Rationing during WW2: See war ration books, ration stamps, gas stamps, sugar coupons & more from the ’40s

Ration stamps from WW2 See War Ration Book 4, plus coffee stamps, sugar coupons & more from the '40s

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During WWII, countless products were rationed in the United States in order to help meet the demands both of the military and the citizens back home.

Some of the rationing requirements are easily understandable — such as gasoline and other fuel along with foods (including sugar, meats, cheese). Others — like rations on typewriters, bicycles and rubber footwear — were not as obvious.

A complex system of rationing, administered by the US Office of Price Administration (OPA), was put in place with stamps, ration booklets and some other similar systems. During the time of war, men, women and children all had to manage with hard-set limits on certain resources.

Here are some of the vintage stamps and booklets they were using across the United States during the early 1940s.

United States of America War ration book 1


1. Punishments ranging as high as Ten Years’ Imprisonment or $10,000 Fine, or Both, may be imposed under United States Statutes for violations thereof arising out of infractions of Rationing Orders and Regulations.

2. This book must not be transferred. It must be held and used only by or on behalf of the person to whom it has been issued, and anyone presenting it thereby represents to the Office of Price Administration, an agency of the United States Government, that it is being so held and so used. For any misuse of this book it may be taken from the holder by the Office of Price Administration.

3. In the event either of the departure from the United States of the person to whom this book is issued, or his or her death, the book must be surrendered in accordance with the Regulations.

4. Any person finding a lost book must deliver it promptly to the nearest Ration Board.


WWII Ration book one - Florida (2)

The Stamps contained in this Book are valid only after the lawful holder of this Book has signed the certificate below, and are void if detached contrary to the Regulations. (A father, mother, or guardian may sign the name of a person under 18.) In case of questions, difficulties, or complaints, consult your local Ration Board.

Certificate of Book Holder

I, the undersigned, do hereby certify that I have observed all the conditions and regulations governing the issuance of this War Ration Book; that the “Description of Book Holder” contained herein is correct; that an application for issuance of this book has been duly made by me or on my behalf; and that the statements contained in said application are true to the best of my knowledge and belief. 

WWII Ration book one - Florida (3)

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Certificate of Registrar

WWII Ration book one - Florida (1)

War Ration Book Four

United States of America Office of Price Administration

Read before signing: In accepting this book, I recognize that it remains the property of the United States Government. I will use it only in the manner and for the purposes authorized by the Office of Price Administration.

Void if altered / It is a criminal offense to violate rationing regulations

(OPA Form R-145)

ww2-rationing-stamps (1)

War ration book 4 from WW2

Never buy rationed goods without ration stamps.

Never pay more than the legal price.

Important: When you have used your ration, salvage the TIN CANS and WASTE FATS. They are needed to make munitions for our fighting men. Cooperate with your local Salvage Committee.

ALSO SEE: Chipped beef recipes, including the military’s famous SOS recipe

ww2-rationing-stamps (2)

WWI food rationing posters (1917-1919)

WWII rationing: Special sugar coupon

“I certify that this five pound sugar coupon will be used for home canning or preserving purposes only.”

Sugar ration coupon

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1944 WWII rationing poster - Of Course I Can! I'm patriotic as can be - And ration points won't worry me

Emergency! To save wheat

To save wheat for our hungry friends in Europe, the Citizens Food Committee asks you to:

1. Use no meat on Tuesdays

2. Use no poultry or eggs on Thursdays

3. Save a slice of bread every day

4. Clean your plate at every meal


EMERGENCY Save Wheat. Save Meat. Save the Peace Special Collections, USDA
Citizens Food Committee. 1947. “EMERGENCY! Save Wheat. Save Meat. Save the Peace..” Special Collections, USDA National Agricultural Library

War ration book #3

War ration book 3 from WW2 via NPS
War ration book 3 from WW2

Mileage stamps: Gasoline rations

War ration stamps - Mileage - WWII

Gas ration stamps

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Numbered coffee rationing stamps & spare stamps

ww2-rationing-stamps (4)

Spare and letter/number combination ration stamps

ww2-rationing-stamps (3)

Chicago OPA worker checking the authenticity of ration stamps under ultraviolet light
Chicago OPA worker checking the authenticity of ration stamps under ultraviolet light

WWII Ration book Q&A (1943)

Point rationing to start here March 1

The following questions and answers released by the Office of Price Administration are designed to acquaint the public with further details of the point rationing system now being instituted to insure the equitable sharing of certain foods in the United States:

Q. May War Ration Book Two be used by any member of the family?

A. Yes, Ration Book Two — like War Ration Book One (now used for sugar and coffee) — may be used by any member of the household to whom the book is issued. Any member of the family may use all the family’s ration books.

Q. Will processed baby foods be rationed on the same point system as foods for grown-ups?

A. The processed baby foods that are made of strained or chopped fruits, vegetables, or meats, or combinations of these, put up in sealed glass or tin containers are included in the ration order. Canned milk, canned milk formulas, and canned prepared cereals will not be rationed.

Office of War Information. 1943. Can All You Can. It's A Real War Job! Special Collections, USDA

Q. Suppose I have used all my family’s point stamps and then run out of baby food?

A. You should learn to make your points last throughout each ration period, just as you now budget your money for food to last until next payday.

Q. Will I have to surrender ration stamps if I eat a meal in a restaurant?

A. No. You may continue to eat in restaurants just as you do now. Restaurants will be rationed in the total amount of processed foods they may buy according to the number of meals they serve.

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Q. My daughter is away at school. May we use her ration book at home for food for the family?

A. No. Your daughter’s Ration Book Two, like Ration Book One, will be used by the dormitory or sorority house in which she eats, to buy her share of food while she is living away from home. She will bring her book home with her when school is out.

Q. My housekeeper lives with her own family, but eats all her meals at my house. Should she give me her Ration Book Two or does she keep it for the use of her family?

A. If she eats all her meals at your home, she should give you her ration book so that you can buy her share of rationed food. However, such arrangements are entirely voluntary, and you may make any arrangements you wish that satisfy you both.


Q. How will I know how to budget my ration stamps?

A. The point value of all rationed foods will be published and posted in each store at the beginning of each ration period. You will also know how many “points” your family will have to spend during that period.

If you know that you must have a certain number of cans of baby food during a ration period, you must set aside enough stamps for this particular purpose to buy them.

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Comments on this story

12 Responses

  1. I am looking for either the actual Ration books or photocopies if possible. Does anyone have anything

    1. No but I recently think I came across some sugar ration coupons from my grandmother’s things. I’m excited to find out.

  2. Does anyone know what the ration sugar coupons look like. Going through my grandmother’s things, I recently came across these little rectangle things that has the word sugar on them and someone told me they may be ration coupons. I cant find a picture?

  3. I have all four books that was issued to me when I was 11 years old.

  4. When my grandmother moved from New England to be closer to us in the late 1970s, we found in her things a bunch of war ration coupons, including gas rations. Not sure what happened to them after that. Interesting fact about WWII gas rationing: there never was a shortage of gasoline during the war. The purpose of gas rationing was to discourage unnecessary driving to conserve tire rubber, of which there was a shortage (rubber came from Japanese-controlled Southeast Asia at the time).

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