September 30, 2022
min read

"I had that!" Retro school supplies that'll take 80s and 90s kids way back

If all this back-to-school shopping has you feeling nostalgic for the school supplies of the 80s and 90s, you’re in the right spot.

Team Mercari

Tell me I’m not alone in my love for school supplies. Sure, I’m now a mom with no need for 3-ring binders or scientific calculators, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to throw a billion of them into my cart every time I take my son shopping for back to school. It reminds me of my youth – I fondly remember shopping with my mom, picking out fun scented erasers… and the thrill of finding a Trapper Keeper organizer that perfectly encapsulated my personality. 

So, if shopping for your kids’ school supplies had a similar nostalgic effect on you this season, join me on a trip in the wayback machine to rediscover the school supplies of the 80s and 90s. Did you have any of these?

1. Scented pencils

I can almost smell these, through my screen. Remember scented pencils? The kind with pop-up lead, so there was no need to ask the teacher if you could get up to use the sharpener? I know, you can still find scented pencils in stores these days, and yes, I’m still a sucker for them … but I’ve yet to find any that compete with the OGs of the 80s.

2. Character pencil cases

Once you had your pencils of choice – scented, pop-top, or topped with a fuzzy-headed troll doll – you needed a place to store ‘em. Enter the pencil case. Remember having to make the impossible decision between pencil cases featuring childhood favorite characters such as My Little Pony or Care Bears? The Garfield pencil case always came in clutch.

3. School kits

Or, maybe making decisions on separate pencils and cases was simply too much. No worries, there was always a totally tubular school kit to the rescue, complete with ruler and matching eraser. Not gonna lie, I might actually buy this rainbow one I found on Mercari, it’s kind of perfect.

4. Lunchbox

Pretty sure this specific Star Wars themed lunchbox was the one to get, back in the day. I remember when our class went on a field trip and two kids brought the same lunchbox – THIS EXACT ONE – and the teachers had to suss out which kid’s mom had packed a cheese sandwich, vs. a thermos of soup.

5. Thermos vacuum bottles

Speaking of soup … back in OUR day, we didn’t have sticker-covered hydroflasks. No. Instead, we went all in on character Thermos vacuum bottles. Cartoon heroes such as He-Man and She-Ra were must-haves.

6. Folders

EVERYONE had Pee Chee folders. Sometimes they even had helpful info on the inside, like units of measurement or the periodic table. So handy.

RELATED: More nostalgic finds

7. Trapper Keeper organizers

And what did all of those folders fit perfectly into? A Trapper Keeper organizer, of course. The thrill of picking out the perfect binder is basically unmatched – I’m still waiting to have any current-day shopping experience that gives me that same rush of excitement as finding the ultimate Trapper Keeper organizer design. And that rrrrrip of the velcro? Perfection.

8. Calculators

First, there was the basic Casio calculator we all had. And then … then, something magical happened, and they started making this boring math device in fun fashion colors, like this purple one!

9. Erasers

Sure, we had the standard gummy pink erasers. But remember the pride when unzipping that pencil pouch and showing off a cool character-shaped Power Rangers eraser, or a scented strawberry-shaped one? Special.

10. Stationery

Alright, maybe we didn’t always bring it to class… but having stationery on-hand was critical for birthday party invites and thank-you notes to classmates who came. Remember writing letters to people? Let’s bring it back, shall we?

Ah, the memories! If you’re feeling the nostalgia shopping bug as deeply as I am, I’ll see you over on the Mercari marketplace. And, check your attics and garages for boxes of stuff you’ve been keeping since childhood, too – you never know what you might find that’ll bring back all those retro feels.