Peel Here #16, Smells like weird in here…

By Shawn Robare

Well as of this installment of Peel Here I’m officially a fourth of the way through what I have set out to share sticker-wise. I have a rough estimate of about 52 columns total, and around 1500 stickers to share, out of which I’ve shared 388. I also received my first bit of reader/listener sticker collection sharing, so hopefully this will last for a bit. On the one hand, it seems like a lot to share and enough so that it’ll be a nice place to catch up on a bunch of sticker nostalgia. On the other, and even though 1500 stickers is a lot, it’s only a dent in what was the insane sticker craze of the 80’s.

Anyway, as promised this week, and for the whole month of March, I’ll be dedicating Peel Here to the topic of Scratch and Sniff stickers. Whether you know them as sniff, sniffy, stinky, smelly, scratch ‘n’ sniff, scratch & sniff, scent, or scented these stickers were undeniably a part of most kids lives in the 70’s and 80’s. Practically every company producing stickers had a line or two, and there were ever a few companies who dealt almost exclusively in the form, Trend, CTP, and Mello Smello off the top of my head. There were licensed stickers like Mr. T, Kool-Aid, E.T., and Garfield, as well as generic or company specific images, of which Trend is probably the popular and prolific. There were even puffy scratch & sniff stickers which was like a 1980 girl’s wet dream come true.

The popularity of these stickers was so pervasive that the idea spread to many other products other than stickers. There were many toys including, two scented Masters of the Universe figures, Stinkor and Moss Man, both of which rounded out my sense memories for that toy line, not to mention a whole line of Strawberry Shortcake figures. There was even a series of scratch and sniff children’s books (I had a Popeye one that I’ve been trying to find for years to no avail), scented crayons, pens, pencils and erasers.

For today’s vintage sticker collectors Scratch & Sniff’s are probably some of the most rare, not to mention expensive, stickers because of they’re very self destructive form. Not only is it a sticker, which means that at least half of all those made were used as just that, but in order to get to the sweet scent you had to (obviously) scratch the sticker which left most of them, after time, faded, ripped or scentless. As with most collections, the most pristine examples are the sought after items and on today’s secondary sticker market (i.e. eBay) whole sheets or mint in package sheets can fetch upwards of $30-$45. That’s like $1.50 to $4 for one quarter-sized sticker, and that, my friends, is insane.

For the majority of the next four Peel Here columns I’m going to focus on the most popular brand of scratch & sniff stickers, Trend, because they’re the ones that I remember the most and were the easiest to obtain. There were around 104 original scents, though I’ve only managed to track down about half of those.  Of the ones I did find, most are in they’re original packaging which is where they’re going to stay because I’d like to re-sell them, so I haven’t gotten a chance to find out what they smell like.  Also, on a semi-related note, I’d like to direct you to Bubble Dog’s awesome sticker collection because, well, it’s awesome and much more complete than mine could ever hope to be, at least scratch and sniff-wise.

I think, like most kids, I was first introduced to the concept of scratch & sniff stickers in elementary school when we started getting graded on tests and homework. For a good grade (I’m not sure whether we were on the more simple A, B, C, D, F or still on the more conceptual Great, Good, Needs Improvement) you’d get a sticker with a small note from the teacher. You knew you were kicking some scholastic ass when you got a scratch and sniff sticker though, and as I mentioned on my recent podcast, it has been forever cemented in my brain that the idea of doing a good job must be connected with intense scents.  Weird but true.

So for this column, I’m going to share some of what I think are the weirder stickers, with either weird scents or odd pictures to go with these scents. First up we have my favorite sniff sticker ever, gasoline. I suppose at the end of the day there has to be at least one person who loves every scent imaginable, and though I would place the scent of gasoline in the "weird" category, I love it. Actually now that I think about it, with Nascar and tractor pulls there are probably a lot of closet gas huffers out there.

The sister sticker to gasoline is probably this following sticker that smelled like motor oil. I wasn’t as fond of this scent, but I really dig the sweet chopper in the picture. These two stickers are also probably the best examples of "boys" scratch & sniff as well, though I’m sure there are a lot of Nascar-mommas out there who would beg to differ.

Another odd scent, and one that I’ve never had the opportunity to sniff was this band-aid sticker. Though I can imagine how it would smell, faintly like vinyl with a touch of medicinal gauze, it’s an odd example of the types of scents Trend Enterprises was shooting for. I guess these were great for doctor’s offices, though I never got one, not even after I jumped off a chair and cracked my head open on the edge of a coffee table while screaming out super hero names.  Nope.  Poor me.

