Coney's Stamps


Food Stamps… Stamps?

In the early 80’s, I managed a company owned Arco Gas Station. I was young and with plans for school, I opted to work on the weekends and nights instead of the normal day-shift. We’d just gone to “self-serve” a month before and while on duty alone one Saturday morning a lady pulled into the station. The car had run out of gas and literally had enough momentum to just barely reach the pumps while coasting in neutral.

The car was old and a little raggedy; it was full of small children who were in worn but clean clothes, as was she. She came into the office and explained that she was out of gas and had a check to cash at the bank, which was just ½ mile down the road but all she had on her were a few cents and a small booklet of two one dollar food stamps. The bank was about to close and she was in a spot.

Knowing that she could not buy gas with food stamps she offered them as collateral. If I gave her two dollars worth of gas she’d get the check cashed, return to fill up and give me two dollars for the food stamps which I would hold.

This was not company policy but I looked at her and the kids. Then I took two one dollar bills out of my wallet, placed them in the register and set the pump for two dollars. I took the food stamps and looked at them. I remember saying “Wow these look kind of neat. I’ve never actually seen one before”. As soon as I said it, I felt bad and wished I hadn’t. I think she was a little embarrassed. She politely thanked me and got her gas; I had seen her in the station on several occasions but still wondered if I’d see her again.

As she pulled out of the station I looked closely at the food stamps and thought “food stamps… Stamps? hummm” Having started at the age of 11, I’d been collecting stamps and to a lesser degree coins and currency for about 10 years by that time.

Sure enough after about 15 minutes, she came back. She pulled up to the pumps; I waved to her and turned the pump on for a fill up. When finished filling the car, she came in to pay and buy back the food stamps. I asked her if she’d mind if I kept them. She looked puzzled so I explained that I was a stamp collector and even though these weren’t postage stamps I thought it would add something of a novelty to it. I think she thought I was nuts but said it was ok by her.

As you can see from the photo, they are nicely detailed. The workmanship is not quite on level with that of the dollar bill but it was a lot nicer than anything I’d expected to see. They are in a booklet similar to a postage booklet with a perforated edge at one end.

I still have them nestled away in my collections.

This is the food stamp booklet:

Food Stamp Cover

The Cover

Food Stamp - Series 1981

The “Food Stamp” (Blank on the back)

Food Stamp Front Cover - Inside

Inside of the Front Cover (Back cover is blank on both sides)

From what I understand Food Stamps are no longer printed certificates. They are distributed via a debit card of sorts. I know this was changed to cut down on theft and fraud but this also means that if the lady were to coast into a gas station today she would not have been able to make a deal like the one I describe above.

I have no idea if anyone collects these, it wouldn’t surprise me, but I found them to be quite interesting. I am happy to have been able to help the lady out and had the opportunity to acquire an interesting item at the same time.

Whether you consider them stamps, currency or something else; I have to admit they are one of the more interesting and novel of the modern day items that I have in my collection. I really have not researched them like I usually do with other items in my stamp collection. I guess that’s because I really don’t intend to make a real effort at collecting them. It’s just a novelty item for me. But it’s one I enjoy just the same.