Stickin’ It To The Mango: Ontario’s History of Stickers Museum

Stroll through the weird and wonderful history of stickers at the world’s largest sticker store in Toronto

By Hollay Ghadery


Like legions of other kids who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I had a sticker album. I don’t know what happened to it, but I do know that collecting, trading, and arranging stickers filled me with a sense of profound purpose and connection. 

Stickers are, I believe, very much a reflection of our world, but also, symbols of hope and change. This is why I collected and curated my little album as a child: my pages of stickers spoke to who I was, at that particular moment in time, as well as what I wanted for my life. Beauty. Freedom. Friendship. I could find these things in or through my sticker collection.

I suspect other people collected stickers for similar reasons. 

Dave Combs, one half of the curatorial team of RePEELed, an exhibit on display at the History of Sticker Museum in Toronto, Ontario, agrees. I reached out to Dave via email, since the museum itself has been closed due to the pandemic. 

“Stickers give us a unique opportunity to interact with our environment in a direct way that allows us to easily leave our mark on just about any surface,” Dave wrote. “From customizing anything from skateboards to laptops to ‘slap tagging’ the streets, stickers give us a chance to actively change the appearance of the things around us, reshaping the world in our own way.”

This is a sentiment that will resonate with just about any sticker head—much like the museum itself.

As early as 3000 BC ancient Egyptians created the first stickers to advertise daily market rates on walls.

Located at 677-679 Queen Street West in the basement of StickerYou, the world’s largest sticker store, The History of Stickers Museum is an immersive look into the wild and wonderful world of stickers. 

RePEELed showcases sticker artwork from world-renowned pioneer sticker artists alongside the work of newcomers to the scene, emphasizing the accessible nature of the art form.  Hundreds of original sticker artifacts, like a U.K. Penny Black stamp from 1840—one of the world’s first postage stamps used in a public postal system—and a vintage Velvet Underground album, complete with an Andy Warhol-designed banana sticker on the front are on display, ready to provoke, inspire, and delight.  

Dave and his fellow curator (as well as fellow editor of the former sticker publication, Peel Magazine) Holly Combs, designed the museum so that visitors can travel through time as they learn about the origins of stickers and how they are being used today. 

Fundamentally, not a lot has changed—and this is fascinating in itself. Stickers were made to convey information and that’s what they continue to do, meaning that stickers may very well be one of the most enduring and powerful forms of simple communication. 

As early as 3000 BC ancient Egyptians created the first stickers to advertise daily market rates on walls.

By the 1700s, tax and revenue stamps were being used by most governments and in 1830, Sir Rowland Hill created adhesive paper, which would become the first postage stamps. 

It was over a century later that a company named C-Line Products introduced the first “Hello My name is” label in 1959. Then, in 1963, in a show of branding genius, the Chiquita brand launched their trademark banana stickers which are still applied by hand to this day. 

Shortly afterward, and one favourite occasion for me on the history of stickers timeline, microencapsulation (also known as scratch and sniff technology) was discovered by a scientist at 3M in 1965. 

Another personal favourite, Mrs. Grossman’s Stickers By The Yard, came onto the scene in 1979, followed just a few years later, in 1982, by the first ever sticker albums.

Visitors to the museum will also learn about artists who use and design stickers. 

Stickers can go places you don’t.

Dave Combs, co-owner

“I wanted to know about the first graffiti artist or writer to use stickers as a form of graffiti.” Dave wrote. “My research led me to TAKI 183 who may have used stickers to ‘tag’ as early as 1972-74.” 

Interestingly, the historical timeline of stickers weaves together with the history and evolution of graffiti. Visitors to the museum will learn about these intersections and the artists behind the movements—and movement is key.

Dave tells me, “Stickers can go places you don’t. In the world of graffiti and street art, it’s very much about ‘getting up’. For a sticker artist, making your mark on the world is typically a major motivation. So when you trade your stickers with others around the world, you can get each other’s stickers up in cities you may never visit. That’s the reason some of my DAVe TOO stickers say, “DAVe TOO WASN’T HERE” as a tribute to the prolific sticker artist BNE who “WAS HERE”. I love sending my WASN’T HERE stickers to people around the world and getting up in places I’ve never been.”

The idea of being places we have never been—or places we can’t be— is an attractive prospect at any time, but especially now when our access to the wider world is severely limited. 

What’s more, the idea of stickers being an aspirational force to bring us together seems particularly poignant at the moment. I think of friends and connections from around the world sharing post-vaccination selfies with their, “I got my COVID-19 vaccination” stickers.  

“In our increasingly digital world, I believe stickers will continue to play an important role,” Dave says. “Stickers connect us to the physical world because in order to use them we have to physically interact with the surface on which we stick them. For me, it’s a kind of grounding exercise to peel and stick.”

Stickers as grounding. Indeed, stickers today seem just as sticky as ever. 

You can learn more about StickerYou and the History of Stickers Museum at www.stickeryou.com

See what exciting sticker-related collaborations Dave has in the works at www.peelmagazine.com. You can also check out his new DAVe TOO “Stress Relief” pieces and new stickers, coming soon to davetoo.com.


Hollay Ghadery is a writer and mother of four young children, living in small-town Ontario. She has her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in various literary journals, including the Malahat Review, Room, Grain, and The Fiddlehead. Her recent non-fiction book, Fuse, came out with Guernica Editions’ MiroLand imprint in spring 2021. Follow Hollay on Instagram: @hollayghadery or Facebook @hollayghaderywriter.

All photo credits: Courtney Edgar