Also in the weird scent department is this crab-scented sticker. Now I’m not even sure what crab smells like other than fishy, because the taste of crab is one of those flavors that doesn’t seem to rely on the scent as much as say an orange. In fact even the taste is a little bit of a mystery to me as I typically eat crab in other things or smothered in butter or soy sauce, so I really can’t imagine what this sticker smelled like. Besides, who wants to smell a crab, I mean outside of getting stereotypically sexually gross here, when does this come up as a great opportunity.

Here’s another example of one of those weird scents that was directly up my alley, soap. I loved this sticker and it was the pride of my scratch & sniff collection growing up, though I think there were extenuating circumstances for this. Besides liking the fresh and clean scent, this was one of the only Trend stickers that I actually managed to get an entire sheet of from the local Hallmark store. What was funny was that while I was in the store I was seriously jonesing for all the Trend stickers, but my Mom limited me to two packages so I grabbed the soap and jellybean scented packages. I was so happy until I got home and realized that I didn’t have a thing to do with 12 of each sticker. It was then that I realized that it was way cooler to get one on a test then to cheat and buy them.

This following example is pretty straightforward but I felt it deserved to be in the weird category. I remember this skunk sticker smelling exactly like my Stinkor action figure and for whatever reason, have for years been under the impression that neither smelled like an actual skunk. That was until about two months ago when I was driving in north Georgia and I whisked past a dead skunk of the road. The intake was open on my air conditioner and it immediately filled the car with Stinkor smell. I guess it was pretty darn accurate.

Okay, rope is just a dumb sticker and scent. I think I would even prefer a picture of a cat hanging off a rope that smelled like cat pee,than something so boring for a "Hang in There" sticker.

So what exactly does a phone smell like? I mean besides plastic?

Okay, here’s an example of one of those WTF stickers. It’s a singing record album that smells like licorice. Yup. They managed to release a phone sticker that smells like a phone, but they couldn’t replicate the smell of vinyl? Or were they having problems deciding on a mascot for licorice? I suppose they were playing off of the licorice wheel candies that sort of looked like records, and I do believe I’ve heard the term licorice pizza as a reference to records, but still this sticker is just plain silly. It looks like a record album so it should smell like Gene Simmons.

Another complete falsehood is the following cherry scented clown sticker. Now we all know that clowns don’t smell like cherries, but instead failure and death. And shock and fear. And crying, pants pooping, and most importantly grease, as in way too much grease paint for one living person to sport under hot lights. In fact it should smell like hell, because lets face it, clowns are scary. Well except for Bozo, but the Grand Prize Game goes a long way to making him more palatable.

By the way, on a side note and as a little bit of insider info into my personality, if I’d had the chance to play and win the Grand Prize Game as a kid I think I would have just shot myself right afterwards because it would have the culmination of one of my favorite dreams. Six buckets, six ping pong balls, a whole mess of 80’s toy prizes up to and including a picture with Bozo from his patented spectra vision Polaroid camera (was that it?), a crisp $100 bill, a new bike and a superb cake from what ever local Chicago bakery Bozo used to pimp for. Anyway…

I threw this one in here because I think it’s ridiculous that Trend thinks bees smell like honey. I mean, I don’t smell like poop or spit and women don’t smell like mother’s milk. 
I mean, I’m just saying…

This is another WTF sticker. Okay, so like either this is the embodiment of what spearmint looks like, or goblins smell like Tic Tacs. Weird.

These last two stickers fall into the esoteric range of scents that are relegated to astronauts and leprechauns. Okay, so what the hell does Space Smell like? Apparently, robots. Space smells like robots. Cute ones that look like they could have been stand-in’s for Timer on Time for Timer. Yup, Neal Armstrong would agree, space smells like cute robots.

This second esoteric scented sticker apparently smells like rainbows. Now I’m assuming that what this sticker actually smells like is that weird "fresh & clean" smell of laundry detergent, but only Lucky would know, and he’s hording that information just like he does with his damn marshmallows.

Anyway, next week, more damn scratch and sniff stickers.

  • Shawn Robare

    Pearlgrl – You know, I never thought to contact Trend. I totally agree that they should release a 30th anniversary line of these stickers, that would be so cool. Hell, they originals that pop up on ebay go for upwards of $20 a sheet, you think Trend would want to reprint them. They’d make a mint!

