By the time the 1970s rolled around, trading stamps had hit some sort of peak age. Green Stamps, Thrifty, and Top Value and other trading stamps offered ever-broader ranges of merchandise redeemable if you just acquired enough trading stamps while shopping at your local retailers. My family rarely collected enough stamps during our trips to the grocery to end up with anything more exotic than some glassware or a clock radio, but looking at this Top Value 1973 catalog, I see now we had set our sights too low.
We could bought a whole Ford Gran Torino Station Wagon – that stone-age SUV ancestor — for 1067 books of Top Value stamps (well, starting at 1067 books. The optional rear-facing third-seat cost extra.) Alternatively, we could have gone for the smaller Ford Pinto-based station wagon which was just 800 stamps, but those Pinto cars were justifiably suspect.
A single book of stamps could be filled only by making over $100 in purchases. That meant you had to buy over $100,000 worth of groceries to earn that station wagon (original 1973 suggested retail price, $3344.) My family was never going to reach that goal, but the point was we COULD have. It was the American Dream…just like those Norman Rockwall cover illustrations that Top Value commissioned for nearly a decade. Marriage. A home. A Station Wagon. And 1067 books of trading stamps.
Stations wagons, trading stamps, and Norman Rockwall had all peaked by 1973. Marriage survives.