Readers ask about WWII ration books
Friday at Auction Finds is readers’ questions day. I try to guide readers to resources for them to determine the value of the items that they own. I’m not able to appraise their treasures, but I can do some preliminary research to get them started. So, these are market values, not appraisals for insurance purposes that I suggest for items that have been determined to be of great value.
This week’s questions are about ration books distributed during World War II.
My 87-year-old husband is a WWII veteran who has in his collection some war ration coupon books – about 4 of them that his family was issued but did not use. I wonder if these are valuable. PS. Maybe the Smithsonian might be interested, do you think?
It seems that I keep coming across these ration books at auction, so I’m not sure how uncommon they are. Families are apparently cleaning out the estates of relatives and finding coupon books that have been left unused and forgotten.
While researching a blog post last year about some coupon/stamp books, I found the books for sale on eBay. I always recommend eBay as the first place to look to determine the market value of your items and whether there is any interest in them. You should also Google your particular books using specific keywords to see what pops up (including collectors looking for exactly what you’re trying to unload).
There’s a lot of information on the web about war ration books, which I found fascinating. I always recommend that folks educate themselves about the items they own.
According to one website, Book 1 with some stamps brings in the highest prices, while Books 2 and 3 are more common. The government issued millions of the books, so there is likely still a lot of them in trunks or boxes in attics and basements across the country.
As for the Smithsonian, it has ration books in its collection, so yours may have to be pretty special and unique to warrant a look. But it won’t hurt to inquire to gauge their interest. The museum also has a presentation on its website about war-time rationing.
Who knows, maybe there is something unique about your books. Researching them on the web will help you find that out. I suspect, too, that major museums would be more interested in large and varied collections like this one at the New York State Library that was assembled by the Library of Congress after the war to document the rationing program.
I have three OPA R-585 Delivery Record Of Bulk Gasoline Purchases forms with several “R” stamps. It’s my understanding that these were used for farm machinery. I’ve not been able to find much information on these particular coupons at all. Hoping someone here will know more about them and if they are worth anything.
The Office of Price Administration (OPA) administered the rationing program starting in 1941.The R stamp – along with the E – was designated for non-highway gasoline use. The coupons were printed with the notation “Gasoline Ration” rather than “Mileage Ration,” which was on the coupons for passenger cars.
The R stamps - for major users of gasoline – and was set aside for farm machinery (such as tractors and trucks), boats, stationary engines, pumps and stoves. The E coupons were for smaller users in the same categories. Farmers, in fact, were encouraged to continue producing and keep their equipment in good shape for the war effort.
Those who qualified for the R coupons could get five gallons of gas a week every six months. E coupons got you two gallons. Members of Congress were assigned the X coupons allowing them access to an unlimited supply. The C coupons were for doctors, ministers and the like (based on how much they needed), TT for truckers (five gallons a week) and D for motorcyclists (two gallons a week). The general population got A coupons (two gallons a week) or B for work or other essentials (eight gallons a week).
Google is a great source for finding out information on the items you have. I started this search by Googling the keywords “ration books,” which led me to “non-highway rationing,” and the R and E coupons. Then I Googled “R non-highway ration books” and “E non-highway ration books.”
Try selling your R coupons on eBay.