Streams

The First Coupon

Friday, June 17, 2011 - 08:08 AM

The first coupon ever created was, unsurprisingly, invented by the Coca-Cola company in 1887. The coupons offered a free sample of the year-old drink, which was initially sold for 5 cents. In 1895--just 8 years later--Asa Candler proclaimed that Coca-Cola was sold and consumed in every territory of the United States.

By the early 1900s, coupons became so ubiquitous that this 1906 New York Daily Tribune article ironically proclaimed "A Great Future is Predicted for the Rebate Coupon." Then--as now, with Groupon--there were skeptics who weren't quite sure that all the savings were worth it:

"One may imagine the non-transferable feature of rebates amended so that the little checks and coupons may be included in legacies. The last will and testament of John Jones will bequeath to his beloved heirs 5,000 pink stamps, 2,263 brown coupons, 967 olive checks and a lesser assortment to complete the kaleidoscope."

The tongue-in-cheek article goes on to playfully suggest a political use for coupons: "It may be assumed that political parties and candidates already issue varieties of trading stamps that are mostly worthless after election. Pledges and platforms glow with the fading iridescence of true rebates. A few coupons guaranteeing a round of government seed, a front seat at an inaugural, the privilege of finding fault and voting on the other side next time, might heighten enthusiasm in a campaign."

A thought for the 2012 election, perhaps?

Tags:

More in:

News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [3]

savvy shopper

reward cards...who fills in all the correct info....?
NOT me....fake name ... fake address .... fake tel no.... the clerk doesn't look/doesn't care. I get the benefits w/o the junk mail and privacy invasion!

Jun. 17 2011 01:54 PM

I am the world's foremost expert on historical coupons and, in fact, the first coupon dates back to 14th century Instanbul offering a free Ottoman with each leather sofa or loveseat.

Jun. 17 2011 01:38 PM
JT from LI

I've always wondered about stores like Macys that seem to have coupons and sales every other week. Don't their customers get conditioned to wait for coupons? Why don't they just lower their regular prices to keep the flow of customers steady?

Jun. 17 2011 01:33 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.

Sponsored

About The Lodown

The Lodown is a blog about everything brought to you by the staff of the Leonard Lopate Show (Leonard will even drop by from time to time)! We cover food, art, politics, history, science and much more -- literally everything from Picasso to pork pies. Tips and suggestions are welcome so please send us your thoughts, curiosities and intellectual detritus!

Feeds

Supported by