Retro Back-to-School Supplies: Nostalgic Items That Will Bring You Back to the Good Old School Days

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Back-to-school 2022 is upon us – and as families and children shop for school supplies, you might remember your own back-to-school shopping experience with mom and dad.

Take a trip down memory lane with these back-to-school items that scream “nostalgia!”

From scented markers to trappers, crank pencil sharpeners and beyond, here are the stationery and classroom staples we fondly remember.

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(We might even have a few more hidden in the house, garage, or storage compartments.)

Marble Composition Notebook

The marble composition notebook has been a staple of school supplies for decades.
(AP)

The sewn binding and the familiar black and white marbled print on composition notebooks are a back-to-school classic.

The book is available in other colors such as red, green, blue and yellow – and is useful for journaling, note taking and more. Don’t forget the handy times tables there!

Case

Pencil cases and boxes were essential for storing primary school items.

Pencil cases and boxes were essential for storing primary school items.
(Stock)

Pencil boxes or pencil cases are always necessary to store glue, erasers, scissors, sharpeners and pencils, of course.

If you’re a parent who’s always shopping for back-to-school supplies and want to go the retro route, there are sites that sell cardboard pencil boxes online.

Multicolor pen

Multicolor pens allow you to choose one of 10 writing colors.

Multicolor pens allow you to choose one of 10 writing colors.
(Stock)

This novelty offers the possibility of writing with one of the 10 colors. To change the color options, all you had to do was tap the top to reset.

The pen is still sold on Amazon, and brands like BIC sell four-color pens.

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Lisa Frank flare

For the 90s kid at heart, brightly colored animal designs adorn folders, Trapper Keepers, pencils, notebooks and more.

Lisa Frank still has items available for purchase, although nostalgic school supplies appear to be listed only on consumer-to-consumer sites such as eBay.

metal pencil sharpener

A pencil sharpener sits in an empty cabinet in Denisse Broussard's classroom at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School on May 23, 2014 in New Orleans.

A pencil sharpener sits in an empty cabinet in Denisse Broussard’s classroom at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School on May 23, 2014 in New Orleans.
(Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

It might not be on a school supply list, although the metal pencil sharpener is an iconic classroom tool.

It was a bit noisy, but if the professor gave the go-ahead to leave your desk and sharpen your pencil, that was a great excuse to stretch your legs.

pink erasers

For decades, pink erasers have been a staple of school supplies used to eliminate mistakes on homework and homework.

For decades, pink erasers have been a staple of school supplies used to eliminate mistakes on homework and homework.
(Stock)

Pink erasers were a pencil box staple. One type that comes to mind is the Pink Pearl, which stays on school supply lists across the country.

book strap

A smiling boy wears a woolen newsboy cap, leather bomber jacket and tie while holding a book strap.

A smiling boy wears a woolen newsboy cap, leather bomber jacket and tie while holding a book strap.
(H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

Before the birth of the backpack, book straps secured school books to make it easier for students to carry their stack to and from class.

Children used straps in the early 1900s-1930s and beyond, according to Lands’ End.

Backpacks were invented in 1938 and eventually became a staple, replacing the leather strap, the company said on its website.

Lunch box with matching thermos

This photo shows a vintage metal lunch box and a thermos.

This photo shows a vintage metal lunch box and a thermos.
(Stock)

Pack your bologna sandwich and your cup of pudding.

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With the option to choose a box featuring your favorite TV show or character (Honourable Mentions: Superman, The Jetsons), metal lunch boxes were once a back-to-school staple.

At one point, plastic boxes reigned supreme or students had paper bags, especially if mom forgot to wash your thermos.

scented markers

Mr. Sketch’s scented markers were introduced in 1965, according to Trademarkia, the online database of trademarks and logos operated by the law firm.

The markers smelled so good that Mr. Sketch had school kids craving cherries, blueberries, bananas and more.

Guardian Trapper

The loose-leaf binder that students loved in the 80s and 90s is back on store shelves and available for purchase on parent company Mead’s website.

