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The History of Scratch and Sniff Stickers

A Look Back into the Origins of Scratch and Sniff Stickers


There is a certain magic and awe behind scratch and sniff stickers and cards. These innovative collectibles and marketing products have been around for over 50 years. Scratch and sniff, or scratch n sniff, may appear to be simple in design at heart, but their development was created with a revolutionary process, which created the birth of scratch and sniff stickers and trading cards, as we know today.

In this article, we will unravel the story and history of who invented scratch and sniff stickers, explore the microencapsulation process that makes them possible, and examine how these aromatic and fragrant collectibles were launched in the 1980s.

The Birth of an Idea: The Inventors of Scratch and Sniff

Our journey into the world of scratch and sniff stickers begins in 1965 with the inventive duo Gale Matson and Dr. Ernie Gerhardt. These two great minds, based at 3M, were exploring ways to add fragrance to their products. Matson and Gerhardt laid the foundation for what would become a sensory revolution in the stationary and marketing industries.

Matson, a chemist by trade, was intrigued by the possibility of incorporating scents into everyday items. Dr. Gerhardt, a seasoned researcher with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, brought the scientific expertise needed to turn this idea into reality. Together, they embarked on a journey that would change the way we perceive and interact with printed materials.

Understanding the Micro encapsulation Process

The process of micro encapsulation, which was developed in the 1950s, involves enclosing tiny particles, oil beads, droplets, or substances within a microscopic protective coating. Matson and Gerhardt's breakthrough lay in encapsulating tiny fragrance-containing microspheres within a polymer coating. These microspheres, when crushed or scratched, release the encapsulated scent, creating a novel sensory experience, scratch and sniff was born.

The micro encapsulation process, that is vital to every scratch n sniff manufacturing company, involves several steps. First, the desired fragrance is encapsulated in microscopic spheres. These spheres are then suspended in a liquid resin, forming a slurry. The slurry is applied to the surface of the material, and as it dries, the microspheres become embedded in the coating. When pressure is applied, such as by scratching, the microspheres rupture, releasing the fragrance.

This innovative process created micro encapsulated perfume and scented oil, and opened up a realm of possibilities for incorporating scents into a variety of materials, including scratch and sniff stickers, sniff cards and scented paper printed for packaging or promotional materials. These scented micro capsules became a scented oil or scented ink, and were a dream for a marketing department.

The Evolution of Scratch and Sniff Stickers in the 1980s

Fast forward to the 1980s, a period marked by a surge in creative marketing strategies. Scratch and sniff stickers became a sensation, capturing the attention of both children and adults alike. Companies recognized the potential of this sensory marketing tool, and a slew of products featuring scratch and sniff technology hit the market.

In 1980, Trend Enterprises, a prominent player in educational materials, introduced the first commercially successful scratch and sniff stickers. These stickers, adorned with fruity and aromatic scents, quickly gained popularity among children, making learning a multisensory experience. Other companies, sensing the market's appetite for scented novelties, followed suit.

One of the most iconic moments in the scratch and sniff sticker craze was the introduction of the "Sticker Collector's Album" by Creative Teaching Press in 1981. This album allowed enthusiasts to organize and showcase their growing collection of aromatic stickers, further fueling the trend.

The Business of Scent: Companies Leading the Way

As scratch and sniff stickers gained momentum, several companies seized the opportunity to capitalize on this fragrant trend. Mead, a well-known stationery manufacturer, introduced "Smelly Stickers" in 1983, featuring scents like chocolate, popcorn, and even pizza. The success of these stickers solidified scratch and sniff as a staple in the stationary aisle.

Another noteworthy player in the scratch and sniff saga is Hallmark. In 1985, Hallmark Cards, Inc. expanded its product line to include scented stickers, leveraging its well-established brand to appeal to a broader audience. The stickers, often infused with holiday-themed scents, became a delightful addition to greeting cards and gift wraps.

By the late 1980s, scratch and sniff stickers had permeated various industries. From advertising agencies incorporating scented elements into their campaigns to publishers enhancing the reading experience with scratch and sniff children's books, sniff card, bookmarks, the applications were diverse and creative.

Conclusion: Scratch and Sniff and Aromatic Legacies

Here at Sniffyz, as we reflect on the origins and evolution of scratch and sniff stickers, it becomes evident that what started as a chemistry experiment at 3M transformed into a multimillion-dollar industry. Gale Matson and Dr. Ernie Gerhardt's ingenuity paved the way for a sensory revolution, showcasing the potential of merging science and creativity.

Today, scratch and sniff stickers and trading cards continue to captivate consumers, proving that the marriage of scent and print is a timeless combination. The legacy of Matson and Gerhardt lives on in the Scent-sational Collectibles from Sniffyz, providing a fragrant reminder of the power of innovation in the collectibles industry.

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