Can You Identify These Vintage School Supplies?

Jennifer Post

Which popular school necessity, shown above with its melodic name, was a staple in the '80s and '90s?

The Trapper Keeper was not only considered a school supply but a status symbol. It was a hit in the 1980s and '90s but is actually making a comeback. You can buy today's version of it for your tablets and binders.

The vintage item shown above was a handy way to keep your books together. What is it?

Books traps look exactly like belts but were used to keep books together before backpacks were created. These were used by students of the early 20th century and were easily hung over the shoulder.

Before Elmer's, which brand was used as the adhesive of choice?

LePage's glue started in 1879 with the invention of industrial glue by William Nelson LePage. Shortly after that, the consumer version was created and became a staple on the school-supply list.

This brand of school supplies, with its psychedelic colors and animals of your dreams, was a must-have for all the it-girls in the '90s. What's the brand name?

Lisa Frank was the hot ticket item of the '90s, and there were a ton of items to choose from, like folders, book covers, pencil cases and felt coloring pictures. You can still buy the stuff today, but it might not look how you remember.

These writing utensils with a retro-sounding exclamation name gave your school days style. What are they?

Yikes pencils came in different shapes, sizes, colors and patterns. They were a huge hit in the early '90s, and while you can still find original ones on eBay, they're not produced anymore.

What is the fun and handy retro school item shown above?

Metal lunch boxes and their matching plastic thermoses were all the rage for your lunchtime snack and sandwiches. They came in all of your favorite characters and brands, and the superhero ones were probably the most popular.

Making a mistake with a pen used to be the end of it, but the pens shown above made that a thing of the past. What pens are they?

While they didn't work perfectly, Erasermate pens did get rid of enough ink to be able to correct your mistake and write again. These pens hit the market in 1979 and have been in use in some form ever since.

Which marker, pictured above, did you not mind holding up to your nose and taking a whiff of?

Mr. Sketch Scented Markers were released in the mid 1960s, and not only did they smell good, but they were also great for coloring. They went away for a while, but have recently hit the market again, so you can pick your favorite scent and sniff away.

If you were giving your friends "tattoos" at recess, you were most likely using the shimmery pens shown above. What are they?

Gel pens were all the rage in the '90s and early 2000s but were actually brought to the U.S. in 1984 from Japan. Gel pens can still be purchased today, but think twice before drawing pictures all over your skin.

Holding pencils could get tiresome after a while. What cushy item shown above could help make it more comfortable?

Pencil grips were all the rage at school stores. They came in various colors and lengths and jazzed up even the most basic pencil. They were made to help kids hold the pencil correctly so they could write more legibly.

What pens shown above, that you undoubtedly tried to use every single one of, made writing a lot more fun?

The most fun part of these pens was trying to push down all of the color levers at once. Of course you couldn't, but it didn't stop anyone from trying. Multi-colored pens can still be found today and work much smoother than their vintage counterpart.

Who needed erasers when you had other, way cooler options, like the ones shown above?

Pencil toppers came in all kinds of weird characters and shapes but were all the rage with students who wanted to make their writing a little more interesting. You can still buy them on Amazon to bring some nostalgia to the school year.

The type of pencil shown above doesn't need sharpening because of its individual pieces. What is this pencil called?

Pop-A-Point pencils, still in production, make sharpening a thing of the past! When one runs low, you simply pop another one down in its place and you're good to go. If you manage not to lose any of them, these can last you a pretty long time. They also come in super fun colors.

Which document-saving method that comes with fun and colorful cases is shown above?

Floppy disks, while not very floppy, were the chosen method for saving all of someone's school work. The disks themselves came in many colors, but they were also sold with colored cases that could set you apart from your friends, and also help you remember which disks were yours.

Shown above is a classic case for holding all of your stylish school supplies. What is it called?

Caboodles, while now primarily used as makeup cases, were once used as a school-supply case. They could hold pencils, erasers and stickers all in their separated compartments. They can still be purchased today!

The 1970s school must-have shown above couldn't play games, but you could write out classic calculator messages to your friends. What's its name?

The Little Professor Calculator came to popularity in the 1970s. It was made with children ages 5-9 years old in mind, and instead of solving the math problem input by a person, it would give the child mathematical prompts to answer.

This item was not so much a school supply as a fun thing, with a little surprise, to put on folders. What is it?

Scratch and sniff stickers were sometimes used by teachers on graded quizzes, but students used them more. They would decorate their books, binders, folders and so on with the sweet-smelling stickers. Once the smell wore off, the picture usually did as well.

Need help drawing a perfect circle? The tool can help with that. What's it called?

Metal compasses were popular among students in the '70s and '80s, and it was a great tool for helping construct a perfect circle. You put your pencil in one end and use the other pointed end to mark the center of your circle.

This practical school item prevented against torn holes and messy paper. Can you pick the correct item below?

Bonder reinforcements were kind of boring but oh-so handy. They helped prevent the holes in your paper from being ripped out of the rings of a binder. They could be found in other colors, but white was the most inconspicuous and popular.

Textbooks don't usually have cute covers. The item shown above changed that. What is it?

Book Sox came in all types of colors and patterns and even in a few different sizes. Their stretchy nature helped you go from book to book without tearing and could last through all of your middle-school years.

The markers shown above weren't really used for writing but doodling. What are they?

