The Archives recently received a donation that included 67 very interesting World War II OPA tokens. At first glance, I wasn’t sure what they were. They are slightly smaller than a dime and appear to be made out of wood and paper (it turns out they are made out of vulcanized fiber). The only variation among the tokens is two small letters surrounding the one in the center. After a little research, I found out that these are Office of Price Administration (OPA) tokens.
The Office of Price Administration was a governmental agency founded during World War II. The agency’s purpose was to stem inflation and ration food and goods. They produced two types of tokens, red and blue, that corresponded to red and blue ration stamps. The tokens were given as change for the stamps during World War II. Ten tokens were equivalent to one stamp. Red tokens were used for meats and fats while blue tokens were for processed foods. The tokens were used from 1942 until 1945. Here is a poster from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum explaining how the stamps and tokens were used:
OPA Poster from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Interestingly, there does not seem to be a consensus about the significance of the two small letters surrounding the one on the tokens. Some sources say they are an anti-forgery device. The letters appear in different combinations; some more rare and collectible than others. I have reached out to the National Archives to see if they have an answer to the mystery of the little letters in their Office of Price Administration records. Stay tuned for a follow-up!