16 Retro School Supplies Every ’70s and ’80s Kid Loved

All hail the Trapper Keeper.

Retro School Supplies We Used to Love

If you recognize any of the following retro school supplies from your school days, chances are you graduated, ahem, a while ago. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Scratch-and-Sniff Stickers


When teachers handed graded papers back, the excitement wasn’t over the A scrawled at the top. It was for the blueberry-pie-scented sticker affixed beside it that you then scratched and sniffed until the image wore off the sticker.

2. Triangular Rubber Pencil Grip


Here was an uncomfortable way to learn to grip a pencil correctly. These grips lived on every kindergartner’s and first grader’s pencils until someone created a smooth, round version that was much more finger-friendly.

3. Cardboard Pencil Boxes


Durable? Not so much, but we still loved them and loaded them up with all of our treasures.

4. Trapper Keepers


They really deserve the top spot on the retro school supplies list. They were so much more than just a binder. Not only did they contain all of your papers and folders, they sealed shut to protect those items from the wilds of school life. And opening them produced an incredibly satisfying and distinct Velcro riiiip.

5. Rubber Cement


Fondly remembered not for its use as glue, but for its likeness to snot when rolled into a ball.

6. Floppy Disks


They actually once were floppy but hardened and shrunk as time went on. They were eventually replaced by Zip drives, rewritable CDs and flash drives.

7. Erasable Pens


Both the ink and eraser were terrible, but it was such a brilliant concept!

8. Metal Compass


With enough practice, these helped us create perfect circles of every size. They also poked holes in paper, left scratches on desks, and probably caused more than a few serious injuries.

9. Slide Rules


No need for fancy calculators when you’ve got this nifty ruler!

10. Metal Safety Scissors


We snipped away until they got rusty or dull—no pretty, colored, plastic handle required.

11. Typewriter Eraser


Back when typewriting classes were required, these odd-looking erasers were a handy tool.

12. Library Punch Card Machine


Sure, rifling through the card catalog and choosing library books was fun, but the best, most mesmerizing part was watching the librarian slide the check-out card into the date-punching machine and hearing the thunk-thunk over and over and over.

13. Overhead Projector


These bulky projectors, along with transparency sheets that wiped clean with a damp cloth or the teacher’s spit-covered finger, were a classroom staple.

14. Filmstrip Machine


It was a great day any time one of these showed up in the classroom, educating students slide-by-slide with the help of a script recorded onto a cassette tape. And, oh, to be the student chosen to “turn the dial at the tone”—such excitement and responsibility!

15. Traveling Audio/Video Unit


Back in the day when teachers wanted their class to watch a video, they had to wheel this contraption into their room.

16. Manual Pencil Sharpener


Occasionally still found in the classroom today, students using these didn’t just sharpen their pencils to a perfect point, they also annoyed the teacher.

Are we missing one of your favorite throwbacks? Leave your comments on retro school supplies at the end, and we’ll add it! And if you’re looking for retro playgrounds, here’s a throwback for you.


Posted by Elizabeth Russell

I'm a freelance writer and mom to two (usually) awesome kiddos. Raised by a teacher and married to a principal, all things education have a special place in my heart.

One Comment

  1. I loved smelling dittos fresh of the ditto machine!

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