Nov 062006

Remember those children’s sales clubs that advertised on the back covers of comic books (and Boys’ Life, and probably a few places I’m forgetting)? The deal was, they’d send you a catalog of inexpensive merchandise (thank-you cards, address books, plastic desktop organizers, seven-in-one tools for the kitchen drawer, that kind of thing) for you to hawk door-to-door. Usually everything in the catalog was priced consistently, like either $3.00 or $4.00. So you go around with the catalog selling stuff. Then you send in the order with the money, and they send you back the merchandise.

The cool part–indeed, what took up nearly all of the ad space–was the prizes. You could pick a prize corresponding to the number of items you sold. Of course the prizes got steadily nicer the more items you sold. So if you sell 5 items, you might qualify for a little teddy bear or something. Sell 10 and you might get a calculator. You could get a decent tent for 20. And so it went up to the ridiculous stuff you knew nobody ever got but that you dreamed about anyway, like 19″ color TVs and minibikes. If you didn’t want to pick a prize, you could opt for cash and keep $1 for every item you sold. For the cash, you just shorted the amount you sent in, if I’m remembering correctly.

There were at least three that I can remember: the Olympic Sales Club, the Youth Opportunity Sales Club, and the Sales Leadership Club. I was in all of them at different times. They were essentially indistinguishable from one another, though I have a vague recollection of thinking the Olympic Sales Club had the best prizes. I can remember getting a remote control car, an AM radio that looked like a cheeseburger (what were we thinking [socioculturally] in the late ’70s?), and an Anniversary Edition of Monopoly. That was probably the best choice I made, because we had a pretty hardcore group of players in the neighborhood.

I was disappointed to discover that these clubs seem not to have survived on the Web in some form or another. I suppose there are so many scams anymore that anything that sounded like this wouldn’t make a good pitch in the first place. Too bad.

Thanks to for the Sales Leadership Club ad image.

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 Posted by at 2:02 am

  13 Responses to “For enterprising boys and girls of the ’70s…”

  1. I too Joined Olympic in the early 80’s, and for the life of me I just can’t remember what I got from the club. But, I remember well the real gains I got from the process of going door to door. The reason I found this posting today is I found my paystubs from Police Woman Centerfold with Melody Anderson of Flash Gordon. I was knocking doors, when I met this freaky lady that told me she didn’t want anything I was selling, she just wanted me. A bit stunned, I asked “for what?” and was handed a Talent Agency Card. Jean (if I remember right) asked me to take it to my parents and call her later to set up my screen test. I had no idea what the hell a talent agent was, but she was talkin’ ’bout money and that was what I was looking for.
    I ended up with a few commercials and the movie, and it seemed like I got a new bike every few months. All thanks to Olympic Sales Club. Now that I have moved so much I am thinking I may still be benefitting from it all, as I may still be due residuals for the movies syndication. I was getting checks until 87 when I moved out of Albuquerque, NM to NY. I just found my stubs last night and thought “wow, mo money”.

    I have always wondered if anybody else had a similar experience of any sort. Not like getting on TV necesarilly, but just a big change because of the initiative taken for selling stuff through the club(S). Heck I was about 9, and it changed my entire outlook on life.


  2. I grew up in a small town called Grifton, North Carolina. We had one stop light, the population was maybe around 2000 at the the time.

    Joining the Sales Leadership Club at the time was a way for me to get out of the house. Now that I look back at the opportunity, I realize that that club left more of a lasting affect on me than I had ever imagined.

    Fastforward to 2007, after years of working in numerous food establishments, and a few years in the military, I suddenly came across an opportunity that made me think back to those childhood years with the Sales Leadership Club. The only difference is, technology has truly changed the game.

    Adapt and Overcome, that’s what the 82nd Airborne taught me.

  3. Sales Leadership Club was such an awesome outlet, for me.
    My parents were poor farmers. Allowance was something I’d only heard about on TV. When I saw the ad in the back of my comic book I couldn’t wait to see what it was all about. I remember being so excited when I placed my first order. My sisters and I all rushing to meet the mail man everytime we were waiting for a shipment to arrive. I remember saving up enough money to get the 4 man inflatable raft. That took a looooong time. By that time we already had the walkie talkies and tent. I can’t remember all the other things we picked out. Sales Leadership Club taught me patience, perseverance, and instilled a great amount of self esteem in me. Selling their products at such a young age taught me that I can have anything I dream of if I just apply myself.