  • Pearlgrl

    This was so much fun to read. I have my collection, in mostly pristine condition from my childhood. I can absolutely remember where I was, in either life or in class when I got certain stickers. The phone is cinnamon and the rainbow is like laundry detergent. I have every single sticker made in those days–in the 80’s. It is one collection I actually did right and well. I have contacted the marketing rep several times at Trend. She was interested in speaking with me because I feel that the stickers of those days are so great, the sweet art work etc, should be repeated even if just a retro, 30 year anniversary or something edition. Also we talked about how they (the stickers) aren’t matte now which holds better scent. They are def not as cute, are all glossy and don’t smell. I had some great ideas for other scents that we didn’t have back in those days. The science of how the smell is made is also very interesting to me. It is called Microencapsulation–very neat. Needless to say, I wanted to do a tour of the factory in St. Paul but they don’t have a tour. Their website is pretty lame too so they seem like a mom and pop operation. I just think they should re-release the 80’s stickers. Sorry to go on and on, but I have so many fond memories, and so much comes back to me, when I look at my stickers. Like I said, I can remember when I got certain ones, where and why…… is really such a nice trip down memory lane. Thanks for your funny insight! This was so much fun to read.

  • Jase

    erm… yeah, thanks… I now have scratches on my monitor, and I still don’t smell a damn thing :(

  • HooveR

    Wow, I remember a good half of those, and haven’t seen them in YEARS, possibly DECADES. As usual, you provide a great service.

  • Livers

    Your entries on scratch and sniff stickers of the 80s are so funny and well-written. Have you thought about contacting a designer or production coordinator at Mello Smello, Trend, or CGS to see what the designers were thinking when they made these wierd but wonderful stickers? I think that would be the other side of the buttered toast you offer to your readers who love all things back in the day. Let me know if you end of doing an interview of a company rep about how they came up with this stuff in the 80’s! I would totally be interested in what they had to say…. !!!!

  • Sara

    I remember getting those stickers as rewards for one of the after school “”clubs”” I was in years ago… God, I miss those days. I still have the pages and pages of stickers that I received, and a good amount of them still smell if you scratch them. I am immensely pleased by that. On the subject of the scratch’n’sniff books… I used to have a Disney one that the only scents I remember are pepper, lavender, and mothballs. Mothballs. To this day I am the only person I know who loves the smell of mothballs and I believe that book to be the direct cause of it. If you ever find it (or your Popeye one) anywhere, please e-mail me. I would love to get my hands on one again.

  • Allie

    Hi, I used to love smell stickers so much as a kid. Now as an adult, I created a new line of them to look like the ones from the 1980s! They are called Smell Stickers tm. Check ’em out at You will love these!

  • Foxy

    Oh man. Those stickers kept me going in third grade. There was actually a sticker store in Johnstown, PA – I don’t remember the name off-hand – it was like “”The Rainbow Shop”” or something. Anyway, it was a big deal to save up my change and go with my aunt to this store and buy stickers right from the roll. I wonder what their shoplifting rates were… Thank you for bringing back many fond memories for me! This site is GREAT!

  • Birdie9

    I think the phone was cinnamon. I probably have a bunch in my pile to sell on eBay and could fill you in on what some of those old ones smelled like. Do any of them off the original paper or slightly used have any value, or is it just the near-mint copies? I’m working on selling my collection and am putting up several lots per week, so please come and check out my auctions.

  • Birdie9

    Oh, and the rainbow I think was a really pungent flowery/soapy kind of smell if I recall correctly.

  • Pingback: Peel Here #114: Gordy Scratch ‘n Sniff stickers! | Branded in the 80s()

  • Bub

    Hi, I’m doing a series of videos about things people did in the 80s and I’m having trouble getting a picture of scratch and sniff stickers. I’ve read a couple of these articles and I’m not clear on who owns the images. I need one or two images of hopefully the popcorn one and maybe another to include for a 7 second spot. If you own these images, do you have a Creative Commons attribution license or have you dedicated them to the public domain? I look forward to hearing from you soon as I am in final production and really want to incled the scratch and sniff stickers to bring back memories. Thanks! Darrell Mollett

    • Hey Darrell, These sticker images are from scans of stickers that I own in my collection, so I hold the copyright of the actual scans. Feel free to use them, but it would be cool if you posted some sort of attribution in your video credits, or at least on the page where you post the video online. Thanks!

      • Bub

        Thanks! I finished the first one, but I think these will look really good on the “Girls of the 80s” episode. I might use some of the others, like the lawnmower etc as a thumbnail for the one on boys. Your scans are bigger & better than the other ones I found and I’ll attribute you. Thanks again!

        • No problem, shoot me a link when you’re done, I’ve love to watch them :)

          • Bub

            Definitely. It’ll take a couple weeks to finish.

      • Bub

        Hi, Shawn. I finished the videos. I think these will take off, but the channel is young, so we’ll see. Thanks so much for the stickers, I used them as the thumbnails on the boys and the girls video and included some in the girls video. I’ll just give you the link to the channel or the thumbnails won’t show up. You’ll recognize the stickers lol. thanks again, I think they will really stand out in YouTube search. Have a good day.