Sticker Madness - A 1980's Craze

by | August 24, 2009

sticker-madness-lgDexy’s Midnight Runners, Prince, Michael Jackson, and Duran Duran monopolized the airways.  Nintendo went on the market for the first time.  Sally Ride went into outer space.  Michael Jackson moon walked for the first time.  The year was 1983, and the hottest trend in elementary schools and middle schools everywhere was sticker collecting.

Kids collected cheap stickers of all kinds – scratch and sniff, puffy stickers, metallic stickers, stickers with celebrity faces, cartoon icons, you name it.  They put them in sticker books, and they would show them to their friends.  They traded stickers, gave them as gifts, and proudly displayed them in their books and on many surfaces in their rooms.

What was the big deal?

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When Stan Avery used a $100 investment to build a machine to make self-adhesive labels, did he know that he was paving the way to a pop-culture phenomenon?  Maybe he thought that the brightly colored My Little Pony labels and the baseball-card-sized Star Wars stickers were an aberration to the business.  Mostly likely, though, he saw them as good business.

Those stickers, so coveted in the 1980’s, had their humble beginnings on a machine made from a washing machine motor, a saber saw, and a bunch of sewing machine parts.  Up until Avery got his idea most labels were not self-adhesive, meaning you had to get them wet to activate the stickiness.

From this simple beginning, novelty stickers evolved into all sorts of shapes, sizes, textures and smells.  That’s right.  Smells.  One manufacturer of scratch and sniff stickers, Mello Smello, produced a wide range of scented labels, as well as foil labels and other popular types of collectible stickers.

As for scratch and sniff stickers, they are still very much sought after by collectors, therefore Mello Smello still makes them. Vintage scratch and sniff stickers from the 80’s are a novelty to a collector, but since the smell can eventually go away, collectors also like new ones.  It does take a lot for the smell to go away.  The technology used to produce scratch and sniff stickers utilizes a process called micro-encapsulation.  The smell is surrounded by tiny, easily breakable capsules that break open when you scratch them.  There are so many micro-capsules in one sticker that the smell lasts a very long time.

There are a few scents of scratch and sniff stickers that are very exclusive.  One with a lemonade pitcher that smells like lemons is extremely hard to find.  Another that smells like roses is also sought after.  One that smells like eucalyptus is so exclusive that it was never sold in stores, only given to Mello Smello’s fan club members.

Other sought-after stickers are Star Wars stickers.  An entire collection of Star Wars stickers and trading cards will fetch more than $2000 on eBay.  Super hero stickers will also still fetch a high price.  With modern pop culture’s obsession with all things 80’s, it would seem that the interest in stickers has risen in the past few years.

These days it’s easy to get your own labels made.  You can market your business, your band, your family reunion, or your new child with a roll of custom labels.  If the “sticker renaissance” continues, some day your custom stickers could be part of someone’s vintage collection.