Scratchin’ & Sniffin’

Stickers were big in the grade school years. They were collected, even coveted. Teachers would put them on our graded homework papers and we’d pull them off, paste them in albums with special laminated pages, and look at them over and over again. And there were lots of good stickers that the teachers gave us back then. The best of them, though, were the “scratch n’ sniff” stickers.

scratch sniff

The scratch n’ sniff (or scratch n’ smell) stickers were stickers that when scratched (typically by kids fingernails) released a scent. Most of the time, this scent was too weak to be smelled from an arm’s length distance and so the kids would have to either bring the scratched stickers up to their noses or bring their noses down to the scratched stickers in order to smell it. As a result, a sticker connoisseur would often lay his or her stickers out on a school desk, scratch one furiously, lean over and sniff with great gusto, and then repeat. When the teacher passed out graded papers, audible sniffs followed them across the room. This was not uncommon nor was it considered odd.

Now there were several brands of scratch n’ sniff stickers and thus several different scratch n’ sniff stickers. My favorite, though, and indisputably the most popular, were the Trend companies Stinky Stickers. There was a consistent pattern to the Stinky Stickers. They were always a round sticker, somewhere around the size of a quarter. They typically had a solid background color, an animated character of some sort, and a short phrase (many of which were puns or gags). The scent of these stickers mostly matched the animated character; for example, an apple character sticker would have an apple scent, a peppermint character would have peppermint, etc). And all of these stickers were well-liked; it was never easy to trade Stinky Stickers because nobody wanted to give them up. There were a few, though, that were especially notable. The skunk sticker was fairly notorious; this sticker featured a skunk, the phrase “Scent-sational”, and a smell to match. The band-aid sticker always got a laugh and a look, as did the tree and the soap. I always liked the pizza sticker; not as risque as the skunk, perhaps, but, hey, it was pizza! My favorites, though, were the holiday-themed stickers. There was a set of Halloween stickers featuring a witch, a ghost, a skeleton, and a bat. There was also a Autumn/Thanksgiving set with leaves, a football, a pilgrim, and a turkey. And there was a Christmas set with a tree, a wreath, and a snowman. Since the latter part of the year is my favorite part of the year and since those holidays are my favorite holidays, so these were my favorite scratch n’ sniff stickers.

Today, I’m too old to have or even like scratch n’ sniff stickers. At least that’s what my friends told me when they found out I was bidding for some on eBay. And maybe that’s true. If nobody’s around, though, if nobody is there to either see or hear, I still might return to my grade-school ways; I still might scratch the stickers on the desk and dive down to inhale the released scent; I still might do a little scratchin’ n’ sniffin’.


Doug is a child of the 80s who was raised in Ohio and is now living the life of oblivion in the bay area of California.

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