First U.S. Scratch-and-Sniff Stamps

First U.S. Scratch-and-Sniff Stamps

US #5285 – The set of 10 stamps was issued on this day in 2018.

On June 20, 2018, the USPS issued America’s first scratch-and-sniff stamps. 

Scratch-and-sniff technology actually dates back to the 1960s.  At the time, researchers at 3M and NCR Corporation sought improved ways to hold ink in tiny pockets on paper for use in carbon copies and register receipts. 

The process they developed was known as “microencapsulation” and it was soon discovered that it could contain scented oils.  When put under pressure, by a scratch for instance, they would release small particles of the scented oil.  Scratch-and-sniff was soon popular in children’s books and in the marketing of toiletries, and became especially wide spread in the 1980s. 

US #5285-94 – Mint Booklet Pane

Other countries have issued scented and scratch-and-sniff stamps before, but the 2018 Frozen Treats were the first US stamps to take advantage of this technology.  According to the USPS, “The aroma of the Frozen Treats Forever stamps will remind customers of the sweet scent of summer when mailing and receiving letters of love, friendship, party invitations, and other correspondence.”  The stamps featured watercolor illustrations by Margaret Berg of California.

US #5285-94 – Set of 10 First Day Covers with Digital Color Postmarks.

Shortly before the stamps were issued, the stamps faced some opposition from the American Lung Association (ALA).  A week before their issue, the ALA sent a letter to the USPS that the stamp fragrances “may pose a risk for serious health problems.”  The ALA went on to say that they encouraged “the USPS to move forward with the lovely artwork but without the chemicals that create the fragrances on the stamps.”  The USPS responded that the firm that provided the scratch-and-sniff technology for the stamps verified that the coatings and print varnish complied with all the necessary safety requirements. 

US #5285-94 – Imperforate Between Vertical Pair.

Despite the opposition from the ALA, the stamps were issued as planned on June 20, 2018, at the Thinkery children’s museum in Austin, Texas. 

Item #M10934 – Chocolate-scented Liberia stamps.

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8 responses to "First U.S. Scratch-and-Sniff Stamps"

8 thoughts on “First U.S. Scratch-and-Sniff Stamps”

  1. I missed the issuing of these. A fun diversion. But for stamp collectors, I wonder if there is an “expiration date?” Any estimate as to the lifetime of the scratch and smell?

    • I’m not sure! However, I received a letter a couple weeks ago with one of these stamps and it still smelled fruity.

  2. I remember when these came out, (it’s only been a couple of years), I scratched & sniffed each different design. Far out!

  3. A very interesting article ! Sadly, I missed and never saw one of these. Thanks, Mystic, for updating me again. God bless you and your great Staff.

  4. I’m going to be the “meany” here. I could care less about “smelling stamps. They don’t have the historical value I think a stamp should address. I think of them as space filler, and cheap looking. Sorry, just my opinion.


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