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The existing panes are typically rouletted, but some can be found with additional simulated roulette perforations printed dashes [Figure 5]. An army of economists and statisticians figured out an equitable distribution, or ration, of all items. People were allowed to keep this sugar, but stamps were removed from the book to account for how much was already owned. These deductions were divided among family member books.

Book No. The OPA issued orders indicating which stamp could purchase what item at what amount and for what period of time. In the first book, Stamp No. Stamps 2 through 16 could be used to purchase sugar through October 31, The allocation amounts ranged from 1-pound to 5-pound bags and the duration of each stamp was from two weeks to five months.


Stamps 17 and 18 were good for a pair of shoes. The first was for mail order purchase usually Sears or Spiegel and the latter for purchase in a retail store. Stamp 17 was valid February 13, to June 15, Stamp 18 was valid beginning June 16, ending October 31, , but word of its issuance leaked out the day before and citizens depleted many local shoe stores around the nation. Stamps 21 to 28 were for purchasing coffee. Stamp 27 was valid November 30, for five weeks and for two pounds of coffee. All the other stamps were for 1 pound and were valid for three to six weeks until August 11, Coffee drinkers struggled to make do with this ration, reusing old coffee grounds, diluting fresh grounds with used grounds, making weaker coffee, borrowing stamps from non-coffee-drinking friends, and trying alternatives such as substituting dried and ground chicory root for part or all of the grounds.

The OPA never validated stamps 19 and 20, but did redeem 92 percent of the other 26 stamps; million of these first ration books were issued. The book was issued, starting in January , for use in March. Each book contained eight panes of stamps, four red and four blue, and each pane was comprised of 24 stamps arranged in four rows of six. Stamps in the top row were valued at 8 points apiece, the second row at 5 points each, the third row at 2 points, and the bottom row at 1 point each — for a total of points for each color.

Each four-stamp column had a different letter designation from A to Z less I and O, which might be confused with the numbers one and zero. The red panes were for butter, margarine, meats, cheese, and canned fish. The blue stamps were for canned, dried, and frozen fruits and vegetables, and for processed foods. Initially, 16 points of both colors could be used per week there were some minor exceptions.

The panes were valid until October 2, red Z stamps and November 20, blue Z stamps. Like the stamps in Book No.

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As with the sugar rationing, the government preceded this new program with a one-week embargo on all canned goods. This allowed grocers to arrange and mark points on their products. Point totals would change — up and down — based on harvests, transportation, military priorities, and so forth.

Some point equivalencies for the starting month were: Small can of baby food, 1 point; 1 pound of dried peas, 4 points; Frozen corn, 7 points; No. The point value of some fruits skyrocketed as the war progressed. Citizens had to declare in writing every can of processed food they owned. For each can already in their home larder, consumers were docked 8 points when picking up Book No. No provision was made for returning change, so shopping became a mathematical nightmare to make the desired purchases equal to the stamps available in the book.

If you lived through this rationing period, you never forgot the experience. Three of the printers used wire staples and the other nine used glue to bind everything together. Each book had eight panes; four of the panes resembled the red and blue stamps of Book No. The OPA validated the brown stamps on September 12, The stamps were valid for two to five weeks for each vertical letter column. The Z brown stamps expired on March 20, The other four panes in the ration book pictured military equipment and each had 48 small stamps [Figure 9].

Stamps 1 to 4 of the airplane stamps were validated for the purchase of one pair of shoes. Stamp 1 issued November 1, was followed in sequence by Stamps 2 to 4 at six- to nine-month intervals. All four stamps expired November 1, That meant that Stamp 1 was good for two years and Stamp 4 only three months. The tank, aircraft carrier, and artillery panes were never validated and are easy to collect today. The airplane panes with no stamps removed are difficult to find. Because the brown stamps in Book No. A cardboard application form, labeled Form No. R, was divided into three parts separated by roulettes, each with an identical serial number.

The top inch of the application was a receipt that was torn off and kept by the person submitting the application. The remainder of the form, measuring about 5 inches by 7 inches, was filled out and sent in to the local board. The local board kept its part of the form, processed the information, and sent the third portion back to the applicant. The reverse side of the portion mailed back to the OPA is of interest to postal historians.

However, if the cards were mailed within the same area as the local board, they were eligible for a one-cent postage reduction. Once again, there were eight panes, each with 48 stamps; this time in two panes each of red, blue, green, and black.

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Note that the blue and red stamps were printed in the traditional point values of 1, 2, 5, and 8, but were authorized for use at 10 points each. Thus, the two panes of each of these colors were worth points. The OPA also issued grocers 1-point red and blue tokens to be used as change. This was a major convenience as these tokens were valid at any date. The green stamps also had the traditional range of points from 1 to 8 and were validated at those point values. For these stamps, however, grocers now were allowed to use low-point green stamps as change for higher value green items if they had them in stock.

In addition, the government printed two panes in black with individual stamp designations of coffee, sugar, or spare [Figure 12]. One of the two panes had 12 coffee stamps, 12 sugar stamps, and 24 spare stamps; the 48 stamps in the other pane all were spares. Some of these books contain marginal slogans, one per page [Figure 13]. However, in the books I have seen, three of the eight slogans could not be read because of the glue holding them together. Of the nine printers contracted to produce Book No. The books with slogans are not common and the readability issue may be the reason they were discontinued.

Ending Rationing Except for sugar, most rationing ended in late Some of the official expiration dates were extended during Citizens were left with about one-third of Book No. Sugar rationing continued, in part because it took about a year for a sugar cane crop to mature. Additionally, the sugar industry in areas controlled by Japanese forces was largely in ruin. A gallon of gasoline cost about 35 cents.

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After October 18, the price of gasoline rose immediately and its supply became uncertain. There were long lines at service stations to buy gasoline. In some cases, service stations themselves could not acquire gas. Theft of gas by siphoning from vehicle fuel tanks became common. To restore order, state legislatures in those states most affected by the shortage implemented a simple form of rationing. Drivers whose license plates had an odd number could purchase gas on the odd-numbered days of the month and those whose plates had an even number could purchase gas on the even days of the month.

This helped, but the shortage worsened as time went on. The government then proposed nationwide gasoline rationing, as had occurred during World War II. On December 28, , William E. Simon, head of the Federal Energy Office, announced the Bureau of Engraving and Printing would print gasoline rationing coupons. The Bureau, aware it would need assistance, signed contracts with the US Bank Note Company and the American Bank Note Company to print a portion of the coupons and furnish them with engraved dies.

Printing began on January 25, The Bureau halted their regular currency and postage stamp printing work to focus on printing the coupons. Coupons were printed using intaglio plates in 96 subject sheets. They were printed, perforated, inspected, cut into 16 subject panes, shrink-wrapped and boxed. The coupons utilized the same engraving of George Washington as a one dollar bill. Because of this, they were used in lieu of dollar bills in change-making machines by some with fraud on their minds.