History of The Sticker

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Introduction of The Sticker

You may be forgiven for thinking that stickers have been around for thousands of years, that in biblical times the Romans might have been sticking little labels on their swords and shields… “Augustus VIIs Non Tangre (do not touch)”  but in fact they’re not quite that old.

The humble sticker actually started out as a type of label, made from various materials such as paper, plastic and vinyl to name a few. The sticky side is a pressure sensitive adhesive varying in strength to enable it to stick to various types of surfaces. But you already knew that didn’t you? Today, stickers come in many different shapes, sizes, colours and designs. They can be used for all sorts, such as decorations, instructions, labels, customising items or to simply brand up your laptop or phone. Stickers are a worldwide phenomenon and you’ll find them being used in near enough every country on the planet, and even out of this world, making it one of the most universally used and diverse products of all time.



Creation of The Sticker


Although many people claim the creation of the sticker dates back to the 1700’s, the stickers they are referring to are in fact stamps, which depending on your definition of a sticker affects the outcome. For this instance we’re putting stamps and stickers as two completely separate products. The first modern day sticker as we know today was created in 1935 by Stan Avery, also known by his catchy nickname ‘Stan The Sticker Man’. Stan created a die-cut labeling machine using a washing machine motor, parts from a sewing machine and a saber saw. This is credited as the first machine to make self-adhesive labels which birthed the sticker, known originally as Avery Labels. To this day the company Avery set up still makes pressure sensitive, self-adhesive labels or stickers if you will.

With the launch of his Avery Labels (Stickers) becoming increasingly popular across America, the company grew internationally, allowing the company to grow in size, giving Avery’s company funds to perfect the finished product. Avery later developed a quick release coating for the back of the labels allowing his product to be easily peeled off without damaging the surface it was stuck on. In addition to this, the company also developed a more efficient production process allowing the entire sticker to be printed on one production line as opposed to a multi stage process which was in place before. Not only did this save on time, space and money, it enabled the company to keep up with the increasing demand of his revolutionary and unique product, the sticker.



Rise of The Sticker


With the rise in popularity of companies using the sticker for their products and advertising throughout the 1940’s and 50’s it also started to gain popularity for the everyday man to use. Forest Gill, a silk screen printer is credited with creating the first ‘bumper sticker’ for the back of your vehicle. Gill combined self-adhesive paper and day-glo ink to create the first ever bumper sticker. At first he faced many issues with the product, having found they faded very quickly due to the residue on the cars surface. Gill didn’t give up there. With the help from a nationwide advertising company they helped him pioneer the first vinyl stickers with adhesive backs that would stick to vehicle bumpers without fading. With the idea of putting stickers on the bumper of your vehicle was initially interpreted as a gimmick, it quickly grew in popularity and within a couple years even politicians were using them to help promote themselves in the run up to general elections by displaying voting details on the back of their cars, encouraging voters to do the same in the help that spreading the word would help encourage people to vote for them. This early use of gaining widespread attention through stickers quickly caught the eye of large corporate companies who jumped on the bandwagon, realising the stickers potential to spread the word of their brand or message the sticker revolution was in full swing.   


Throughout the 60’s and 70’s stickers were now a mainstream product used for labels, decorations and directions, just some of the many uses stickers are still used for today. With companies looking at the product’s potential and seeing how quickly bumper stickers took off, hundreds of companies worldwide started to pioneer their own version of what a sticker could be used for, these included car decals, instrument decals and the most successful – collection stickers. The rise of sticker collecting came to be a multi million dollar industry in itself. Many popular sports stars, TV shows and blockbuster movies all released their own versions of sticker collection with an emphasis on collecting them all, whether that’s collecting an entire sports team (with the best players usually the rarest) or collecting all the characters from a TV show. This concept was incredibly popular with the youth of the 70s,80s,90s and still holds up today, with Panini Group the largest sticker collection company still producing stickers to this day and have an annual revenue of over $800 million.



Current Life of The Sticker


Stickers are still used today on a global scale, available in more styles, shapes, sizes and designs than ever before. From fluffy stickers to mirror stickers to 3D stickers, the multi billion dollar industry has created some of the most varied, diverse and unique products ever made. Thanks to the creation of digital print you can now buy a sticker in pretty much any design or form you could ever think of, it’s creative possibilities are truly endless. Stickers are used more than ever right now, with people finding more and more uses for them. From its humble beginnings as just a purpose fit label for products it grew into a multi functional product with it still being used for labels and bumper stickers today. In addition to this sticker collecting is still absolutely massive worldwide and the current craze of decorating technology with stickers to make them stand out and be recognisable is the latest phenomenon to be adapted in the world of stickers.


Future of The Sticker


As for the future of the sticker, we firmly believe it’s innovation isn’t over yet and the next big sticker craze will be just around the corner. One theory we can see taking off in a big way is the partnership between stickers and technology, whether that’s a sticker that can be linked to an app on your phone or ones that play videos or GIFS. With digital stickers already being created and a lot of them featuring augmented reality, we definitely know it’s just gonna get bigger and better! We challenge anyone to name a more diverse product that has been anywhere near as successful and globally loved as the sticker. Stan The Sticker Man would be proud.