Trapper Keeper Coasters Are Back-To-School Essentials

When inventor E. Bryant Crutchfield began test-marketing his new school notebook and folders in 1978, he inserted a feedback card in each Trapper Keeper, promising kids who sent them a free notebook. Kids responded, and the colorful organizers were a hit. They’ve become a cultural touchstone, appearing on Full House and in South Park and featured in their own designer series between 1988 and 1995.


In a time of leg warmers, big hair, and oversized blazers, Trapper Keeper helped millions of students stay organized. The loose-leaf binder was popular with teenagers from the 1970s through the 1990s. It featured sliding plastic rings (instead of standard snap-closed metal binder rings), a folder and pockets to hold notes, schoolwork, and papers, and a wraparound flap with Velcro or, later, a magnetic closure. The 2023 monthly planner features unrolled daily blocks, space for notes, and monthly tabs. Available in blue or glitter galaxy, the planner comes in the traditional Trapper Keeper folio size (8 1/2-inch x 11-inch) and desk size options. Whether you opt for sleek and minimalistic designs or embrace the beauty of intricate patterns and artwork, coasters are a subtle yet essential addition to your living space.


It’s back-to-school season, and parents across the country are crashing school supplies aisles in a desperate attempt to secure everything on their kids’ teacher’s list. Of all the 3-ring binders, folders and notebooks squawking on store shelves, none has captured the imagination of the public like the Trapper Keeper, a plastic-coated binder that held colorful folders or “Trappers” and closed with a satisfying button snap. The product is a result of extensive market research that Mead (now ACCO Brands) CEO E Bryant Crutchfield conducted in the 1970’s. He found that classroom sizes were increasing, students were taking more classes, and lockers were getting smaller.

Mead launched Trapper Keepers in 1978 and sold more than $100 million worth of them the first year. The success of the product has spawned a variety of collectibles, and the iconic folders have even made it into pop culture. From Napoleon Dynamite to South Park, the Trapper Keeper has become a cultural touchstone.


With back-to-school lists in full effect, parents are crashing the school supplies aisles in a frenzied attempt to secure all of their kids’ essentials. While 3-ring binders will likely make it to most shopping carts, there’s one item that will stand out in the crowd infamous Trapper Keeper. The ’80s staple is beloved by collectors and brings back memories of childhood nostalgia. But the idea behind the coveted binder wasn’t a stroke of genius; it came out of old-fashioned market research. Mead Paper Company executive E. Bryant Crutchfield spotted several trends when he began studying the school supply market in 1972. Classrooms were getting crowded, students were taking more classes and lockers were shrinking in size. Crutchfield realized a portfolio/folder with vertical pockets was the answer to these issues.

After a successful test market, Mead rolled trapper keeper out nationally in 1981. The binder’s popularity reached a fever pitch when Mead introduced the “Designer Series” in 1988, featuring popular characters like Garfield and Sonic the Hedgehog on the covers.


  1. Bryant Crutchfield, a design engineer at Mead Corporation (now ACCO Brands) in the ’70s, developed the Trapper Keeper to organize schoolwork and papers. Crutchfield based the binder on a standard three-ring binder, but used sliding plastic rings instead of the typical fast-closing metal ones, and included folders and pockets to separate and hold schoolwork. The binder also had a wrap-around flap with Velcro closure, which replaced a metal snap in the original design. The flap’s name came from its ability to “trap” paperwork. Kids who mailed in feedback cards received a free binder. Trapper Keepers were sold in a variety of themes, including cartoons, television shows, and video games.


Whether in the form of a sports car or Lisa Frank, Trapper Keepers have become one of the few school supplies to penetrate popular culture. But their enduring popularity didn’t happen by accident. Back in the ’70s, a stationary expert at Mead Corporation slipped comment cards into Trapper Keepers. When kids like Fred gave feedback, the company knew they had a hit.

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