Overhead projector

You may remember that your teacher took the projector out of the classroom to review math equations or grammar.

Perhaps even more memorable is the exciting moment you were called upon to witness – take turns writing on the transparent sheet of the projector with a marker.

Elmer’s glue

A bin full of Elmer's Glue at Michaels craft store in Queens, New York.

A bin full of Elmer’s Glue at Michaels craft store in Queens, New York.
(Lindsey Nicholson/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Nothing smells like back to school more than a tube of Elmer’s glue.

Introduced in 1947, according to career site Zippia, Inc., white glue has since been reinvented into glitter glue, glow-in-the-dark glue and other products.

Crayola crayons

Close-up of a large pile of Crayola crayons in assorted colors, Pleasant Hill, California, March 27, 2022.

Close-up of a large pile of Crayola crayons in assorted colors, Pleasant Hill, California, March 27, 2022.
(Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Do you remember the box with the pencil sharpener built into the back? He still exists.

On the first day of school, your Crayola crayons were probably sharp, fresh, and matched perfectly. On the last, some may have been broken, missing and worn to the end.

Yet nothing feels quite as nostalgic as the waxy scent of a new box of crayons.

metal compass

Compasses, Castle of Pallavicino, Varano de' Melegari, Parma, Italy, 13th century.  Historical reconstitution.

Compasses, Castle of Pallavicino, Varano de’ Melegari, Parma, Italy, 13th century. Historical reconstitution.
(Photo library C. Balossini / De Agostini via Getty Images)

This math tool has been used to mark lengths, draw circles and more.

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Although useful in geometry class, the sharp object was also known to leave scratches on desks and tables during teachers’ lessons.

white correction fluid

Before the digital age, liquid correction fluid was often used after someone made an ink or typewriter error that could not be removed with an eraser.

Before the digital age, liquid correction fluid was often used after someone made an ink or typewriter error that could not be removed with an eraser.
(Stock)

Made a mistake? Launder it.

Correction fluid, also trademarked as Liquid Paper, was invented in 1958 by American secretary and typist Bette Nesmith Graham, according to the Famous Women Inventors blog. (She was the mother of Monkee Mike Nesmith.)

The BIC company has its own correction products named Wite-Out, which also includes correction tape and pens.

Safety scissors

A pair of safety scissors are seen near pencils, erasers and spiral notebooks.  Young children usually use safety scissors to practice cutting safely.

A pair of safety scissors are seen near pencils, erasers and spiral notebooks. Young children usually use safety scissors to practice cutting safely.
(Stock)

Scissor practice was essential in kindergarten to make paper snowflakes or a chain of paper dolls with friends.

Safety scissors or hobby scissors had a less sharp end.

Although some of them didn’t cut too well, they were easier to hold and use for little hands.

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Glue stick

School glue sticks from Elmer's Products Inc. are listed for sale at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. store in Burbank, Calif. on Tuesday, August 8, 2017.

School glue sticks from Elmer’s Products Inc. are listed for sale at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. store in Burbank, Calif. on Tuesday, August 8, 2017.
(Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

This easy-to-use adhesive was a little less messy than white liquid glue.

Many of us kept them in our pencil case or on hand for arts and crafts.

JanSport Backpack

A guest wears a leopard-print JanSport backpack outside the Elie Saab show during Paris Fashion Week Women's Fall/Winter 2017/2018, on March 4, 2017, in Paris, France.

A guest wears a leopard-print JanSport backpack outside the Elie Saab show during Paris Fashion Week Women’s Fall/Winter 2017/2018, on March 4, 2017, in Paris, France.
(Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

Many of us remember our first backpack.

In 1967, JanSport came into being, according to the company’s website.

In addition to multiple color options, customers can now choose special features for their JanSport backpack including laptop sleeves, a water bottle pocket and more.

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Do you remember the back-to-school supplies you used when you were a kid? Share your memories and thoughts in the comments section below!

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