Savings stamps, 1967

NatWest Group History 100 object 98: strip of 37 unissued 2/6 savings stamps, each measuring 36x25mm, 1967.

It may look like a party streamer, but this is a strip of savings stamps, still held together in their original pre-issue roll. Back in 1967, rolls like this would have been loaded into vending machines in banks, workplaces, schools, social clubs and hospitals across the country, waiting to be bought by anyone who fed coins into the slot. The buyer would stick the stamps into a wallet which could either be cashed at the bank or paid into a savings account. The Royal Bank of Scotland was the first British bank to introduce such a scheme.

Launched in 1967, the Royal Bank's savings stamp scheme was an attempt to reach people who had never before used bank services. Banks were increasingly aware of the many potential customers who had no experience of banks, and who might believe they were not welcome because their income and savings were too small. They also realised that many people might be intimidated by the prospect of walking through a bank's doors for the first time.

As easy as buying a bus ticket or clocking on for work

Savings stamps allowed banks to make the first move, going out to meet these potential customers on their own territory. At a time when Green Shield trading stamps were universally popular, the concept of collecting such stamps was also an extremely familiar one. The Royal Bank's machines were readily accessible and available at all hours. Using one was as easy as buying a bus ticket or clocking on for work. A would-be saver could make a start independently, on familiar ground. By the time it was necessary to go to the bank, he or she could walk through the door with the confidence of knowing that they already had some money to manage.

The Bank's general manager in 1967 described it thus: 'We want to break down the marble pillar image of a bank. With the stamp machines, people will be able to save money 24 hours a day; and we hope that, once they come in, they will find it a nice friendly place.'

The face on the stamps is that of the Scottish businessman and philanthropist David Dale (1739-1806), who also appeared on the Bank's £1 and £5 notes in the 1960s. He was joint manager of the Royal Bank's Glasgow branch for over 20 years, but is more remembered for his cotton mills and numerous other enterprises, in all of which he strove to provide employment and decent living conditions for the poorest in society. No doubt he would have approved of these savings stamps which placed the advantages of saving in the hands of the less well-off.

Not a party streamer, then; but still something to celebrate.