Stamp markers were so fun to use but completely impractical for writing anything. They came in different colors and in shapes like spiders, hearts and stars. Kids in the '90s used them to create borders around notebook pages or to stamp on their friends' hands.

Before paper, students used the above medium for writing. Can you remember its name?

Slates were, well, made of slate and used almost like chalkboards. These are what students in the mid-19th century used to take notes on before paper was in affordable, widespread production. There were different options like deluxe slate, quiet slate and book slate.

This school item takes it all the way back to the 1940s and commonly showed kids of various ages playing games. What's its name?

Pee-Chee folders differed from other folders because the folder pockets were found on the side, as opposed to the bottom, of the folder. This prevented papers from falling out if the folder was accidentally placed upside down.

The earliest recorded school supply in history is shown above. What is it?

Hornbooks originated in England around 1450 and mostly consisted of sheets of letters to practice the alphabet. In today's world, hornbooks are texts that give an overview of of a certain area of law and can be part of a much larger text.

Before you were familiar with their calculators, you might have used one of their other educational tools, like the one shown above. Do you know what it is?

The Texas Instruments Speak and Spell was used in the late '70s and early '80s as a way to help kids learn how to spell, as the name suggests. While this machine stopped being produced in the '90s, there are many apps out there that basically do the same thing.

Making mistakes on a typewriter usually meant starting over. But then, this jellyfish-looking product shown above came into market. Can you name it?

Typewriter erasers do exactly what they say they're going to: They erase the mistake you've made on a typewriter. While typewriters are more of a nostalgic or collectible piece now, they were around from 1867 until the late 1980s.

The '90s sure did have a thing for scented school supplies! Can you identify the one shown above?

Scented erasers were just another installment in the obsession with making school supplies smell good. Whatever the motivation was behind this movement, it seemed to work, as scented erasers were as popular as ever in the 1990s.

The brand of notebook was one of the most popular, in part because of its variety of colors and sizes. What brand is it?

Five Star notebooks remain a staple for those who like to hand-write notes. Even thought that is few and far between, the paper is good quality, comes in college rule or wide rule lines and still comes in lots of colors.

To make your art projects extra fancy, use the tool shown above. What are they called?

Crazy Scissors had all kinds of patterns on them that could jazz up the edges of whatever paper you were cutting. Whether it was for art class, a presentation in another class or scrapbook making, these scissors were a must-have.

You might not recognize this super vintage school item shown above. Can you figure out what it is?

Ink stands were used to hold canisters of ink for dipping quills into. This was a staple school supply before pens that we know today. The stands would come with space for red and black inks, as well as pen racks.

Accessories like the one above helped kids get through math. What is it?

The calculator watch was the hot ticket item of the 1980s and the best of the best had them. You can still purchase them to this day for a throwback, low-tech version of your high-tech smart watch.

Which brand, pictured above with its animal face, adorned many school supplies and continues to do so?

Hello Kitty has been around since 1974, and the cat's face has been plastered on almost everything since then. Not only can you find it on clothes but also pencil cases, lunch boxes, notepads, laptop covers, etc.

Before computers, students used the above for school work. Can you name it?

The typewriter was around for many, many years. There were so many varieties of typewriters throughout their life, but they'd reached a more standardized design by 1910. They were used in school and homes alike.

Which trendy backpack, used to haul all of the school supplies, is pictured above?

Jansport was THE backpack of choice for the cool kids in the '80s and '90s. They came in many colors, and many knock-offs hit the market for those who wanted the look, but not the price, of a Jansport.

Students wouldn't take this to school, but they would use it a lot. What classroom item is shown?

Pencil sharpeners, before they were portable items students could store in their kits, were hung on the walls of classrooms. You would stick your dull pencil in the hole and spin the sharpener around, coming out with a point ready to write.

While now made out of plastic, in the 1960s, this school item was made out of cardboard. Can you identify it?

Pencil boxes used to be made out of all cardboard back in their heyday. The cardboard versions can sometimes be found online, but they have been mostly taken over by their plastic counterparts, or just not at all.

Used to print materials but students and teachers in the 1960s, this machine is pictured above. What is it?

A predecessor to the copy machine, the Spirit Duplicator was a small printing press invented in 1923. These were used from the 1960s all the way up to the '80s and came with a very distinct smell, still remembered by students of that era.

Maybe the most '90s thing imaginable, the school staple shown above is what, exactly?

Elmer's combined two things that probably didn't need to be combined with Glitter Glue. You could use them in the same way as regular glue; they just added a little bit more pizzazz.

Explore More Quizzes

Image: fcafotodigital/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Going back to school is such an exciting time, although it's also filled with sadness that the sweet days of summer are over. To help get over the initial dread of going back to school, a little shopping can help. New clothes, new school lunches and a slew of all-new school supplies help ease the pain. Nowadays, parents and students alike can hop on their devices and scope out stylish school supplies that will make them stand out among everyone else and help make them the envy of the halls. 

Buying school supplies in the good old days was a little bit different of a process. Shopping took place in an actual store, there weren't nearly as many options as there are now and there were those hot-ticket items that signaled you were really something if you got your hands on them. Lunch boxes with popular characters and superheroes adorned on the front were more popular than minimalist insulated bags that say "lunch" on them in a simple black print. 

If you get overwhelmed by the school supply shopping of modern times, maybe you'd do better identifying vintage ones! Take this quiz to see how many vintage school supplies you can identify. 

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!