Friday, January 29, 2021

Green Stamp's gift catalogue from 1966 reveals Nintendo toy range from before Ultra Hand

In today's post we will cover a gift catalogue from 1966. It contains interesting information about Nintendo at the time of publication.

In overviews of the history of Nintendo, the Ultra Hand released in the same year, is sometimes presented as the first Nintendo toy, that shifted the company from mere manufacturer of playing cards to a broader toy company.

And although the Ultra Hand was the first toy that was wildly successful for the company, and helped solidify their position in the market, this catalogue shows the much broader range of products they produced in the mid 1960s.

Green Stamp's catalogue and stamp booklet

The 24-page full colour catalogue is for a loyalty program called Green Stamp's (or グリーンスタンプ in Japanese).
 
Green Stamps was one of the first retail loyalty program in the United States, founded as Sperry & Hutchinson (S&H) Green Stamps in the first part of the 20th century, and brought over to Japan in the early 1960s.

As an aside, as part of the Japanse localisation, an oddly placed apostrophe was introduced in "stamp's", possibly because the last 's' was dropped in the Japanese katakana spelling 'スタンプ' which reads as 'sutampu'.


Retailers participating in the program bought stamps from the Green Stamps organisation, and handed these to customers as a bonus for shopping at their stores, thus strengthening loyalty. The number of stamps received depended on the sales amount.

Customers would stick the stamps in booklets - which involved a lot of licking of backs of stamps to moisturise the glue - while dreaming of the wonderful gifts to collect one day.

This catalogue, called "exchange list" (引換品リスト), shows all the items available to get for free, in exchange for certain amounts of completed booklets full of stamps.


These gifts could be viewed and picked up at Green Stamp's showrooms, located throughout the country, as well as at smaller collection points.

Green Stamp's show room

The catalogue shows the broad range of gifts available.


This includes grooming items, beauty products and luxury items like cigarette lighters, fountain pens and jewellery.


Also a wide selection of household items, furniture and appliances is available.


The catalogue provides a nice picture of the ideal, modern home in Japan in the mid 1960s.


Children are not forgotten, with multiple bikes and playground equipment on offer as well.


Of course, the section we are most interested in for this blog, are the toys (玩具) on page 18.


About half of the toys offered in the catalogue are by Nintendo, fifteen different items in total. As with all other products in the catalogue, the manufacturer is mentioned in the description.


Nintendo will probably have had two reasons to offer their products through Green Stamp's. Firstly, it broadened their distribution channel, allowing them to increase their sales volumes directly. Secondly, it also worked as marketing; inclusion in this catalogue brought their products under the attention of more people, building the awareness of the Nintendo brand as a maker of games and toys.

Nintendo (任天堂) items are number 10 to 19 and 27 to 31

For each item the 'exchange rate' is expressed in the number of full stamp booklets plus additional loose stamps. A booklet contained 200 stamps, so an item that is listed for 1 booklet and 100 stamps, can be seen as having an one and a half booklet value.

Let's take a look in more detail at each of the Nintendo products in the catalogue, starting with a Yakuman (Japanese Mahjong) set, for twelve booklets and 100 stamps, and a Yakuman playing mat for four booklets.


A large part of the Nintendo games offered at the time were traditional games, like these Shogi (Japanse Chess), Go and Chess sets, that could be had for two and half, one and a half and three booklets, respectively.



Nintendo at the time also offered a large range of Roulette sets, one of which is also included here, offered for one full booklet.


The most advanced Nintendo toy included here is the Companion walkie talkie set, which went for twelve booklets and fifty stamps. It was the second most expensive item offered, just after the Yakuman set.


Next is a Billiards set, for twelve booklets. I am not sure about its dimensions, but expect it to be medium size at most, given the price.


No batteries needed for the next toy, but offering a lot of fun nonetheless: the New Coater Game, for two booklets.


Another fun mechanical play set: Home Bowling, for 4.5 booklets of stamps.


Four different trump playing card sets are available, for either one or one and a half booklet, including the so-called picture book cards.


The last item is a magic set (手品セット), providing a number of different tricks, for one and a half booklet.


That concludes the Nintendo items offered in the Green Stamp's catalogue. 


If you liked this post, also check out this one about a 1970 Nintendo company brochure

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