green Shield Stamps donated to me for helping a Charity. Are there collectors of these or can they be sold ?
Please advise me. Peter Robson." Peter Robson 09/01/2018
"Does anyone remember John Elford, believe he set up Peerless Promotions in Southampton circa 1970?" G Gomez 18/02/2018
"My family had a petrol filling station in Weston Turville, near Aylesbury (Bucks). As youngsters in the 60s we thought it very exciting to be able to stick the stamps in the customers' books (yes, the glue wasn't great!), especially the big "10" stamps following a big purchase. Shell 4-star petrol was 6/8 a gallon (3 gallons for £1!). Giving double-and triple-stamps was great for developing one's mental arithmetic, too. Unfortunately, as others have mentioned, the owners of such small businesses as ours had to buy the stamps first, so giving them away ate into the small profit which selling petrol earned. We stopped selling petrol in the early 70s...end of an era." Caroline Hodgson 27/05/2018
"I worked for green shield for 6years as a quality control engineer. A great company to work for and a super boss in the name of the founder Mr Richard TompkinHappy daysT" Edward Price 05/07/2018
"I vaguely remember Vic Godfrey as I was Computer systems manager (under Sean O;Callaghan) at Merit House from circa 1972 to circa 1972 (after we launched Argos).
Very, very Happy days with that 'family' of staff." Guy Zimmerli 25/08/2018
"Hi Victor Godfrey guy zimerllee glad your still alive like me how can we communicate ? Pete watts team computer operator disasters ! Love yo both" Ken Browne 09/09/2018
"Hello, does anyone remember my mum Margaret Fitzpatrick who was a Green Shields Personality girl in the early 60’s in London? She always talked about her Green Shield days with such happiness! Would love to hear from anyone who knew her!" Sarah Goodwin 06/11/2018
"Hello Guy ... I vaguely remember you ! What are you up to these days ? Still very very happy, I hope." Charlie Levene 19/12/2018
Retrowow Established 2002
Vintage, retro & social history: articles and collectors' guides