    As an adult I thought I’d take a different route than sales. One day, in my early twenties, a man stopped me and told me I was a natural sales person and he wanted me to come work for his organization. I worked my way up, and went from being a poor farmer’s kid to a wealthy executive with one of the largest companies in the world and I credit a whole lot of that to the Sales Leadership Club. Sometimes I wish I could write a letter of thanks to someone, because I’m very appreciative.

  4. This post certainly does a good job of bringing in inspirational comments!

  5. I never participated in these clubs;l however i remember in the late 70s and early 80s buying comics and seeing these ads. I made money cutting grass in the neighborhood so i didn’t really have a need to do these activities. Regardless, i just went out and bought some old comics for my 3 year old and i just happen to see these ads and it really bought back memories. It is nice to hear that they were legitimate clubs and that people benefitted from these sales activities.

  6. I remember doing the Sale Leadership Club years back during my childhood. It was amazing on how this activity helped me with communicating with people. Prizes looked nice, but saving the money seemed to be worth more for me at that age of 9 because it was one of my ways of earning an allowance along with neighbor yardwork. It seemed to be a stepping stone to my future as I later joined Future Business Leaders of America, Maryland Chapter during my high school years. Did 10 years in the Army, and now working with Anesthesia. My major is currently business management, and now pursuing a masters in business administration along with a minor in bartending. It is too bad they do not have many clubs like this now, it was a good way to teach children about sales and communication skills.

  7. All three were, I believe, owned by one company in E. Longmeadow,/Springfield, Ma. I sold for all three at some point in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
    One prize I still have is the .22 cal. rifle I received as a prize through the mail.

    • Wow, a firearm through the mail to a child? Awesome. 🙂

      The only prize that stands a chance of still being around is my Monopoly game, though I wouldn’t know where to look for it. I know the Anniversary Edition we have in the hall closet now is not it.

      Thanks for writing and sharing your memories!

  8. Going through some old, forgotten boxes, I found many Star Trek TNG and Star Wars books and magazines and even the Star Wars comic books #1-6 still in plastic storage bags. I looked at Marvel Comics Star Wars #39, September 1980 and saw ads for Sales Leadership Club, Johnson Smith Co, Grit Publishing, Fun Factory, Helen of Toy, and Olympic Sales Club. Such an innocent time compared to today. We made out own imaginary fun without the need for anything more technical than batteries.
    Johnson Smith is still doing well,, and I think Grit still exists in some form,
    On page 13, there is an ad for a Mr. Freeze (ice pops) Pool Float, a $6.00 value for $2.99 plus .50¢ postage. I contacted them,, asking if they have any more for sale. Maybe someone will have a chuckle when they read my message.
    Thank you.

    • Wow, thanks for sharing, Patriot! What a great old post this is in terms of how it resonates with folks who then comment. This is exactly why I can’t ever quite bring myself to close comments for old posts.

  9. I purchased some 1972 House of Mystery comics on e-bay. The comics reminded me of my childhood but what really took me back was the advertisements. I Google a few and found this site. We had little when I was a child. I remember selling engraved metAL social security cards and name plates for doors. I got to keep a dollar for each one. I look back fondly on that.
    I have been very fortunate in life and I have a soft spot for any kid hustling to sell something. I am always an easy sale.

    • Isn’t that funny about the advertisements? I was a meticulous video-recorder in my late adolescence, sitting in front of the TV for hours with the remote on pause and ready to record.

      It kills me now that I painstakingly edited out most of the commercials. Just about any content I ever recorded is easy to find on YouTube. The ads are the treasures. How weird. 🙂

  10. I came across an old Star Trek comic with a Sales Leadership Club advertisement on the back. I think the comic belonged to my dad. Anyway, I was curious if the company was legit. As I Googled the company name, I stumbled into to this blog. It’s nice to read people had a good and everlasting experience with it.

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