Food News

Scratch & Sniff Stamps Will Delight the Kid in All of Us

May 24, 2018

As a kid, I was obsessed with licking envelopes closed. An otherwise menial task—stuffing and addressing envelopes—was rendered suddenly magical by saliva's near-supernatural ability to keep an envelope shut. And so, I would sit there with my mom as she filled those paper pockets with checks or notices, forms to be delivered, and I would get to lick the sticky perimeter of the flap! The taste and tacky texture were enough to keep me engaged and off the streets.

A recent development in our midst has brought me back to my old post as Mother's stamp licker: The United States Postal Service has announced the imminent arrival of a line of scratch and sniff stamps. Imagine my childhood delight if the “sticker” on the back of each envelope had smelled like a popsicle or a watermelon or some other summery treat.

Earlier this week, the Postal Service teased the new initiative with the release of ten stamps, all designed by the South African artist Magrikie Berg, otherwise known for her playful, zippy illustrations. Come June 20, the USPS will unveil the corresponding scents. If my deduction skills are up to any good (they've been pretty spotty these days), the scents will range from fruity to chocolatey and match the cartoon popsicles featured on each stamp.

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The technology for scratch and sniff (more colloquially known as "scratch 'n' sniff") dates back to the 1960s, although it didn't gain significant notoriety until the '80s. Since then, it's been making many a dream come true. The ability to make paper, arguably one of the blandest objects around, suddenly smell like a strawberry or a smoothie or a strawberry smoothie is nothing short of wizardry. Long live the scratch 'n' sniff!

I’m filled with nothing but excitement. What could possibly be more nostalgic? Yes, mail may be going the way of beepers and magazines and face-to-face conversations—a staid and slow march to obsolescence—but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still time for a little fun. With the promise (hint?) of summer, I welcome these smelly stamps with open arms, and a very empty mailbox.

You can pre-order the stamps here. Will you be buying some?

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.